Soneil Gonez – from Gamer to Microsoft Apprentice

I’Microsoftm a Microsoft Apprentice, working as a Support Engineer since last September. I support the global corporations that use Microsoft’s database software to solve technical problems. Essentially, my job is to seek out broken code and find solutions that keep these businesses up-and-running. I’m learning loads as an apprentice, but its real work too – nofluffy errands – there’s code flying everywhere.

From game player to peer educator

If you want to learn the digital stuff that’s fun, like I did, you need to learn it yourself. Like many kids, I fantasised about working in the gaming industry creating cool games, but I didn’t actually know what skills I would need. Curiosity drove me to discover the world of coding and I started learning HTML and CSS by playing around on Code Academy when I was 11.

After finishing school I went to a specialist technology college but the learning environment just didn’t suit me. So after completing AS Levels I wanted to do something else. I already had more experience of programming than most, me and friends had designed and were part way through building an app for students (watch this space – I’m still developing it when I get any spare time!). I took work experience with some start-up tech firms and I had also recently started volunteering at a local youth project where I could support others’ learning about technology, aka a Microsoft Youth Hub.

Inspiring others

Most people think programming is harder than it is. The young people I worked with at the Hub were interested in making games. I used their interest to teach them the basics of html and JavaScript, to a point where 10 and 11 year olds could generate code for simple 2D games. It sparked their interest!

I would get older kids interested by just opening up a broken computer…they get curious and come over wanting to find out more. With the broken computer and a few extra parts, me and the young people at the Hub started building a gaming PC!

Through the network of Microsoft staff mentors involved with the Youth Hubs I found out about Microsoft’s Get On programme, which offers apprenticeships with the company. When I saw the information, there was just one day left to apply…..I thought, ‘I might as well give it a try, it probably won’t happen’, so it was a real shock when I heard back from them!

On the job

After a video interview, a real interview, and assessments over the course of a few weeks I found out that I Microsoft was taking me on!

After 18 months I’ll end up with an apprentice certificate equivalent to 2 or 3 good A-levels, and maybe a job! It’s a way of breaking that vicious cycle, where you can’t get a job because you don’t have experience, and can’t get experience because you don’t have a job. I’m in the same position as someone leaving 6th form or college…..but I’ve got the work experience with it!

If you want to learn more about Microsoft Hubs and the UK Youth partnership get in touch at or tweet us @MSYouthHubs.

Author: UK Youth

UK Youth is the largest national body for the youth sector, who via our member networks and partners, deliver a wide range of informal educational opportunities for young people aged 9-25 years, living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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