The RSPB is the largest conservation charity in the UK. With sites up and down the country, their IT support services are vital. We spoke to Service Desk Manager Melissa Werry about how apprentices fit in with this.
How has your experience with Baltic been so far?
Our experience with Baltic has been really positive. Our account manager has been great, and they often check to see if we are still happy with things.
I certainly think the guys that are doing the apprenticeships have been supported while on programme; there has always been a lot of positive feedback about the things they have done.
Baltic offers a nice range of courses, which gives a broad understanding in terms of the number of knowledge areas which is great.
How have you seen your apprentices improve since they started on programme?
We have seen apprentices progress really well through the RSPB and a lot of them have been moved on to permanent positions.
I’m working with Charlotte on what we call an in role promotion process to move from Service Desk Analyst to Senior Service Desk Analyst, and the reason she has made it is because she wanted to and has shown great aptitude to be able to. There are some people who are quite happy sitting and doing what they do but Charlotte wants to do more than that! That’s why she is being put forward for career development.
As part of that, she currently line manages one of the other apprentices called Rafe. We will also be getting in another senior who will manage a new apprentice so there is a structure around them as well.
What do you look for when recruiting an apprentice?
Personal skills are probably what we look for most when we interview people. It’s all very well having technical skills, but we always consider whether the person will fit in with the team we have already got. For an IT role, it’s essential that they have the personality to be good with customers on the phone.
When someone comes straight out of school I don’t think it’s the technical stuff that they need to learn straight away. It’s the office etiquette, which can be a bit of a culture shock for some.
When you’re at school, you get your timetable and you know exactly where you have to be at what time and what lessons you’re in. At work, you get 10/15 things to do and you have to work out your time and when you’re going to do them.
Do you have any ideas on how we can encourage more women into tech?
I think it starts in school! My son is in year 9 and he has just chosen his GCSE options. It’s really interesting that there is only one girl doing computer science. I think girls in school generally lean towards what I would call the arty subjects, so there needs to be more encouragement at this level.
I have found throughout my career in IT that I am in the minority. My preconception was that it was going to be full of men, and you do tend to find that to be honest. At RSPB, we are quite blessed because people work here for different reasons, so they are not just here to belong to an organisation that it just out to make profit. They are here either because they care about the cause or the values which the RSPB represents and want to do something good for them.
How did you get into IT yourself?
At no point did I think that I really wanted to work in IT. I wasn’t a hugely technical person and I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished my degree. I started a job in a restaurant and ended up training others on how to use the till systems. This was my first step into IT. From there, I worked myself up to Service Desk Manager, then I fancied a change and came here as a Project Manager.
I am now looking after the service team, and having worked in IT for years, I have learnt so much in terms of how things are done and the different kinds of technical resources.
Do you have any female role models within the industry?
I went to a great event called Women of Silicon Roundabout. It was all about women in the IT industry, and there was a speaker, also called Melissa, who talked about getting girls in schools more involved in computer science. She has a daughter herself, and she had taken her into the office and shown her, so she was a great advocate for getting more females into IT.
I also worked for a lady named Gail who had worked in IT for years. She just had a way about her, an interest in developing people. That’s what makes me come to work every day, making sure that people are progressing in areas that they enjoy.
To find out more about RSPB and the work they do, click here.
To recruit your own apprentice, click here.