What is it like to train with Sparta Global?

Last updated: 25 Aug 2023, 12:53

Ola Ajayi is a data and business intelligence consultant at online fashion retailer ASOS, a job he secured after training with Sparta Global. He has a first class degree in chemical engineering from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh.

Training with Sparta Global

What sparked your interest in a career in IT?

Although it may seem like a 180, chemical engineering and technology are both STEM subjects. When I was in school in Aberdeen and choosing my university I knew I wanted to study something technical, engineering or science-based – engineering is a big deal in the city. I knew I liked maths and the sciences and chemistry in particular. As I’m analytical and technically minded, chemical engineering seemed a no-brainer.

At university, I realised my peers all wanted a career in chemical engineering, while I was content to learn and graduate. It was a bit of a wake-up call and I became concerned that I might have backed myself into a career corner with a niche engineering degree. I’d enjoyed IT in school and then the coding modules related to my course at university so I started to delve into the route for technology. I found technology allowed me to be more creative – engineering principles don’t involve a lot of flexibility. In technology I found it mesmerising that you can solve the same problem and get to the same outcome in programming using different languages, for example.

Ola Ajayi, data and business intelligence consultant, ASOS

Trainee at Sparta Global

How and why did you enrol on the training programme with Sparta Global?

I was looking for jobs at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty in recruitment, then I came across the Sparta Global website. What I liked was there was no bias towards people who had studied tech, or those who were already computer science literate. You have to prove you have an analytical mindset and show a willingness and passion to work within technology and I had both those, so I applied. I was impressed at how proactive the people at Sparta Global were – following up my enquiries and keeping me informed about my application, for example.

What happens once you’ve applied?

There’s a three-stage application process: first, a visual onboarding during which an HR person reached out to me, looked through my CV and gave me an understanding of the whole Sparta process. After that, I did an aptitude test and a coding specific test, which in my case was Python. There was also a competency test. Lastly I did a virtual interview with talent coordinator lasting about 30 minutes, which revolved around my CV and why I wanted to be at Sparta. The interview was centred on competencies – for example, tell me a time you’ve done X,Y and Z. That whole process was swift; the application lasted about three weeks and at no point was I left hanging or in the dark. Timelines were adhered to and I knew what to expect at every stage.

How does the training take place and is it challenging?

I like learning and the feeling of being uncomfortable, then hitting that Eureka moment – ‘I’ve grasped it!’ – so I enjoyed it. The fast pace keeps you on your toes. In the past, I would have had to move to England to train, but during Covid restrictions Sparta started to do virtual training over Teams. There is a lot to take on board during the three months of training, with a new topic and a test at the end of each week, but the trainers are very supportive and as fellow trainees you support each other. There is a real sense of camaraderie and I still hear from a lot of people within my cohort.

Besides teaching you a lot of technical elements relating to your specialty Sparta also gives you preparation for interviews. Sparta wants you to be technically good, but the trainers also want you to be able to articulate for yourself and not be robotic, so that when you finish the training academy and go for an interview you are not just a cookie cutter candidate. Before the final interview with ASOS I had a helpful mock interview with my Sparta HR contact.

At the end, you graduate from Sparta, receive a certificate, then you get placed with an employer. One of the things I really like about tech – I had applied to the data engineering stream – is it crosses sectors and companies, so I knew I could go into fashion, or travel, or many other sectors. I work for ASOS, which is based in Camden in London, but I am based in Aberdeen and work remotely. After my initial six-month placement at ASOS, when I was taking the plane or overnight train to go to London fortnightly, my manager took the pressure off me and I commute about once a month now.

Has anything surprised you about training at Sparta Global?

It was very professional, albeit stressful at times, but the trainers worked to get the best out of us. Every day from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm we were learning new information, retaining it and then passing the test at the end of the week before learning the next new thing. It was daunting for someone like myself who didn’t have an established computer science background and it may have been harder, requiring a lot more reading on my part, but ultimately we were all in the same boat and going through the same rigorous three-month process. The trainers were top-notch.

What’s the best bit of additional advice you would give to someone looking for a job in your field?

I would say, personality goes a long way. Many people have CVs that say the same kind of thing, but by being authentic you are showing your unique self. Technical aptitude will get you so far, but personality is what makes you stand out and makes you different to the rest. I am an advocate of using LinkedIn and being proactive to enable you to succeed. I found reaching out to the people I was dealing with, and thanking them for the opportunity they had given me, helped. I realise that can be a daunting prospect for some people, but the personal touch shows you care about the process and the job.

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