So you want to be... a network engineer?

By Future TalentEd

As an apprentice network engineer for Virgin Media, Amber Grebby is enjoying the blend of teamwork and independence.

What’s great about working as a network engineer at Virgin Media?

Network engineers help build and maintain Virgin Media’s network, ensuring that all our customers are connected to our services. From the very start, you are given loads of responsibility and freedom in your work, as well as your very own van to help you get around from job to job.

Despite being out and about regularly, the role is still very team orientated so you have great support around you. You also get to meet new people regularly that you wouldn’t normally get to meet in your everyday life.

Being an apprentice is particularly great because you get to learn alongside working. I’m given the opportunity to take part in lots of technical courses and every week I have a day of study leave which is helping me progress in my career.

What sort of person would it suit as a career?

As you’re often working by yourself, it would suit someone who is very independent and confident, particularly with meeting new people as that is a big part of the role. What’s nice is that we are all part of a big team with the same goal, so being a team player is definitely important, too.

You have to be the sort of person who is comfortable with taking on new challenges and is flexible and optimistic — no two days are the same and neither is the weather, so you need to be prepared for anything!

What subjects would it be useful to study and what practical experience would be beneficial?

I didn’t need to have any specific qualifications before starting, just Maths and English GCSEs (grade C or above — which would now be grade 4 or above) and a full driving licence.

While an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) qualification is always helpful, I didn’t have one before joining and it didn’t matter. Since then, however, I’ve been given the opportunity to study for an ICT GCSE alongside my apprenticeship scheme. Because of this, I’ve learned new skills such as how to navigate Excel, which has helped me in my everyday working life.

Could you outline the routes into entry-level roles in your field at your organisation?

I found the role on the government website which directed me to Virgin Media’s careers page. There was a three-stage application process — personality test, telephone interview and discovery centre day which included an interview and presentation — to help determine if you have the right skill set for the role.

Though the process can be intimidating, there was great support throughout from the people who ran it. My advice would be to come across as confident to help you stand out, and not to be worried if you don’t have too much knowledge about the role as showing interest in learning is what they’re looking for.

What personal skills and qualities would you need?

The main skill is being an independent person, because you do spend a lot of time being out on your own without colleagues. Confidence is key to this as it shows if you’re not, but this is definitely something you get better at over time.

Good customer-facing skills, such as being polite and engaged in conversation, are useful too — and something you can transfer from other roles, such as working in a shop.

How could your career develop as a network engineer at your organisation or beyond?

There are multiple different progression paths at Virgin Media, and this is made clear to you from your very first day. From my current role, once I’m fully qualified, I could become a principle engineer, manager or even head of department, which is really exciting.

What’s great about the skills I’m learning right now is that they are transferable, and there is the opportunity to work in different parts of the business with further training offered to help you get there.

What has been the highlight of your job so far?

Over the past year, what we do has really been put in the spotlight, so helping to bring people online and keeping them connected has really felt worthwhile. During one recent visit a university student was so grateful after I helped rewire her home and bring her services back that it really brought home to me how important my role is.

Another highlight is working alongside such a great team: we all get on really well and are supportive of each other. Help is always there if I need it.

These insights were brought to you by Future TalentEd magazine.

This piece was first featured in our spring 2021 issue of Future TalentEd magazine for careers leaders, parents and students.

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