Returning the favour: from apprentice to mentor

Makers
4 min readFeb 9, 2024
Troy Snowden, Makers apprentice graduate and DWP software engineer

Software engineer Troy Snowden reflects on his time as an apprentice at DWP Digital and his experiences now mentoring others.

Opening my laptop, with my post-lunch snack ready to go, I notice I’ve received a new message. “Hello! Me again. Sorry for another question!”.

The new apprentice on our team has asked for some clarification on a ticket they have been assigned. The two of us gather on a call, and with minimal input from me, they are now able to continue with their work.

I reflect that less than three years prior; I was on the other side of that interaction. I was the one apologetically asking question after question. I was the one who gained so much from those that took the time to mentor me. I realise now that offering help and guidance is as rewarding as receiving it.

My journey

I joined DWP Digital in 2021 as a Software Development Apprentice soon after finishing sixth form, with some prior coding experience through my studies and self-learning. Our cohort had a wide range of backgrounds and experience: from school leavers to career switchers, and keen programmers to those who’d never written a line of code. The number of fellow apprentices who have progressed quickly to senior roles — regardless of background — is quite telling. We have a lot to offer, and clearly apprenticeships work.

It was a challenging but extremely fun 12-week bootcamp, we all received a grounding in software development and agile processes, making the transition into work at DWP Digital much more seamless.

Not that it was easy, the bootcamp was paired with learning on-the-job. My mentor on the team I joined, Citizen API, assigned tickets strategically to showcase the breadth of concepts I would need to know to become a capable software engineer. We also had regular pair programming sessions, discussions on design principles and thorough code review sessions, which gave me a rounded skillset that I am still constantly developing. Not to mention fielding my endless stream of questions.

I also had the opportunity to join the Apply for a National Insurance Number project for a short duration, which was a hugely beneficial experience of contributing to a different tech stack and working with different people.

As I’ve continued to develop, there have been opportunities to attend supplier conferences, as well as government hackathons where we were given access to models and projects to learn from. The opportunity to represent DWP Digital and learn from colleagues across the industry has been incredibly insightful.

Citizen API, the project I have contributed to most during my time here so far, made the Digital Leaders100 list, nominated for Public Sector Innovation of the Year as well as winning at the ISPA awards which makes me really proud.

Only just the beginning

I’ve completed my apprenticeship, earning a Distinction. From there, I have been successful in two promotions, now acting as a working level software engineer and one of the two most senior developers on my current project. Our services are still adding new features and extending their scopes, which I’m tasked with implementing, as well as being solely responsible for production incident resolution and helping onboard our Centralise Application Support Services team to manage our incident queue.

I’m heavily engaged in the wider engineering community, including contributing to a common test framework that is being utilised by multiple teams within Citizen Information, which is the area within Core Digital Services that my team sits in.

As for right now, I’m still learning. I believe that’s what both Makers (our apprenticeship training provider) and DWP Digital have instilled in us as engineering apprentices: that the need to learn never relinquishes. And to me, that’s an exciting prospect. It allows those of us new to the industry to contribute quickly, yet never feel that our work is stale. And those aren’t just the technical skills — I’m currently acting as a mentor to college students who are completing a project in partnership with DWP Digital, as well as being a line manager for an apprentice.

Apprenticeships are for everyone

I’m very keen to encourage those who are interested in a career in digital to pursue it. There is so much support and resource available, particularly within DWP Digital, and apprenticeships are a great way to make the leap. They’ll very soon find themselves contributing in ways they couldn’t imagine before beginning that journey.

It’s been a great opportunity to reflect but I realise I should probably get back to work. The new apprentices will soon be snapping at my heels.

If you’re interested in a career with support and development opportunities, visit DWP Digital careers.

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