Sally Parker

Employer:     Capula
Job Title:       Junior Engineer
University:    Staffordshire University
Programme Title:  Digital and Technical Solutions Degree Apprenticeship
Start date: September 2017

Recommendation by Robin Oldham, Course Director, Staffordshire University

This nomination recognises the achievements of Sally Parker, a graduate of the DTS (Cyber Security) Apprenticeship from Staffordshire University, working at Capula Ltd as an Engineer in their Nuclear Department. The workload for any apprentice is a challenge, but Sally set her own very high targets which she continued to meet throughout the apprenticeship. This was added to by her developing responsibilities in her workplace as a clearly talented member of the workforce. In the final review before her EPA her manager reported: “Sally is always confident to ask for help when needed and is performing really well both at work and Uni. We are really proud of the dedication Sally puts into everything she does and have nominated her for the Nuclear Apprentice Award with the NSAN. I have really enjoyed seeing Sally flourish over the year and she is a great asset to our business.”

The nomination for the Nuclear Apprentice award was successful as Sally was named Higher and Degree Apprentice of the Year.

Sally was a member of Staffordshire University’s first graduating class of DTS Apprenticeship with a Distinction for her Apprenticeship and a First Class Honours Degree achieving the highest overall grade of the cohort.

In conversation with Sally

Please describe your current role.

As many young engineers within the company would say; “I am a Nuclear Engineer for a leading independent system integrator for control, automation, and operational intelligence systems”. However, honestly, it is difficult to say what I do.

I joined the company in July 2017 as a Junior IT Engineer, undertaking a Digital & Technology Solutions Degree alongside Staffordshire University. While working within the company, I have experience and knowledge of resolving mathematical, technical and logistical problems associated with the world of IT.

Within the IT role, knowledge on technical controls has been established using both hardware and software to prevent unauthorised access to critical data and computer systems, including group policies and password management. Knowledge on firewalls has been formed while in the IT support role, including where a hardware firewall should be used at logical network boundaries. Also, an understanding on firewall configurations have been developed to scan for threats and irregularities using Intrusion Detection System (IDS) or Intrusion Prevention System (IPS).

Recently, I joined a Nuclear project at the point of final build and testing. I followed the necessary procedures to revised documentation and issues during testing (PCRs).  There were plenty of issues during acceptance testing and delivery, which I embraced and then delivered what was required.

At the time of this, I have recently joined a different team and have been assigned to work on the Demilitarisation Zone (DMZ).  This project is providing me with the frontend project work and early lifecycle, and challenging me technically, as there are multiple technologies to learn. I am also continuing with my studies alongside projects.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

Typical duties within IT included:

  • Provision of first and second line support, including out of hours, on a variety of systems
  • Managing security measures for information technology system within a networked system
  • Operating regular inspections/checks on systems
  • Conducting audit process for initiating security and safety measures and strategies
  • Maintaining regular information on security policy, procedure, and services

I have faced challenges, overcome many and still find myself growing and developing as a person each day. Overall, I am a Junior Engineer, Co-worker, Role Model and a friend to many within the company.

What has been the best experience of your Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

After a year with Capula, I was tasked with training a new starter. As well as educating and training the new starter, this gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own skills. I believe one of the best ways to develop your own skills is to help/train others. This opportunity gave me chance to revisit the beginning stages of my job role with wiser eyes, allowing me to understand in greater detail how each “puzzle” fits together.

What has been the most challenging experience of your Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

One challenge I have faced with my recent assignment to work on the Demilitarisation Zone (DMZ) relates to separating traffic from Internet and Management domain traffic. An important best practice in tiered networking architectures is to separate public-facing services from the Management domain and its services.

However, the issue occurred when trying to ping an on-domain server, it connects through the Internet network adapter. To overcome the issue, static routes are required to route the traffic.

Firstly, the default gateway had to be removed from the Management network adapter, then the static routes were added to direct the traffic to go via the Management network adapter.

If I was to do a similar project again, I would add the required static routes into a batch file to run the route commands. This would save testing/ rebuilding time as the routes would not need to be manually run in the command prompt.

What has your employer done to help with your degree apprenticeship that you particularly appreciate?

Capula has been really supportive in allowing me to get exposure to the corporate and project aspects of the business. This has allowed me to learn new skills consistently throughout my apprenticeship, as well as gaining new perspectives of the business. The opportunity to move department really allowed me to develop professionally and personally. It was defiantly an opportunity that gave me responsibility and a chance to show my capabilities.

Moving departments really changed my mindset within the workplace for the better as when I first joined Capula, I believe everyone around me had more knowledge and experience which put me down. In the early stages of my career, I felt a “requirement” to understand all IT aspects and to be seen as a “Jack of All Trades”. However, through my progression I have come to understand Project Managers don’t care so much about “Jack of All Trades” or “know it all” individuals but desire individuals who make a positive contribution to the projects. This has had an impact on me as an individual as I feel more valuable as a Junior Engineer, accepting all opportunities, using analytical skills to solve problems, and meet project deadlines.

Overall, this has been my biggest achievement as it has resulted in me achieving great work within the company.

What has your university done to help you with your degree apprenticeship that you particularly appreciate?

While at High School, I really hated speaking out loud or doing any presentations due to having dyslexia. However, with help from lectures within Staffordshire University I have developed my speaking skills. This has been a massive achievement as throughout my degree I have been challenged with presentations and presenting ideas for modules. This has allowed me to receive great grades for each one of my presentations.

What advice would you give someone considering a Tech Industry Gold degree apprenticeship?

The advice I would give to someone is it is important to remember that you don’t have to know everything, but you just have to know where to find it. An apprenticeship within the Technology industry really does offer exciting opportunities to learn and develop your skills, you will have been exposed to so many interesting and critical projects and will be working alongside knowledgeable people. This isn’t something you get in any industry.

What are your career plans?

This is a difficult question as after a 4-year apprenticeship, I would love to say relax! However, every Project Manager has their “dream team” which includes Junior Engineers, Senior Engineers and Lead Engineers, etc. who would love to be on their team to complete successful projects. As I am currently a Junior Engineer and believe I have good skills, knowledge, and behaviour as a Junior Engineer. I wish to develop these to be an Engineer and to be picked first on people’s “dream teams”.

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