Sam McAuley on ‘The First Role’

Hi again, Sam here – I work as a System Integration Test Analyst, which essentially entails working with a mobile banking application to make sure that all the functionality does what it’s supposed to before it reaches the end user – as with most things, the earlier an issue is spotted and resolved the better.

Prior to my induction course; the next step after being accepted onto the apprenticeship, I had no formal knowledge of what testing was at all, and during induction I received a very concise description of what testing is, the software and tools used, and a run down of why testing is essential to so many organisations. (Basically, we find the problems and pass the information to the appropriate team to be fixed, so our client’s customers have as few issues as possible!).

Although the course in itself was very relaxed, and we were encouraged to ask whenever something was confusing, it’s not realistic to make the assumption that everything that was told to me that day was fully taken in and understood. Towards the end of the two week course, I was told that I would be part of the Testing team working in Swindon.

Starting my first role was (as I expected it would be) very daunting- I was moving far away from home, stepping out of my comfort zone and suddenly I felt everything that had been told to me about testing was slipping from my memory. I was lucky, as the release I joined was in it’s infancy, and there was a couple of weeks for me to get acclimatised to the environment- although it became clear very early on that even though I had time to adjust, not many others in my team had the time to ‘show me the ropes’, and a lot of the training I did was off my own back, using the resources available.

The other apprentices and I were tasked with creating an on-boarding pack for future new starters by using the accounts intranet, talking to various people in our team and using any knowledge we already had… At first, I felt pretty hard done by, thinking to myself ‘I’ve made it this far, how am I expected to do something when I don’t understand what I’m doing and have no help?!’ – But after getting wound up and feeling as if I should give up, I made it my mission to at least try and prove that I could do it.

I navigated my way through the sharepoint, finding pieces of information here and there – talked to people outside of my direct team, asking them to give me a high level overview so I could understand it and be able to paraphrase in a way that would benefit somebody with no prior knowledge (like me!). Finally, working with the other apprentices we created a number of thorough, understandable presentations that have now been uploaded onto the sharepoint and used for reference to help future new starters.

‘It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand’ – Randy Pausch

I came into IBM with certain expectations that I would be shown how to do everything in a simplified manner, and when these weren’t met I began to give up. In a way it was a wake up call for me… Why should I be spoon-fed? I was forced to apply myself, work outside my comfort zone and what it achieved was far more rewarding than I could have expected. I not only felt more comfortable with the work that I was doing, but because of the means of learning I had unwittingly become used to navigating through the sharepoint and intranet and created a network of people who I still now go to when I need their expertise.

If you apply yourself, be confident and never be afraid to ask for help – you will succeed!

Thank you for taking the time to read this – please take the time to watch ‘The Last Lecture: Achieving your childhood dreams’ by Randy Pausch – formerly an American professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University.



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