Accenture apprentice scheme gets first female graduate

Accenture’s IT apprentice programme has its first female graduate, and the company hopes this is the start of more female graduates to come

Accenture’s Newcastle-based apprentice programme has its first female graduate, as software tester Amy Killoran finishes the three-year course.

At 17 years old, Killoran gave up her A-Levels in English literature, sociology and IT to join the IT services company’s apprenticeship scheme in Newcastle.

“I took IT as a subject but I wanted to do something more with IT in practice, so an IT apprenticeship was the best choice for me. The IT course was all about coursework, but I wanted to do something more technical,” she said.

“I came across the Accenture apprenticeship programme and read up on it. I realised Accenture is a big global technology company and thought it would be a great opportunity.”

In early 2013, Killoran left her A-Level course and embarked on the search for an apprentice scheme. She attended an assessment day with Accenture in May that year and was “over the moon” when she got a place on the programme.

In July 2013, she began the programme with a four-week boot camp where the apprentices were introduced to Java and SQL.

“After that, we were all put into a role. I was given a software testing role at the HMRC, which I am still doing after the apprentice programme,” she said.

Killoran is learning things such as testing using Unix and SQL while at HMRC. She is now working in an agile software development environment, after previously learning and experiencing the waterfall model.

Before the scheme, Killoran had a GCSE in IT but lacked hands-on experience. “Everything I’ve learned here is new and I have been able to build on these skills in the company,” she said.

She is happy to continue developing in HMRC, but is ambitious and eager to take any opportunities in Accenture that might be available.

Read more about Accenture’s apprentice programme

On being the first female graduate, Killoran said IT is “still a male-dominated area”.

“When I first joined the apprentice programme, I was shocked at how few females there were – there was only me and one other female in the group I was in,” she said, adding that the other female in her group left after a year.

She said when she joined, being in an all-male group was quite daunting, but this changed as she was treated fairly and she realised there were women in executive positions at the company.

She said the industry could build female interest in IT careers by promoting the success of women such as Emma McGuigan, who runs Accenture’s UK and Ireland technology business. “She is really successful and someone people can look up to,” said Killoran.

“At first, it was daunting being the only female, but [being female] doesn’t make any difference. If women want to do it, they should go for it and not let [the amount of men] put them off.”

More women in IT must be a ‘cultural change’

Killoran said interest from females about the programme is increasing, and the figures from Accenture’s most recent groups support this.

The company’s first round of graduates at the Newcastle scheme saw 14 males qualify, but no women. The second group, who have just completed the programme, had 19 graduates, with Killoran the only female.

There are more females in the most recent group, which is also the largest, with six females out of a total of 30 people.

Mark Larsen, who heads up the Newcastle operation, said the numbers are improving but there is still some way to go.

“It’s starting to pick up, but it will pick up more when people hear that women are going through [the programme] successfully,” said Larsen. “The lack of women in IT is a structural and cultural change and we have to tackle it earlier.”

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