In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 and its theme ‘Choose to Challenge’, we caught up with two of our apprentices – Ellie Betteridge who is a Network Engineer and Maddy Lingard who is a Project Manager, about their roles, what inspires them and why they believe more women should follow in their footsteps.
How did you find out about the role and what interested you in applying?
Ellie: I was actively looking for a role that I felt fitted my personality and would give me hands-on experience, as I knew I didn’t want to start a career where I would be sat behind a desk all day!
Whilst I didn’t have any previous experience, I knew that an apprenticeship would enable me to learn and gain practical experience while working, which is what really appealed to me about the network engineering role.
Maddy: After finishing my A Levels I realised I didn’t want to go down the university route, so I started looking for opportunities that would help me gain qualifications at the same time as earning. Virgin Media has created such a reputable and high-quality early careers programme – the best I had seen through my extensive research.
Although I hadn’t initially considered Project Management, the careers website gave me a good insight into what the role entailed, which I felt was perfectly suited to my people-oriented personality and organisational skills. The apprenticeship has been exactly the role I wanted and more, and I haven’t looked back since!
What are the benefits of apprenticeships?
Maddy: My apprenticeship has been such an amazing experience, and the benefits I have gained are, to me, immeasurable!
Earning while learning has given me an enormous amount of independence. Starting an apprenticeship has meant that I have moved out of my family home and established a life in a new town, something that not many people of my age get to do.
Virgin Media really empowers apprentices; the programme, has helped me to build my confidence, and I gained a range of new skills - all whilst working towards an internationally recognised qualification, Associate Project Management Level 4. I cannot recommend it enough!
Ellie: What’s great about being an apprentice is that there is no pressure to have any prior knowledge as everyone is new into the role.
Learning on the job has been fantastic as I’ve worked with a range of experienced engineers who are so knowledgeable. By working with different people, I’ve been able to pick up lots of new skills which has really enabled me to grow and develop quickly. I have used this to help me take my own path and stand out – while still having support around me.
What do you enjoy most about your role and working at Virgin Media?
Ellie: Due to the nature of my role, there is a different task and a brand-new challenge every day, which means I always have the opportunity to learn new things – sometimes from scratch.
As my role is across Yorkshire and the North West I get to travel around quite a bit, which is great because I’m constantly meeting new people. Whilst I am out and about a lot, there is still a wonderful, team orientated culture and I feel supported throughout my role.
Virgin Media is also one of the best companies to work for as there are lots of great benefits I’m entitled to, such as a company car and private healthcare to name a few! The company also invests in me; I’ve have been given the opportunity to do extra qualifications outside of the scope of my apprenticeship such as learning essential I.T skills, which is widening my Knowledge and experience.
Maddy: The best part of my job is definitely the people. I am a really people-orientated person, and in my role, I get to work alongside so many amazing individuals who I get to learn from everyday.
I am given a lot of opportunities to work and collaborate with different teams in order to broaden my experiences, gain new insight, and build a network of contacts across the business.
What has been the most rewarding part of the last year?
Maddy: This past year has completely exceeded my expectations and I have been given the chance to do incredible things. My biggest highlight is presenting the ‘Future Careers Connect’ event in February. The opportunity to host an event which was broadcast to an audience of more than 500 graduates, interns and apprentices across the UK and Europe is something I’ll remember for a long time.
Ellie: My proudest moment of the last year was being able to complete my first job, a network upgrade – completely independently. Whilst the support was still there if I needed it, it felt so satisfying to be the one to deliver something as important as connectivity at a time where people need it the most and doing it by myself really boosted my confidence!
Who is your inspiration (on International Women’s Day)?
Ellie: I’m inspired by my family and friends, who have constantly supported me, as well as my colleagues who share their amazing breadth of knowledge with me.
Maddy: It has to be New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
She has been such a strong leader over the pandemic and has really set the standard for other leaders around the world. I have so much respect for her and the work she does for underrepresented groups, gender equality, mental health and climate change.
What advice do you have for other women looking to do a similar role?
Ellie: You should not ever be put off by preconceptions about a role! Whilst network engineering may have traditionally been male dominated, Virgin Media has done a lot to support and bring more women into the industry, and it should be seen as an opportunity for you to stand out and make a difference.
Maddy: Ultimately, my advice is just go for it and get stuck into every opportunity you’re offered! You really have no idea what an opportunity could lead to and being an apprentice is the perfect time to try new things, meet new people and have those new experiences!
"I am pleased to share that after an exciting year and a half, I have successfully completed my Project Management apprenticeship, and passed with a Merit.
My whole apprentice experience has been brilliant, I feel so fortunate to have been offered so many opportunities and to have worked with such an array of great people. I am so proud of this accomplishment and grateful to the support I have received, both personally and professionally.
I can’t wait to progress further within my team, and Virgin Media, and to see what the future holds for me."