A year on from the start of their Cyber Security Apprenticeship at Department for Work & Pensions, Jamie MacWatt and Wayne Perks reflect on their experience so far.
It’s been just over a year since we both began our apprenticeship within the Department for Work & Pensions’ Cyber Resilience Centre (CRC). Looking back at when we started, it is clear that we have both progressed immensely, both in terms of competency and confidence. We’re no longer fresh recruits trying to find our feet, but instead civil servants with an important role within the team and continuously expanding skillsets.
As time has gone on, the workload has increased both in capacity and complexity and we have really enjoyed the work we do because it lets us test ourselves whilst at the same time learn more. Some of the tasks that require us to reach out and speak to other areas of the business have been really rewarding experiences. We have been able to share our knowledge and give advice and support for all things “cyber” related to staff across DWP. For example for a week in October we participated in Cyber Awareness Month by going up to Scotland to support frontline staff by delivering security awareness sessions in Aberdeen Benefit Centre and Glasgow Universal Credit Service Centre. We provided staff with general advice and help on how to stay safe online at work and at home. The feedback for both events was really good and we are hoping to deliver more in the future.
We have also done lots of work on building our capabilities within the office. We’re developing a learning environment for staff to access and share training material remotely. We are building and testing the environment to make sure it is user friendly and also secure. We are trialling agile methodology which we discussed in our last blog, to try and manage this project, and hopefully it proves successful! This task shows how we are now able to plan and deliver our own projects, and that we can manage our own time and team and just get on with it. This is really refreshing for us as we now feel like assets to our team, with a purpose and clear vision for what we need to do.
Now that we have begun to take on more responsibility for the work we do, we have become buddies for the new cohort of apprentices in order to guide them and help them settle in. As part of the apprenticeship we must regularly submit coursework to get marked and one of our main jobs with the apprentices is to help them write this coursework using our own knowledge and experience. Other tasks include teaching them how to present, and managing them on our projects, as well as general ad-hoc work. We enjoy being buddies as it lets us help the new recruits settle in but it also exposes us to the leadership side of working in the Civil Service and this experience is vital for our career development.
Overall we would both agree that throughout the last year we have grown in maturity and confidence to become skilled members of our team, taking a more proactive approach to our work and learning rather than waiting to be given work like we were used to. Thanks to our training we are also broadening our knowledge on cyber security and since last year we have focused on subjects such as cryptography, malware analysis, digital forensics and penetration testing, all of which we had no prior knowledge of. We will continue to develop this outside the work environment. Despite how far we feel we have come since last year, we still have a long way to go to develop our careers and become fully competent cyber security professionals so although we are proud of ourselves, there’s still plenty to do!