All Systems Go At Aegon – Cyber Security Graduate Apprenticeship

Why is cyber security so important? Cyber security is a constant threat to modern day business and we need to be on our guard constantly against threats that could compromise the data that we have. The importance of cyber security can’t be underestimated. Data breaches are not only detrimental to a company’s reputation, but they can also be extremely costly. With hefty fines for businesses who are in breach of GDPR, it’s more important than ever to take cyber security seriously.

In September 2018, Jessica Auld and Thomas Egan started their Graduate Apprenticeship journey with Aegon UK in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University. They are in their first year of their four year BEng Honours Degree in Cyber Security. Here are their thoughts on their experiences so far and advice for anyone thinking about a Graduate Apprenticeship.

Jessica Auld

I’m an Apprentice Information Security Analyst working at Aegon, and alongside my day job I am working towards a BEng Honours degree in Cyber Security and Forensics through Edinburgh Napier University. I’ve always found cyber security an interesting subject – technology is constantly changing and evolving at rates faster than ever before and with all this new technology comes a growing number of opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit. With that in mind, I knew that a career in this field would be a new and interesting challenge.

I had first seen the Graduate Level Apprenticeship advertised on LinkedIn, and having never studied computing or had a previous IT related role, my initial thoughts were that I didn’t have a chance at getting the job, but I had a go and applied. To my surprise I was invited to the assessment day and shortly after, offered the apprenticeship. 

The thing I love most about my role is that every day is different, one day you are carrying out your daily tasks; threat intelligence, data loss prevention activities, phishing queries, due diligence, and the next day you could be responding to a cyber incident that needs resolved immediately. You never know what’s waiting for you!

Studying at university and learning on the job means that I’m constantly learning and developing my skill set and knowledge. It’s exciting to know that at the end of four years I’ll have an honours degree plus four years work experience. For me, the role has opened up so many different opportunities and most importantly; I have met some great people along the way – my team and the other apprentices have been such a great support network. 

It’s well known that women are underrepresented in STEM jobs, but I would say if you’re thinking about a career in cyber security or technology, then go for it, there are so many opportunities out there – you won’t regret it!

Thomas Egan

Having worked at Aegon since 2016, I was really eager to push on and build a career in a more IT based area. When I saw that Aegon were recruiting for Graduate Apprentices in Cyber Security, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

After applying, I was asked to attend an assessment day with other candidates, which was a new experience for me so was rather nervous. It went really well and within a week of the interview I was offered the role and could not have said “YES” quicker in response.

In my first few weeks in the role, I had already started to work on business-as-usual tasks to embed some of the knowledge I would need. On top of this work I had been given revision time to work on projects for university and study for upcoming tests. I’m consistently being trained on new processes and learning new things about my job (both in my work and at university) it’s very demanding but I’m really enjoying the challenge.

I think that’s what I love most about my job, that I’m learning something new on a daily basis. Every day is different in its own way, and you never have that “groundhog day” feeling. The balance between work and university is great. I am getting the opportunity to put the theory I learn into practice straight away.  

If there’s an opportunity for Graduate Apprenticeships coming up in an area you are interested in working in, I could not stress how highly I would encourage you to go for it. There are a lot of opportunities to develop within the IT industry and the Graduate Apprenticeship is giving me the best possible start in my IT Career. I would recommend any Graduate Apprenticeship in any sector as a great foundation for a career in the relevant sector.

Graduate Apprenticeships represent a very important pathway of people development – and according to Gill Scott HR Director for Aegon UK, one that they see as vital in the years ahead. “Graduate Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity for Aegon to attract and retain talented individuals in our organisation and at the same time take advantage of the levy we pay. By allowing our Graduate Apprentices to study for an Honours degree over four years, at the same time as gaining valuable experience in the workplace, we benefit from their learning while they benefit from both academic and on the job development. The Graduate Apprenticeship has been designed with the needs of our industry in mind, which means that we have complete confidence that the learning they get at college or university is relevant and will enable them to contribute to our success now and in the future.”

Aegon give all staff the opportunity to use Apprenticeships as a pathway of development and since 2014 over 240 people have successfully completed an Apprenticeship. They currently have over 40 staff working towards Modern Apprenticeships in Management, Providing Financial Services and Project Management. They also have two Graduate Apprentices in the second year of IT Management for Business.