University and Apprenticeships : The different paths to successful careers

This post aims to inform you of two different routes to a long, successful career as an IT professional, Education and Apprenticeships;  and how Microsoft support both paths.

Recently when I was working at The Skills Show, I had many  interesting young people asking me about my story and how I came to be where I currently am in my life.

So, here goes:

When I was younger, I went to a good school, a selective school; but I never really took to it, so never really enjoyed it. As soon as I was able to, I left school, left home and got a full time job. At the time, it was wonderful, I had no commitments, more money than my peers and best of all, no homework!

After nearly two years of this though, it became obvious that I was never going to progress any further in the job I was doing, I could see all my friends finishing college/sixth form and planning to move away to University; and something clicked into place. I instantly set about looking at college courses and getting back on the education ladder, with me having been building computers from a young age, and having my first programming experience at 15, IT was the way to go.

I applied at my local college to do a Btech in IT, I was asked to come in for an interview and to bring a portfolio, so I did. My portfolio showed some simple C# programs I’d written, a calculator for example; when the person interviewing me saw this, he suggested that I skip the Btec and apply for their HND in Computer Science, and he’d back me onto it. This meant I was skipping two years out of my education!

The HND I started studying for was run jointly by Lincoln College and The University of Lincoln, they had a scheme in place, that anyone who successfully completed their HND could transfer to The University for an extra year to top the HND up to a Bachelors Degree. After achieving a Merit in my HND, I took up this option.

University gave me a new lease of life, the environment, the staff and the opportunities gave me my spark back that I’d started to lose towards the end of my HND. I enjoyed my 3rd year so much, that I started to look into Masters courses. After asking around, I was told I could transfer onto a relatively new type of degree program, an MComp. This is basically, an Undergraduate Masters degree, so therefore covered by the student loan company. I started studying for that this September just gone, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Throughout my (second spell of) Education, Microsoft have supported me all the way, first of all with the DreamSpark program that I’ve mentioned before, providing a suite of industry level software for free! Also, secondly through the Microsoft Student Partner program, giving me access to industry professionals and the opportunity to work at large scale evangelism events; Campus Party, Skills Show, Skills London etc.  A lot of people don’t recognise it, but they’re a great company who are massively behind supporting the next generation of IT employees!

As you can tell, I don’t have the ‘typical’ student story, having those two years out working has given me some real world insight and life skills, this has given me  a lot of motivation to do well in my degree in the hope of getting a better job and having a successful career! Without that time out of the system, I don’t think I’d be anywhere near where I am today.

Also whilst I was working at The Skills Show, I had the pleasure of working with some of the Microsoft Apprentices; Joshua Uwadiae was one of them. Joshua’s enthusiasm, personality and ability to engage with the students really impressed me whilst we were there, he’s a great ambassador for the apprentice scheme. So as soon as the event was over, I asked him if he’d be interested in writing up his experiences for me as part of a joint blog post, luckily he said yes!


This, is Joshua’s story:

“My journey into the IT sector isn’t the cliché story of coding before I could talk and building computers before I could walk. Growing up I never actually had much of an interest in computers, nor did I ever imagine myself working within the IT sector.

Funnily enough I always seemed to be the IT technician within my family as I would be the one to installs modems  and fix computer issues but I never thought about a Career in IT. In secondary school I wasn’t interested in education either and to keep the story short I was expelled at the start of my final year. I managed to get back into education through college and this is when I decided to study IT.

I enrolled in college with the aim of doing a three year IT course but during the second year the Microsoft apprenticeship program was introduced to me. The thought of “learning and working” instead of to simply studying in college for a qualification that wasn’t directly impacting my future was irresistible.

I personally didn’t want to go to university as I wasn’t a fan of academic learning, I was getting high grades in college but it just didn’t appeal to me! I then began to research the prerequisites for entry level IT roles and on comparing It to the modules I was studying in college they weren’t sufficient to land me a job but the IT apprenticeship course content exceeded their requirements.

After my second year of a three year course I left college and started the Microsoft systems and networking level 3 apprenticeship working for a company called eCourier, It was the perfect kick start to my IT career and about eight months into my apprenticeship I was awarded the Microsoft apprentice of the year runners up, at the House of commons.

I am now working permanently for eCourier as an IT Support analyst and working for Microsoft as an apprentice ambassador to help promote careers in IT and apprenticeships. I am also Microsoft certified and this all looks great on my CV.

Microsoft has truly changed the direction of my future through the apprenticeship scheme! When writing this I realised that if I did decide to finish college and go to university I would of just started studying about two months ago! For me, solely education can’t compare to the success I have experienced within such a short space of time!

