Katy Hilborne-Wallace

Tell us a little bit about you?

My name is Katy and I’m a 20-year-old IBM Degree Apprentice studying at Pearson College London. After completing my A levels in 2017, I took a gap year, working full time for fashion retailer Topshop; during which I not only gained a whole new wardrobe, but also a great year of experience in a leadership role!Halfway through my year at Topshop, I disposed of my original plans to take my place to study Business at the University of Liverpool in September, instead choosing to apply to the IBM Degree Apprenticeship programme; as £50,000 worth of student debt was pretty unappealing, and I relished my new found financial independence.

What are you studying?

BA (Hons) Business Management

Where are you working?

I work for the global technology firm IBM. My role is RFS Manager, involving sales contracting and managing sales processes.

Why did you choose a Degree Apprenticeship?

My decision was motivated by three core factors:

  • Firstly, I was really interested in working for IBM, as they are not only a huge global technology leader but also a company that are well known for their employee development and the diversity of different roles and careers they offer. I am also attracted to working for a global firm as I love languages and would like an opportunity to work abroad at some stage in my career.
  • Secondly, I had come to really value my financial independence and an enormous student debt was an unattractive prospect. On this scheme, I earn a salary whilst simultaneously gaining a degree from a London business school (I get the best of both worlds!)
  • Thirdly, I see degree apprenticeships as the future of education, and I see experience and working skills as crucial to having a successful career; pure theory-based learning is limited in its benefits, especially in a more vocational subjects like business.

What have you enjoyed most about your course?

Without a doubt, the thing I have most enjoyed about my course so far is the people I have met! As a degree apprentice, I’m in a unique position, as I not only have access to networks within IBM (we employ over 300,000 people globally!) but I also have the chance to network with other degree apprentices studying at Pearson College London, who are from a wide range of other companies.

What have you learnt so far, during your work placement?

Over the past 6 months, I would say that I have learnt a lot about the importance of networking skills. I agree that a lot of the time "it’s not what you know, but who you know!" I have experienced first-hand the benefits of maintaining a strong network myself, as it’s really helpful to have people I can go to for help, advice and opportunities.

How has your placement helped you with your studies?

My role at IBM has really helped me to ground my financial understanding. In my role I work with the financial aspects of contracts daily, this went hand in hand with the finance section of our module last term and supported my group work this term.

Do you have any advice for anyone applying for a degree apprenticeship?

My main piece of advice when considering a degree apprenticeship is to talk to as many people as possible about all the opportunities you have available; don’t be scared to reach out to people and ask questions about their company or roles. I think it’s also really beneficial to talk to current apprentices about their apprenticeships as they can offer first hand insights.