Name: Santrice Rivers 
Age: 32
Studying: Digital Technology Solutions Degree at Manchester Metropolitan University 
Role: Degree Apprentice - Smart Quality

What made you choose an Apprenticeship pathway?  
Before becoming an Apprentice, I worked as a long haul Flight Attendant for 10 years. As someone who loves travelling and having conversations with new and diverse people, it was such a rewarding and exciting career. However, due to the uncertainty of the aviation industry during COVID, I started to look at what else I could do.

So, I went back to college, where I studied Cyber Security and coding. Once I’d finished, I undertook a Bootcamp with Manchester Digital which was a 12 week intensive learning experience covering a variety of digital and tech topics. It was also through a Manchester Digital event that I was introduced to Bentley Motors. 

At first, I hadn’t considered an apprenticeship as I thought they were just for school leavers or young people entering the world of work. When I applied, I honestly didn't think I was even going to get an interview because I’d been working for 10+ years already. But they are for anyone over the age of 16 (or 18 depending on your pathway) and the perfect way to get real hands-on experiences whilst learning and earning at the same time.

What does your Apprenticeship include?
One day a week is allocated to studying at Manchester Metropolitan University, with the remaining two days working onsite at Bentley’s campus in Crewe and two days working from. Hybrid working is one of the benefits that drew me to Bentley. 

I work in Smart Quality, which is my home department, and one of the things I started  working on was the Connected Car service portfolio. My week also includes meetings and delivering key updates - on occasion to senior stakeholders. The first time I was asked to deliver a presentation to Group, I remember thinking “These people are quite senior. I'm an apprentice and I'm to tell them all this information” but it actually went quite well and I was really proud of myself.

As part of my apprenticeship, I got the amazing opportunity to do placements in different departments. As I'm doing a degree in cyber security, my placement is with the security department. My week consists of speaking with suppliers, learning new systems and taking part in group projects. The security department has been very supportive as I'm new to the tech industry which has really helped with my development. 

My advice to any apprentice is to build your circle of influence which means getting your name out there through working with different functions and introducing yourself to managers and colleagues.   

What other advice would you give someone looking to start an Apprenticeship?
My top three pieces of advice would be to build networks, do as much free training and online courses as possible, and find a mentor.

For me, as a woman, having read blogs about the difficulties I might face breaking into the tech industry, I used LinkedIn to connect with other women, mentors, and entrepreneurs already within the industry. This gave me access to valuable resources and contacts and acted as a great opportunity to meet like-minded people. Everyone was so helpful and happy to answer my questions. 

One day, I want to be that person that future generations reach out to on LinkedIn and ask for my advice; how did you get this position? Where did you start? I want to be that role model and influence, especially women from an ethnic background.

There's so many different sites out there that offer free online courses, and that was really the start of it all. Alongside the skills you learn, those certificates you get, you can put on your CV. This can show to an employer that you are dedicated and you're willing to learn something new. So it's a really big help and may help your CV stand out. 

I’d also recommend looking for a mentor to support you on your journey - particularly someone who has been through similar experiences as you; who can help guide you through any challenges or obstacles that arise on your Apprenticeship journey. Once I joined Bentley, I was really lucky to find a great mentor within cyber security.

What is your favourite thing about working at Bentley?
The people - I’ve met some really nice people here and there are so many diverse and unique backgrounds and perspectives so I love coming into the office and having people around me. 

It's probably a perception that Apprentices have themselves (that we aren’t going to be as involved across the business) but my role is so valuable and important and I feel like an integral part of the business.  

I’ve also driven a Bentley - which was pretty exciting!