All I an say is thanks Microsoft for the apprenticeship programme and opportunity to turn my childhood mistake to adolescent success.  “

Josh is just one of many success stories the Microsoft Apprenticeship Scheme has produced; but the traditional route via education and University is still just as viable as it’s always been, the two routes are just suited to different types of people at different times in their lives, the choice is completely up to you and we hope this blog has helped to give you some insightful information to aid your decision.

For more info on the items mentioned in the article, links are provided below:

Microsoft Apprenticeships 


Microsoft Student Partners


Many thanks to Joshua for his content in this post.




The Skills Show & Skills London

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be asked to come and work with some of the Microsoft DPE team at The Skills Show in Birmingham.

The Skills Show is the UK’s largest skills and careers event, its focus is to let young people ‘have a go’ at various activities, and try to inspire them to choose a career path that suits them.

I went with a fellow Student Partner, Gordon Walker ; Lee Stott and Simon Michael from the Developer Evangelism team, and two members of the Microsoft Partners in Learning network, Simon Johnson and David Renton.

Our job whilst we were there was to demonstrate technologies such as Kodu, TouchDevelop, Project Spark, and AppStudio and occasionally dipping into Visual Studio and showing the attendees some real, live coding (With it’s usual risks attached!) With the aim of making IT an attractive career prospect to young people.

Project Spark received a lot of attention early on, especially with the younger attendees; they were fascinated by how easy it was to create their own game world and the characters within it, as shown below.


As the event gathered pace, and the older students started to arrive,  I had more success with my Windows Phone development stand, I walked the students through some simple, ‘plain english’ programming examples for the platform, and then deployed their created applications onto real handsets. This had a great effect, the students loved having something physical that they’d created and could interact with.  I gave away a lot of DreamSpark sign up cards to the students that responded well to my demos, and many left the stand enthused and looking forward to heading home so they could get coding!


An awful lot of people were seriously impressed by our DreamSpark program, that offers a suite of professional level tools to students developers at no cost! I’ve blogged extensively about DreamSpark, it’s benefits and how to get into coding before, so I’ll leave the links to the articles here:

DreamSpark – What is the value to you?

Learning to code the Microsoft way

We had a great time at the event, and (hopefully) we inspired many young people to pursue a life long career in IT! Go team Microsoft!


Whilst I was there, I was asked if I was available to work at Skills London the following saturday , 23rd November. Obviously I agreed straight away, another chance to do what I love? It’s a no brainer!

As soon as I got home from The Skills Show, I booked my train tickets to London.

Skills London was a similar event to The Skills Show, geared towards inspiring young people to a future in IT, this time however, I didn’t focus on Windows Phone development, instead I demo’d a platform called .Net Gadgeteer to the attendees. This instantly drew a captive audience, as the young people were really interested in the circuit boards and modular components that the platform consists of. 

Our demo setup, expertly configured by Paul Foster, was some Gadgeteer modules all connected up with Pac Man on! I demo’d this alongside Andrew Fryer, who’s always a pleasure to work with!


Again at this event I put a heavy focus on our DreamSpark program, and the benefits this has for students by getting them familiar with industry leading tools, and just like at The Skills Show, many students left our stand enthused about a career in the industry, job done!

I’m really grateful to get the opportunities I do, and the chance to work with some really interesting industry people; I just hope I repay the faith shown in me by being successful in inspiring more young people to work in IT! It’s a fulfilling and rewarding industry to work in.




DreamSpark and how it helps Students achieve their goals.

I’ve used DreamSpark over the last 3 years of my University life, mainly for the latest versions of the Windows Operating System and the Visual Studio IDE, more recently I’ve also utilised Project and Visio for University Assignments and the free Windows Store Developer Account registration offered to Students.




Campus Party Europe 2013 at the O2 with Microsoft!

So, now I’ve caught up on sleep and had several lovely showers, I guess it’s time to sum up my thoughts and experience from being at Campus Party Europe with the WindowsUK team.


It started with me being asked to come and help run the Windows stall at the event, due to me being a Microsoft Student Partner, I readily and gratefully accepted! It was a superb opportunity for me to gain some much needed experience with one of the biggest technology companies in the world!




Campus Party Invite

So, recently I’ve been asked by Microsoft to help run their stall at Campus Party Europe,

Official Site


Offering to cover my travel, accommodation and food expenses it seems like an opportunity too good to pass up! So I readily and gladly accepted the offer.

It involves spending every day at the week long event helping to promote Microsoft products and technologies, including Windows Phone and Surface. Also I get a chance to explore the event myself, gain experience and partake in some networking!

I’m very much looking forward to going and experiencing a big event like Campus Party as it’ll be the first of its kind I’ll have been too.

Be sure to keep an eye out on my Twitter and here for updates throughout the week I’m there!