'Not everyone was supportive, but I am working for my future'

Zaynah Din says her apprenticeship is giving her 'the power to excel'. She tells her story as part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign

Zaynah Din

inspiring apprentices vocational education training FE college

I’m Zaynah, I’m 18 years old and I grew up in Langley, a little village outside West London. I am five months into completing the level 3 digital marketing apprenticeship with WhiteHat and working at Facebook as a creative apprentice.

I was aware of apprenticeships as a potential higher education route, but I never considered them. Through societal and family pressure, I was pushed towards university. I was under the impression that they were not valuable, and university was the only option.

More on this: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign

Other news: Tes launches #InspiringApprentices campaign

Background: 'Employers should reserve places for minority apprentices'

Taking the 'safer' route

I went to a grammar school and left with 12 GCSEs to attend a University Technical College (UTC). At the grammar school, career advice was heavily focused on attending university and taking a traditional, "safer" route. Apprenticeships were seen as a last resort, so it was not until I arrived at the UTC that I was education about apprenticeships as practical and creative routes – the perfect environment for me to thrive in.

I expected WhiteHat to support me in my interviewing process and further. They have exceeded those expectations by creating a whole community among the apprentices and creating opportunities for us to act as brand ambassadors. I was recently elected vice-president of the apprentice community and this allows me to represent (alongside the president) apprentices, be on panels, conduct workshops and be a speaker at various events.

During my apprenticeship, I thought I would be working closely with my team, shadowing my mentor, inputting on projects and attending meetings. My Facebook journey so far has gone far beyond that. I have done all of that and so much more, including attending training and boot camps in Dublin, attending team off-sites in California, managing my own regional campaigns and more.

Managing my own campaigns

I did not expect my Facebook journey to be so fulfilling so quickly. I didn’t expect to take on such a significant role in my team. From day one, I was learning key design skills which have allowed me to tackle and deliver design briefs independently. Then I moved to work with the digital sub-team. I am now managing my own campaigns across Facebook and Instagram, including the Chelsea Flower Show 2019 with Joe Perkins and Nick Clegg’s Live event.  

Every morning I wake up and feel excited to go to work. I don’t experience "Monday Blues". I love the energy in my office and I feel motivated to achieve as much as possible each day. I don’t take where I am for granted. I try to remind myself every day of how fortunate I am and to keep working hard. It helps that I am supported and respected by my line manager and the rest of my team.

My favourite aspects of my work are the ability to make an impact and the opportunity I have to travel and experience different cultures. Since joining WhiteHat’s community I have also built a new circle of friends who are all apprentices. Traditionally, there wasn’t a huge social element to apprenticeships, but WhiteHat has done a great job of trying to tackle that. As vice-president of the community, one of my policies is to increase social gatherings and networking opportunities among the apprentices, so it’s something we’re continually working on.

Culture and traditional beliefs

I had a mixed reaction from family and friends when I decided to do an apprenticeship. My Dad was super supportive but it was difficult to convince my Mum. This all comes down to culture and traditional beliefs. The value of an apprenticeship isn’t communicated to students or parents, so she was sceptical. Most of the time, we have to go out and seek these opportunities for ourselves, and so it didn’t appear to be a "safe" option.

But now my Mum understands my job, sees how I excel in what I do and the joy my work brings me, she is happy. Other family members were not as supportive and there were some challenges I had to overcome. At the end of the day, I’m working for my future and I trust myself to make the right decisions for me. It was a risk, but a risk I was willing to take and I’m glad I did.

I have picked up so many valuable skills so far, I have met so many incredible people and I am confident in my abilities. I am always working on my own projects/ initiatives outside of work and I believe this apprenticeship has given me the power to excel in whatever I decide to do next. I am excited for what the future brings my way.

In 10 years, I see myself owning an initiative that encourages young women of colour to thrive in the tech industry. I see my myself busy and happy.  

Zaynah Din is a level 3 digital marketing apprentice with WhiteHat, working at Facebook. Her blog is part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign

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Zaynah Din

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