A young smiling woman with curly brown hair stands against a plain wall. She is a graduate working at Avanade.
Maud Farrow. Image: Avanade Ireland

‘There are systems in place to ensure nobody feels alienated or lost’

30 Sep 2021

Mathematical sciences graduate Maud Farrow explains what it’s like to start out as a graduate at Avanade Ireland.

Maud Farrow is a mathematical sciences graduate from University College Cork, where she focused on pure and applied maths and chose modules that allowed her to deepen her understanding of programming languages.

She now works at Avanade, having joined through the company’s graduate programme. She told Siliconrepublic.com that it was always her goal to work in the tech industry and use her skills in the area of coding in particular.

‘I expected more of a hands-off learning approach. I couldn’t have been more mistaken’

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What drew you to Avanade when you were seeking work as a graduate?

I initially discovered the role on LinkedIn and it seemed like a great fit for me considering what my interests were in college. The opportunity to get this role regardless of your background really intrigued me, as I felt it was unusual for companies in this field to hire people without a technical background.

I really wanted to work alongside people from all areas, as I feel it provides a wide range of solutions and perspectives at every step of the way. On top of this, the opportunity to get three months of training really appealed to me.

After the initial application we had a couple of opportunities to meet people from the company before the final interview. We got to speak with previous grads and people leads and this is what made me confident that this was the right fit for me.

Every person, whether a recent grad or seasoned professional, was so positive and welcoming and seemed to genuinely enjoy their job here at Avanade. The fact we even got to meet the leads of each stream (data, AI and cybersecurity) on multiple occasions before being hired highlighted to me how much Avanade values their graduate programme and staff in general.

What expectations did you have before you began the programme?

I expected more of a hands-off, self-driven learning approach. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Each step of the way we have had numerous trainers to help us, who would walk us through each of the courses we are covering and answer any question we had, no matter how big or small.

I also expected to be less integrated with the group of graduates in London, but we have been together consistently since the beginning. This has given us all the opportunity to expand our network in the early stages of our career, which I have no doubt will be invaluable in the years to come. The training with Avanade has been such a nurturing environment in which to learn new skills and meet new people.

I was not expecting so many people from Avanade outside of the graduate programme to reach out and get to know me as they have. People show a genuine interest and there’s great camaraderie among us all.

Everyone is put into a ‘talent pool’ based off the scope of their work and this almost acts as a social circle where people in different stages of their career who share mutual interests and skillsets can get to know one another. This is another aspect of Avanade which I love as it really promotes getting to know your colleagues on a deeper level.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

Although we started with training, that isn’t to say we weren’t expected to take on some responsibility from the get-go. In our first week we attended a course on consulting excellence, in which we were taught how to present efficiently and engage with other people.

We are also part of a fast-paced course and are expected to practise the skills we are learning ourselves to deepen our understanding. We have completed a number of projects which are designed to ensure we have understood the material correctly and can apply our knowledge. Each of these projects has been presented to both our trainers and some of the pathway leads at Avanade.

It is also our responsibility to engage in the community and create relationships with our colleagues.

Did the scope of your work change as the programme progressed?

As the programme progressed through training, we were all split into more specific streams, based off our interests and skills. Within these streams we focus on honing the skills which will be most beneficial to us.

I was put into the data engineering stream, where we focused on Python, SQL, machine learning and Azure solutions. Once training is completed, we will be put on projects, where the scope of our work will depend on the specific project.

I’m looking forward to being placed onto a project in Avanade Ireland and really get to apply the skills I’ve learned in the last three months.

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

As our training varies so much, there is no typical day in this programme. The structure each day depends on what we are learning and who is teaching us. For many of the modules we have done, we will begin the day by learning a new topic or about a new tool we will be using throughout our career.

All the lessons have been very interactive and we are provided the opportunity to ask any questions or discuss whether we have used said tool before or seen it used in an interesting way. This is usually interesting, as we have so many people of different backgrounds, everybody has seen things used in different contexts.

We are usually then given the chance to apply what we’ve learned either as a team or an individual. This has always been my favourite part of the day as we get to get our hands dirty and dive into a problem.

How do your responsibilities compare to more experienced employees’?

I think one of the major differences between my responsibilities and those of more experienced employees’ is that we can ask questions every step of the way and have our work reviewed by others.

Within Avanade there are many systems in place to ensure nobody ever feels alienated or lost, particularly graduates. Each employee is given a career adviser, which is somebody in a more senior role, who remains impartial and acts as a mentor throughout your career within Avanade.

On top of that we have our talent pools, but the graduates were also given a buddy. Each of us has been assigned a person within Avanade who is closer in seniority to us than our career adviser and we have a more informal relationship with them. This is one of the main differences in my opinion.

Do you feel more prepared for working life after completing this programme?

Yes, I would say that I feel more confident heading into my career after completing this programme. The nurturing environment within Avanade in which I started my career has given me much more confidence in reaching out to more experienced employees to ask for help or advice, which I think we benefit me in the years to come.

I have also gained a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities. Coming from the degree I did, I had some concerns about how applicable the skills I gained in college would be in the workplace, but completing this programme has made me realise that the skills I gained will be instrumental in my career.

I am also much more secure in the fact that I can pick up new skills reasonably quickly. The fast-paced learning environment we were placed in within this programme, while thoroughly enjoyable, really required that we have our wits about us every day.

Why should someone apply to the graduate programme at Avanade?

People should consider applying to this programme if they have a genuine interest in the industry, regardless of their background. I have seen many of my colleagues from diverse backgrounds excel in this programme, but the one thing everyone has in common is the determination to learn new skills to the best of their ability.

The content is faced paced and not for the faint of heart, so a genuine interest in the material is beneficial. Aside from the content, Avanade is a company in which you are expected to engage socially and there are many social events to get involved in. I would suggest applying if you want to be part of a community rather than just a workplace.

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