Autumn Topping is a second-year degree apprentice in Warrington, United Kingdom as a technical sales engineer for Industrial Automation. Check out Autumn’s blog as she answers questions about why she chose to begin an apprenticeship at Schneider Electric and what value it has brought to her career in just two years’ time.
How did you decide you wanted to do an engineering apprenticeship after school?
Math has always been a subject throughout school which I enjoyed and felt I was strongest at. There were various paths that I had considered (finance, economics, IT, Science). However, towards the end of college, I found that engineering was the career path that I wanted to take as it’s very challenging and innovative.
I never wanted to miss out on taking up a degree as it may provide career opportunities in the future. I also wanted real-life experience out of the classroom, and to be able to earn a salary and avoid student debt. Therefore, I was in search of an apprenticeship to gain valuable experience whilst completing relevant academic studies. An apprenticeship offers the best of both worlds.
What was it that attracted you to join Schneider Electric?
When I first came across Schneider electric, I discovered they were a multinational corporation that is leading the Digital Transformation in Energy Management and Automation across multiple industries. When I read the apprenticeship description it offered exactly what I was looking for. There were many apprenticeship schemes that Schneider offered across the UK and across different business sectors. The apprenticeship I applied for was a ‘technical sales engineer apprenticeship’ in process automation and based nearby.
The main reasons that attracted me to join Schneider were that it is a global company meaning there will be opportunities to progress my career within the company and possibly a chance to travel and relocate. Also, the apprenticeship scheme offers a paid degree in engineering, excellent salary and perks, and real-life experience. I also admire how Schneider promotes innovation and energy efficiency.
Tell us about a typical day in the office?
There is no typical day in the office. When I first started my apprenticeship, I was warmly introduced to everybody in my local office and found out in-depth everybody’s roles as well as Schneider’s structure. Being in sales, I was then introduced to the sales team and assigned a mentor to shadow. I began becoming more familiar with the day to day tasks and spent the beginning of my apprenticeship settling in.
Now being in my second year, I am frequently traveling to other SE offices across the country and different departments to gain a wider understanding of our processes and to make connections to other employees who I may work closely with in the future. I have also begun introducing myself to our installed based customers which includes shadowing my mentor in meetings, site visits and attending events.
What do you enjoy most and least about your job?
Therefore, the main thing I enjoy about my job is how different each day is. There is always something in my calendar, whether it is spending time in the office, a site visit, training or a customer/internal event (which may include traveling outside the UK). Travelling isn’t for everybody, but it is certainly something I like about my job.
The most challenging part of my job is how technical it can be. It is a major jump from college as I am now working with real-life projects, but I need to make sure I can soak up/understand lots of new things every day.
Is your apprenticeship what you thought it would be?
My apprenticeship is much better than I anticipated. I feel that Schneider has invested a huge amount in me. I am constantly learning and always feel supported throughout and it is incredible to see how far I have come whilst only being in my second year.
How do you balance work and studying?
Most of my university is distant learning, where I attend Skype lectures throughout the week and complete tasks through the university portal online. I visit a university three times a year (for a week at a time), where I can complete practicals and coursework. I can contact my lecturers whenever I need help, and I can watch the online lectures as many times as I want. Although my job is Monday to Friday, 20% of it is assigned to university work, so I may catch up with lectures during my days in the office.
The sales engineer apprenticeship allows me to be flexible when balancing my work with study. For example, if I am away on business one week, I can catch up the week after and vice versa.
What type of job would you like to do when you finish your apprenticeship?
When my apprenticeship ends, I am hoping for a full-time account manager sales role. I will already have 5 years of experience within Schneider and our installed base customers whilst shadowing my mentor in this role. I will also have acquired the relevant qualifications to peruse a career in this industry. Although I am uncertain where I will end up in the long term, I believe I will have a strong start to my career.
What advice would you give anyone thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
I would advise anyone leaving college not to rule out apprenticeships for any career they are looking for. The main features to look for are the job role (what experience will you gain), any qualifications (degree, btec..) and if they will provide extra training and support. An apprenticeship is a brilliant way to kick start your career early.
If you’re looking for a career at Schneider Electric, whether it be an internship, graduate, apprenticeship or early career position, check out our website at www.se.com/careers!