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‘IT Pros Unplugged’ is a running feature we’ve kicked off this month which highlights personal IT Pro stories be it day to day insight, or personal progression articles much like Matthew Reynolds recent article.
For this article we thought it would be interesting to tell the story of an IT Apprentice at one of our partner companies, someone who is just starting off in a career in IT.

Meet Reece Gillespie, IT Desktop Support Technician and Firebrand Apprentice.

So Reece, your job title is IT Desktop Support Technician – but what do you actually do?
My main responsibility is responding to the needs of internal staff when it comes to issues involving Desktop and networking technology. This can also include helping out with phone support as we utilise VOIP technology.
I am also currently shadowing my manger to learn more about server maintenance. One thing I definitely don’t do is make the coffee…

How did you get this job?
I found it through the National Apprenticeships website via their job search database. After reading the job description I submitted an online application before being called by Firebrands apprentice recruiter.
After a brief telephone interview, I attended a face to face interview with my current Line Manager. I made it through to a second interview with Firebrand’s Director, Stefano Capaldo, before being offered the role.

Did you go to college or university? If so, what did you study?
I went to college, to study a level 3 diploma in networking. But I didn’t like the teaching methods; I prefer learning through hands on practical work, which was why I found the idea of an IT apprenticeship with Firebrand so appealing. As well as learning, I actually get experience in the job I want to be doing, best of all, I get paid to do it!

Tell us a little more about your apprenticeship programme and any other ‘on the job’ training you might have?
I am currently partaking in one of the 12 month IT apprenticeship programs with Firebrand, with the aim of being employed at the end. As part of the program, I get on the job training as an IT technician, alongside studying for my Level 3 Diploma in ICT Professional Competence and a Level 3 Certificate in ICT Systems and Principles.

The best thing about the program is that I can work towards achieving 6 industry specific certifications from Microsoft and CompTIA. Because Firebrand’s training is accelerated, every 9 weeks I can do 1 week of intense training, get a new certification or two and be back at work the following week putting my new skills in to practice.

Do you have any certifications and if so could you tell us what they are and why you took them?
I have the following certifications:
· CompTIA Strata in PC Fundamentals – this taught me the basics of the internal workings of a PC.
· MTA in Operating Systems Fundamentals – like the name implies this certification proves I have a basic understanding of Microsoft operating systems and how they work.

I am currently working towards:
· CompTIA A+ and N+ certifications – upon completion I can prove I have advanced knowledge of hardware and the basics of how a network functions.
· MTA in Networking Fundamentals – similar to the N+, I will learn about networks, the hardware used, how they are set up and all the associated protocols.
· MCSA: Windows 7 – I am working towards exam 70-680 in configuring Windows 7, completing this exam is one part of the way to getting me MCSA certified.

Who is your biggest inspiration – who do you admire in your field of expertise and why?
I’d have to say my Manager, Bevan. He’s doing the job that I want to be in, and every day he’s helping me learn to become who I want to be, so that one day I can get that job that I want.

What’s your specialty?
I’m best with Microsoft operating systems and software programs, I’ve been working with them for years.

What frameworks and tools do you work with?
We use Spiceworks as our main helpdesk system. Staff enter tickets about the problems, and then I go and fix them. We also use the Cisco Meraki system, which allows us to manage our network from the cloud. I also work with SharePoint, where all our big tools and projects are kept.

What’s the most useful tool you use, what do you use it for and why is it the best?
It’s got to be Spiceworks, the system keeps track of mine and my teams performance, whilst helping me keep up to date and organized with all of my tasks.

How many people are on the same team as you and what do they do?
I work in a team of 4 where we actively work to support Firebrands global IT systems.
We have first, second and third line support. I have a similar role to the rest of the team, but they work on higher level projects and more advanced issues related to the network and our servers.

How do you collaborate with other teams like admin and marketing?
I collaborate with our Web Developer, helping out with the website. I have also attended a couple of events, such as the Skills Show where we ran a stall with Microsoft Learning.

We know there’s no such thing as an average working day, but could you run through an example day from the past couple of weeks?
When I come into the office the first thing I do are my morning checks. These include checking the office display screens which show our sales information, ensuring they are all up to date and functioning.
Next I will do routine checks of cables round the office to spot any potential hazards. Following this, I will go to the server room and make sure all our core servers are online and functional for the day ahead.
Then it’s time for Spiceworks, where I check any recent or high priority issues and ensure that all new and unassigned tickets are responded to and assigned to the correct team member.
In an average day I probably get through about 15-20 support tickets, this can range from ‘have you tried turning it off and on again’ to a complete PC re-build following a system failure.
Although, one thing I’ve learnt in my time with Firebrand is that every day brings something new to learn.

Which websites, publications, forums and events do you go to for resources like industry news and technical support?
The Spiceworks forum is pretty good for technical support and news on new technology. I also use the TechNet platform, they have loads of resources on all the operating systems and technology I work with on a daily basis.

What do you do in your spare time (if you have any!)?
When I’m not working, you can find me on my Xbox One dominating the FIFA world. I’m a big Arsenal fan as well, so I’m regularly off to the Emirates to watch my team.

What project are you most proud of and why?
I recently implemented a PDF editing solution across the business. This was the first time I was given full responsibility for a large project. I had the task of finding the new PDF editing software, deploy the program across the company and then make sure all staff members were trained up and familiar with using the new program.Shot-1

What’s the most ridiculous situation you’ve been in at work?
Our core switch went down, and the failover switch went a few minutes later. All the systems and regions went offline. As I was on-call, our Dubai office rang me at 5:30am to let me know all the systems were down. I had to remotely log in before notifying my line manager, giving him detailed information of the issue.
I met my Manager in the office and the systems were back online before all other Regions started their business day.

What are your career goals/Where do you want to be in 5 years time?
I still want to be working in IT, preferably in third line support. Ideally at some point   I want to be an IT manager, but I haven’t planned much beyond that.


More information on Firebrand’s IT Apprenticeship program
Whether you’re looking to become an IT Apprentice, or you’re interested in hiring one, you can find out more on Firebrand’s Apprenticeship website.
Firebrand currently offer 4 specialist programmes which prepare apprentices for the following job roles –

  • IT Desktop SupportShot-3
  • IT Support Technician
  • Systems Engineer
  • IT User Support
  • IT and Network Administrator
  • System Administrator
  • Server Support
  • Help Desk Support Technician
  • Web Developer
  • Programmer
  • Mobile Application Developer
  • Each programme includes 3 to 4 Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications.

Do you have any useful advice for Reece, who is starting off in a Career in IT? Why not comment below, or tweet us at @TechNetUK

Are you interested in furthering your career in IT? The Microsoft TechNet team are running free Career Evenings in London, with presentations from industry experts, Microsoft HR and some of our apprentices.  For a full round up and for information on how to register, see here.