From #TheFeed: “Choices” – by Student Ambassador Laura-Jane Ellard

The following post originally appeared in Issue 6 of #TheFeed, and is part of the 'Student Ambassador' series. This particular article in the series was written and compiled by Laura-Jane Ellard, who also writes for this blog.


by Laura-Jane Ellard

How many times have you been to a family gathering and heard something along the lines of “Oh to be young again!” or “You don’t know how easy you have it!” OK, I admit that not paying rent or bills is nothing but a good thing, but I do think it is often underestimated just how much young people have to go through growing up in the 21st Century. There’s pressure to get good grades, perhaps go to university, get a good career, make friends and sometimes it can be extremely overwhelming.

We all have different upbringings and different experiences in education, so why is it that some people seem to funnel us all into the university category. I pushed myself at school and knew that university was for me, but the truth is that most people don’t know what they want to do.

So, this month I want to tell you about options. I have had some help from 4 people who have all had very different journeys to get where they are today. From Tristian, who is just starting out on his career journey, to Betsy who is now a full time employee at Microsoft, they have all told their story to help you…

Tech Trainee

by Tristian Freer

At Microsoft, a group of interns lead a government project called the Tech Traineeship. A number of young people who are out of education and employment spend 6 weeks at the Reading offices, in order to embark on their career journey at the end of it. Tristian Freer was part of this experience, and here is why he chose this as the path to go down…

It was a long and difficult journey to get where I was today, so I am so pleased that I get to share my story on how Microsoft has helped me and why it is one of the best decisions you could choose for yourself.

So a bit about me - I am a Half-American, Half-British Ginger who grew up in Wokingham, Berkshire. It’s fair to say that life wasn’t the easiest growing up. For me, school was extremely hard as I had to miss days for various reasons and was, I feel, incorrectly labelled as ‘special needs’ due to a handicap which in reality only effects my balance. It was a hard place to fit in, so I chose to move on to college.

A fresh start made me who I am today, due to the variety of people I had met whilst being there. But, once again, I was faced with difficulties which meant that I ended up quitting my A-Levels midway through. Through this, I found a new passion in programming, but still I had no idea of what direction to go in.

I didn’t have much, but I did have a “go get the world” attitude and that’s when I joined the Microsoft Tech Traineeship.

Since starting my training, I feel like I have evolved from who I was. From being the boy who had to grow up early without the development a kid needs, to being who I am now. I’m an open minded, friendly and passionate individual who strives for nothing more than to make a difference and use all of what makes me who I am. I used to have to fake strength, emotional integrity, confidence etc. but now those traits are genuinely part of who I am.

My plan from here is to apply for the apprenticeship at Microsoft as I feel like I belong here and that it is my next step! This has encouraged me to no end and I have met some many interesting people who said they will help me in future even after this traineeship!

So further education and university may not have been for me, but I want to share my story for those of you who are still wondering! Don’t underestimate the power that a course like this has. This is a decision that could change how you see your future.

But in my opinion, they should change the name. It doesn’t train, it does much more…


by Nicole Ryle

People often think that the only natural progression after school is higher education, but this isn’t the case. There are numerous routes that you can take, such as an apprenticeship. Nicole Ryle has shared her reasons for choosing this path and what it has done for her.

SA - NicolaShall I go to university or get an apprenticeship? This was a question I asked myself constantly when I was in Sixth Form. My school pushed students to go to university and there was no mention of apprenticeships, because of this I applied for to study Sports Science at Loughborough University.

However, this time last year I was doubting my decision – was this really what I wanted? I decided that it would be a good idea to look for other options… This is when I came across the Microsoft Business Apprenticeship Programme. I was concerned that I wouldn’t get a place as I had not study any business related subjects at school, nevertheless as I began to progress through the application process I realised that they were not looking for me to have a load of business knowledge, they just wanted to see my potential.

As I was unsure on what career-path to take I thought that the Microsoft Apprenticeship Scheme would be a great option as I knew how much exposure and experience it would give me. The apprenticeship programme has allowed me to work within a huge corporate business, which offers so many roles. Moreover, as it is such a big business it has enabled me to meet so many people, in turn allowing me to build my network.

