Data Fellowship, apprenticeship, laptop, books, notepad, pen

Apprenticeship assessment: the final boss

The last update about my apprenticeship was shared at the beginning of August.

This was written the day after the deadline to submit my work-based project. Having to limit everything I wanted to say to within 3,500 words was a real struggle and I’m sure I spent more time editing the report down than I did actually writing it. I was glad to see the back of it.

All that was left to do afterwards was to wait for my final assessment and spend the next four weeks revising. The volume of notes I’d managed to accumulate from the course since starting it in April 2022 was, quite frankly, ridiculous. There were times when I felt as though there was no way I was going to be able to get that amount of information in my head and make it stay there.

But it’s finally done.

Towards the end of last week, I spent just over two hours on a conference call discussing my experience with an assessor. They asked me questions about the rationale behind some of my decisions, whether I’d collaborated with colleagues on particular tasks, and my understanding of certain areas of data theory. It felt like the most I’d talked to anyone in the past 18 months.

The focus of the first hour was on the portfolio I’d completed in May. I kept waiting for the difficult questions to come, for the assessor to ask about a piece of code I’d written months ago or something technical I wouldn’t be able to remember. But it didn’t happen. They seemed more interested in the way I’d handled my stakeholders, why I thought data ethics was important and how domain context plays into data analysis. It was stuff I could answer without too much trouble.

books, notepads, pen, Python For Dummies, table

When we stopped for a short break afterwards, I was so surprised at my luck that it was necessary to do a quick breathing exercise to calm myself down. Could I really have gotten through that first section so easily? I wasn’t out of the woods however as the hardest part was still yet to come. Next would be a 20-minute presentation on the final project finished in July, followed by another question-and-answer session. This was the thing I’d been dreading the most throughout all these months.

Fortunately, I’d practiced the presentation every single hour the day before. Although this seems excessive looking back now, the preparation paid off. It had reached the point where I felt I knew exactly what I wanted to say off by heart. I was obviously still worried that my mind would go blank, or my voice would race, or I’d trip up over my words and turn into a nervous mess. But again: it didn’t happen. I made it through to the end of my slides without any major screw-ups and almost on schedule.

Two out of three actions completed. Surely my luck couldn’t hold out much longer though and I’d now be thrown a curve ball that I didn’t see coming? But as the assessor kicked off a conversation about the differences between public and open data, I realised it was going to be ok. I knew this subject; it had only been last week that I’d been discussing it with a couple of the other apprentices. I just needed to stay calm, not say anything stupid and make it through the last 20-minutes.

And then it was over. The assessor thanked me for my time, asked if I’d provide feedback about the session, and told me I’d receive my results by email within the next ten working days. It was hard to believe that the past year and a half had built up to that moment and now it was finished. I spent the rest of the afternoon at work in a bit of a daze because I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. My body had been so highly strung for the past few days that it felt difficult to relax.

I managed to snap out of it over the weekend though and actually enjoy the sense of relief. Pete and I went out for a celebratory drink on Friday evening at a nice little bar nearby. Saturday was spent getting a haircut then going home to play The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) in the afternoon with the stepkid, to distract him from his nerves about starting college on Monday. And on Sunday, I left the two of them asleep while I slipped out of the house for a long-run session in the peace of the early morning.

bar, drinks, The Lounge

I haven’t been replying to any messages lately and won’t be doing so for a little while yet. I don’t want to come across as selfish, but this is my blog so sod it: it’s surprising how many people seem to contact you to ask you for something during a week you’ve warned them is going to be stressful for you. Sorry to anyone who has tried to get in touch with me recently. I haven’t deleted your messages, I will respond to them, and I’ll try to help you if I have the time – but these next few days are going to be just for me.

I’m looking forward to catching up with some good friends this coming weekend (and meeting one of them in person for the first time). It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other and there’s a lot we have to talk about. There’ll be board games and beach walks during the day followed by cosplay, a few drinks and a late-night Burger King in the evening. Tim, Ellen, Phil and the others – you guys have been so supportive during my apprenticeship so the first round is on me.

I’ll make a start on the next challenges on the agenda once I’m home and recovered. As mentioned in my post in August, I’m currently training for another running event and am planning to share more information later this month. Alongside this, I’m waiting to hear whether my company will allow me to start the next level of the apprenticeship by the end of 2023. This will involve another two years of work but it means I’ll gain a Digital and Technology Solutions degree.

There’s also the possibility of a slight role change at work and discussions are underway. I’m very aware of how much time and effort all of these things are going to be and the impact they’ll potentially have on my schedule. Once I know more about what’s going to be involved and have come up with a plan, it may be that certain things need to be cut to make more space. I can’t see myself giving up blogging though, so it looks like you guys are stuck with me for a little longer.

For anyone considering an apprenticeship, especially those who left school years ago like me: do it. I’ve learnt so much over the past 18 months, and have had the opportunity to meet many lovely and knowledgeable people. I think I’ve grown a lot as a result. I can’t deny that it’s a huge amount of effort but it’s likely to be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. And I’m saying this, not even knowing whether I’ve passed yet.

Keep your fingers crossed.

6 thoughts on “Apprenticeship assessment: the final boss

  1. Glad to hear that it went so well. Hopefully you’ll get the response soon and all the stress will go away!

  2. You should be incredibly proud of yourself. You have put so much hard work and time into this. We are all proud of you

    • Thanks, I appreciate the support! The past 18 months have been tough but they have definitely been a worthwhile experience. Looking forward into dragging Phil into another two years of hard work with me. 😉

  3. Fingers, toes and everything else crossed! But, I don’t think we’ll need it. You’ve done an incredible job! Nearly time to par-tay!

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