My apprenticeship experience: from the IT helpdesk to infrastructure specialist

My apprenticeship experience: from the IT helpdesk to infrastructure specialist

My apprenticeship experience: from the IT helpdesk to infrastructure specialist

Matt Fairbairn joined the Institute as a Network Support apprentice, after looking to pursue a career in IT after his A-levels. After two years, Matt took on the role of Desktop User Support and later was promoted to IT Support Specialist. In 2021 he won the Technical Skills Specialist Award at the Research Institute Technician Awards, recognising his outstanding contribution to the Institute. Since 2022 Matt has shifted his focus and become the IT Infrastructure Administrator.

For National Apprenticeship week, we asked Matt to reflect on his apprenticeship experience.

Why did you decide on an apprenticeship, were there other options you considered?

Towards the end of my A-levels I was considering university like most people, however reading around about the IT Industry I found a lot of people where emphasising practical experience over a degree. Most graduates end up doing a year or two in a helpdesk role then break out into what they want to do so I figured why not just do an apprenticeship on a helpdesk for a year and a bit and go from there debt-free!

What was a highlight moment for you?

Both completing my apprenticeship and moving to infrastructure have been stand out moments of my career. Being kept on after my apprenticeship, which finished mid-COVID, was a great affirmation I was contributing well to the Computing team at the Institute as a full-on member. In 2022 moving to infrastructure was great – I got to use other skills of mine that I had been developing for a while outside of my helpdesk role. To top things off we were back in the office, and I managed to come not last in the Computing team bake-off 2023!

Were there things that you found challenging and how did you overcome them/who helped you overcome them?

Learning the niche support needs of scientific research was certainly interesting and is something that’s hard to learn any other way than exposure. Along the way both Cass and Mike (at the time our IT Systems Administrator and IT Systems & Security Manager) were great for a balance of historical knowledge and outlining what we can and can’t manage with those niche bits of kit.

How has your apprenticeship experience helped you in your career?

I stayed on at the end of my apprenticeship and the problem-solving skills and aptitude to learn quickly that I gained during my time as an apprentice led me to specialise in support and then move onto the server administration that I do now.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do an apprenticeship?

Certainly consider it and research the company that is offering the apprenticeship. A good company makes more of an impact than the college it’s with. It can be hard to tell from the outside what a good company looks like but knowing they’ve successfully completed apprenticeships in the past is a good sign.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully managing what I do now! However, the IT industry moves fast so maybe managing whatever my job has morphed into over the next decade!