The Microsoft Apprenticeship programme has exceeded my expectations. Not only have I learnt SO much, but it has allowed me to grow as a person. Since starting the apprenticeship I am more confident and this is due to working at Microsoft where I have been pushed to step outside of my comfort zone. My advice to people who are currently considering their options would be to do what makes you happy and to be yourself. On top of this, I would advise you to keep your options open. Although I had applied to go to university, I still applied for the apprenticeship.


by Jordan Lipman

For those who do go to university, you are often given the choice of doing 3 straight years, or doing a placement year or year abroad. Jordan was faced with this dilemma last year and was unsure of what to do, until he secured himself an internship.

SA - JordanThroughout education, I always did the work I had to do in order to pass and get an acceptable grade, but I never pushed myself beyond this point. This was because I wasn’t engaged with the way things were being taught to me - I found most lessons to be fairly dull, and spending time having fun with my friends always seemed to take importance. I don’t regret this one bit, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at school, and I have many fond memories to look back on. However, this soon caught up with me. After starting University, I suddenly found myself facing the reality that is the real world, where I was having to make big life decisions without knowing which direction to take.

I came to the conclusion that the reason I was feeling lost and not knowing what to do, is because I had never pushed myself to achieve more and go out and grab what I really wanted. I desperately wanted to feel passionate about something and have fun working towards it.

After finding out most of my friends at University were doing placement years, I told myself that I should do the same, and that this would be the first step pushing myself to achieve more, with the hope that it would direct me down a good path. Microsoft was the first opportunity I saw online. After some quick research, I discovered that Microsoft hires people from all backgrounds, it was a super cool place to work, and the best advice for applicants was to just ‘be yourself and be honest’. I knew this would be an amazing opportunity for me, and I decided to go for it with everything I had. Fortunately, after really pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, with the constant mind-set of success and achieving more, I managed to secure an internship!

I can safely say that I was right – this has been an amazing experience! It has taught me the true meaning of working hard to achieve success, I have met so many inspirational people, been a part of some great experiences and have learnt a huge amount about business and technology.

During my internship I have been working in the education team, where every day I spread awareness about the ways teaching and learning can be enhanced through the use of technology. Seeing students feel engaged and having fun at school is really amazing to see. This environment has allowed me to feel truly passionate about the work I am doing, whilst helping other students feel the same. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.


by Betsy Jennings

Betsy Jennings is on a graduate scheme at Microsoft, following an IT Management degree at Bournemouth University. She didn’t do an apprenticeship or internship at Microsoft, but came in on the MACH Scheme. Let’s see what she has to say about the journey she has taken…

SA - BetsyI was not an intern at Microsoft so I had a different experience than many others. After researching the company, I knew straight away that it is a company I wanted to work for. From quite an early stage, I knew that I didn’t want to work at a company that did not impact the world.

My role now is as a Technical Account Manager (TAM), based in Reading along with the rest of the graduates. The ‘stream’ I operate under is called Business Services. Joining somewhere like this can be a culture shock for some; people have pre-fixed judgement that they can’t talk to certain people. But Microsoft operates in a quite a different way to how your outside perspective of working is so it is surprising when you come in after the experience of being an intern elsewhere.

Just as with the other career opportunities at Microsoft, the MACH scheme so far has been amazing! It’s absolutely fantastic. From day one we had a lot of support from the older graduates; we all get along really well especially with the graduates from our segment. It almost feels like we have known each other for ages. It reminds me of university, as you get to know everybody pretty quickly. We want to spend time together; we are not forced to just because we work at the same company.

I was apprehensive coming in to the scheme, as I thought that many of the graduates would have done an internship here at Microsoft already, leaving me to play catch up. This wasn’t the case at all. The experience I had gained on my internship and university meant that I was in a great position when I started here and was level against those who had been at Microsoft previously

If I had one piece of advice for anyone applying to the graduate scheme, I would say you need to come out and know exactly why you are applying to a certain role and to ask yourself whether this is something you want to do. Microsoft is really good at fitting you within the company, as long as you have a clear indication of what you’re interested in.

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