Want to put yourself in the shoes of an EY Degree Apprentice in Digital and Technology at EY? Cara Chan left school with a well-rounded set of A-levels including Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Music, and Drama and Theatre Studies. Yes, you can love the arts if you like science too! Cara went on to study for a Dentistry degree – while getting Grade 8 in piano and flute. As someone famous once said, music gives flight to the imagination and life to everything.
She had a university background, but Cara decided that an EY Degree Apprenticeship in Digital and Technology was the best option for her. It meant she could earn a salary, get quality work experience and study for a free degree in something exciting… all at the same time.
Now Cara is working with EY in buzzing Shoreditch in London. Find out more about what she does and how she got there…
Tell us about your job…
I work in Shoreditch with EY’s Advanced Technology Group, working on ideas, designs and proposals with a “show-not-tell” mentality. I’ve done a lot of user experience and user interaction design work to support bids for projects and business cases, as well as studying at the Ada National College for Digital Skills for one week every seven weeks to work towards my BSc in Digital Innovation.
Is it like The I.T. Crowd? Are you stuck in a basement and chained to your desk?
There’s a real buzz here around technology. For us it doesn’t mean sitting in a basement coding away on black screens with green text, barely seeing sunlight!
My job involves a lot of human interaction and relationship building with clients to make sure we understand each other and that I can advise them of the best possible solutions. It just so happens that those solutions are tech-based!
With such a digital revolution taking place in business as well as our personal lives, it’s exciting to work and learn with EY in Shoreditch, somewhere that’s at the cutting edge of all this change.
What are the perks of your EY Degree Apprenticeship?
Learning in a way that’s shaped to the person, not just the job
I love the fact that I get to be independent and make tough decisions without having to be guided through it – unless I ask for the help!
I dislike being hovered over. I learn more by doing and making my own mistakes than being taught step-by-step through the process with constant check-ins. It also gives me space to be creative in my solutions to things. I’ve been fortunate enough to have come up with new ways to do things that other people hadn’t thought of, and have now adopted!
In The Guardian Newspaper – a voice for women in STEM
I’ve also had an article featured in the Guardian and had the opportunity to speak at conferences promoting the role of women in STEM and leadership roles. It’s something I’m passionate about and it continually amazes me that people are generous enough to give me the chance to pass on my enthusiasm and views on the industry.
Featured in Government videos and meeting influential people
Because of the role I’m in and the networking links I’ve made, I’ve had the chance to meet people such as the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister for Apprenticeships, I’ve been featured in videos for the UK Government that were featured at conferences to promote apprenticeships and further education.
What 3 skills or qualities matter most in this job?
Anything can come my way, and I need to be ready to adapt my style to complete that task as best I can.
Willingness to learn
I have learnt so much from being open to opportunities and learning experiences. Anything from sitting in on a meeting to actually attempting the task by myself can be educational.
Sometimes it can seem like you’re not making as much progress as you’d like, or someone more senior might not be satisfied with your work. You need to have the ability to pick yourself back up and try again – try harder the next time round to make sure you do the best of your ability.
DID YOU KNOW?
Resilience, flexibility and a positive attitude to learning new things are all skills you can build up with free Young Professional training here at Youth Employment UK.
What made you become an EY Degree Apprentice?
I wanted to be a doctor from a pretty young age, but dentistry is a more flexible and female-friendly role that allows you to be your own boss. However, after getting into the course I found that it wasn’t for me. I’m a very visual “doing” learner, so I need to see immediate results from my efforts for me to get value from it. In this case, it meant I wasn’t particularly suited to 9am til 5pm lectures where I was being talked at, but I was brilliant at practical hands-on work. Realising that I wasn’t going to get a lot out of 5 years of teaching was the first step in being able to forge my own career in tech.
What subjects did you love at school?
I really enjoyed technology at GCSE, having done a Double Engineering award, Computing and other extracurricular technology activities. Sadly I didn’t have space to take a technology-based A-level as I chose to do 3 STEM subjects and drama, which I very much enjoyed as it was so different to the other three. I also had to pick STEM subjects to get into the Dentistry course I wanted to take at university. Even through my two years at university, I had an interest in uses of technology in the medical field too.
What training or qualifications did you need to apply for an EY Degree Apprenticeship?
EY requires you to have studied or be studying for 3 A levels or equivalent. There’s no grade or subject requirement to get into the EY Degree Apprenticeship programme.
Now I’m in the company, I study a 3-year part time full BSc degree in Digital Innovation in conjunction with Ada National College for Digital Skills. It covers topics such as:
- How to run projects
- Personal development.
I also learn code in my own time, although I don’t use it in my day job. In terms of internal training courses, I’ve done workshops on code, project methodologies and learning about my personal social and working styles – which was a real eye-opener and a very useful course.
Have you got any advice for someone who wants to do your job?
Pick an area that interests you and you’ll always find new things to discover, improve yourself and stay engaged. A ‘try anything’ attitude will be your greatest friend.
I’ve found great opportunities through putting myself out of my comfort zone to network and get involved in things that interest me. Don’t shy away from what you want to achieve just because it’s unknown. There’s every chance you’ll succeed.
Read around the industry. what are the main challenges, opportunities and trends? The more you read, the more you will understand the industry and how it runs, and also whether the industry is the right one for you.
The next stage is to get that across in any cover letters or interviews. The one piece of advice that really has stuck with me was about assessment centres – if you finish an assessment centre still excited about the role and tired but not exhausted, then chances are you’ve done well and played to your strengths. That’s because you haven’t expended energy being someone you’re not!