Stewart has worked for Hewlett Packard (HP) since joining as an apprentice straight from school. In just six years he's worked his way up from technical support apprentice to his current role of storage pre-sales consultant.
What’s your name?
Where do you work?
Hewlett Packard (HP).
What's your job title?
How long have you been doing that?
How did you get there?
After school I was unsure of what I wanted to do as a career so I worked with the National Careers Service (NCS) who suggested I look into apprenticeships. I had never thought of working in IT but they considered my interests and figured it would be a great fit for someone like me.
The NCS helped me fight off the heavy competition by supporting me with my application and staging mock interviews before the real thing. This resulted in me securing an apprentice position with EDS (which was acquired by HP) straight from school. Since then I’ve moved up within the company and clarified that IT is definitely the business for me.
I had always thought apprenticeships were lesser than university, but my careers adviser helped me to see that this really isn’t the case.
What's the work and day-to-day experience like?
My role is to be the customer’s technical advisor - it’s excellent! I have to present our products to them and then design a solution that best fits their needs. I also have to deliver live demonstrations of the products and be able to explain technical concepts to all different levels of customers. It’s great to have the responsibility of presenting for such a big IT company.
What kind of technical skills do you have?
I have in depth knowledge of various components of enterprise IT environments, such as storage area network (SAN) technology, network attached storage (NAS) technology and X86 server technology. I am able to articulate the technical features and explain how systems function at the “deep dive” level, but also explain benefits at a high level to senior management staff. I also have hands-on skills with the products, including installation, running and fault finding.
Since I am acting as a trusted advisor to a customer, it’s vitally important I really understand the technology, and am able to convey that understanding to them at all levels in a business. This can involve presentations, a hands-on live demo or a whiteboarding session demonstrating concepts. Either way, I need to be able to show not just features of a product, but how they actually work, and what it means for the business.
What did you expect when you started work?
I was really very nervous and concerned that my knowledge wouldn’t be up to scratch. However, I wasn’t expected to already know everything and was surprised at how much support and assistance I was given to bring my knowledge up to scratch. It was, and is, never an issue to simply ask for help. My manager wanted someone who would be keen to learn, and enthusiastic, not a genius from day one.
What's the best thing about the job?
Presenting. I love being in front of a customer and I get a lot of opportunity to do just that! It keeps me on my toes, as I never know what I’ll be asked next.
I also get to go abroad to technical events. They are great weeks and are always hosted in a fantastic city. The last one was Frankfurt, which was not only invaluable to my career, but I had a lot of fun too and made some great connections with colleagues.
How would you describe life as a working engineer?
Great fun. It’s a really enjoyable career, with excellent prospects for the future. It’s nice to feel that I am really making a difference to customers too.
In my role, I have to be able to technically understand, and convey that knowledge to a customer. Whilst it is not what everyone would consider a traditional “engineer”, it involves the strong technical understanding and skill that comes in an engineering role. In my opinion, it is technical knowledge that sets someone as an engineer, as opposed to a specific job role.
Is there any advice you’d like to pass on to those about to enter an engineering workplace?
Be confident and have fun. Try not to be too intimidated, and never be afraid to ask for help. As I already mentioned, my biggest fear was being expected to know everything and that was simply not the case. They just wanted someone with an appetite to learn!
What do you think you'll do next?
I’d like to keep progressing within pre-sales to become a more senior engineer.