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Graduate Programme Wales has taken me from zero to hero – Oliver Johnson shares his experience

Oli grew up in Woking and studied Maths at Bath University. Oli enjoyed computer modules whilst studying maths and realized he had a talent for computer science. Oli said the Graduate Programme Wales was attractive as he didn’t want to go into one of the larger corporate company schemes, he wanted to work with smaller innovative and fast growing companies. Oli completed the Data Science Fasttrack Programme in 2021.

Oli found the scheme online and applied in December 2019, he applied for many other schemes but they were with large companies and Oli knew he wanted a place on GPW. The assessment was all virtual due to the pandemic, Oli said this was okay, and he was pleased to be offered a place on the programme. It was postponed initially due to the pandemic and he started in January 2021. The university and employer placement were also online due to the pandemic, Oli said the job was a little harder due to being remote but overall “Graduate Programme Wales exceeded my expectations”.

Oli said, “at the time, the salary was quite low in comparison to other larger corporates grad schemes, but that was okay as I was really focused on my learning and this was blended with my employer placement. If the employer had been paying more for the grad “there would be more expectation of outcome, and the work would ultimately be less rewarding and less exposing. I would also have less time to concentrate on learning. It was eight months with massive exposure to learning and experience, enabling me to hit the ground running, other schemes would have taken me 2 years”.

Oli did his work placement at Amber, he said “it’s a really nice place to work, great people from top to bottom – very positive environment and culture”. “Ultimately if you are keen, enthusiastic to apply yourself you can really succeed – it’s not hierarchical. During my placement I moved to a different team as a Data Scientist. My manager left, wasn’t replaced in the same capacity and I took on more responsibility. It was a massive enabler for me, there was trust, I was able to innovate, the culture was solution focused, innovative and agile”.

Oli says he had really good support from WCCF (Cnect),” they were always there for whatever you needed – wellbeing, career…The career support at the end was really important with the fast track programme”.  Oli says he made close friends and has a great network of people, “it was a really great part of the experience”.

Overall Oli states, that the programme really helped with his confidence – “I was at a complete crossroads and I think I would have given up if I hadn’t got a place on the programme” Oli says “the programme should continue, there are more data and tech skills being nurtured i universities now, but ultimately it’s still not enough to get you hired, this programme enables you to apply the learning.

Oli is currently based in Cambridge and is a Data Engineer in the Law company – Simons Wavelength, where data science is applied to solve business problems. Oli said “Automating manual processes is the biggest opportunity. I really like it here, it suits me working in a start-up culture and my salary is now over £50k. I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in the start-up sector and want to be an entrepreneur myself. When I think back, I was struggling to find anything that suited me and the Graduate Programme has taken me from zero to hero, it really put me in the right place.”