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As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world today (March 8), we are championing two of our recent graduates, Mhairi Fraser (21) and Marla Chalmers (20) while highlighting “Women in Tech”.


Both have just completed an 18-month apprenticeship with the School of Automation (SOA) and are poised for a career in RPA, now working on live projects for clients.


We sat down to talk to them about their journey and just what it’s like to complete the course…


Mhairi’s Story


Mhairi from Glasgow, came across the course in 2020 after initially taking the university path in education. She explained: “I had done a year of university and I failed my second semester exams, and I then really thought about what I wanted to do. I was applying for jobs, and then covid hit. My mum saw something on social media about SOA, and I thought I might give it a try.


“I did have to do some initial googling to find out what RPA was - but I think everybody comes into it not knowing exactly what it is. But once you read up about it, and you start putting it into practice, it really helps you to understand.”


The course began remotely during covid, but Mhairi said she found it quite seamless.


“Everything is on Teams – If I was struggling with an assignment and thought it was just me, I could ask a question on our group chat and someone else would be having the same issue - and it was a relief. I say it’s like “High School Musical” –We are all in this together!”


Mhairi has struck up a great friendship with Marla, and they have found out they share the same birthday – albeit a year apart.


“At start of the training project we were both so awkward and now we are really good friends. When it comes to the apprenticeship and skills, I have gained so much confidence with the support that has been offered from my peers and the team at SOA.”


Mhairi has been working on one main project since July 2021, and is currently the longest serving team member on it, so a lot of continuity tasks fall to her.


She said: “Each project is a bit different but you recognise your role in it and the different challenges that come with them. It really is interesting.”


And looking to the future? She plans to continue growing her skills in the RPA field.

“There’s just something really fun about it – like solving a puzzle almost! I can certainly see more females in tech too – for example on some of our projects it has been a 50/50 ratio – and on the client side too, which really is reassuring.”


Marla’s Story


Marla, from Glasgow was on a business administration course before embarking on the apprenticeship.


She explained: “I remember going in with no big expectations when I started, and like Mhairi I didn’t really know what RPA was, but it’s been great to learn so much over the course of the apprenticeship.”


Along with Mhairi and the rest of the team she started working remotely during covid, and found that as they were all in the same boat, it gave them all reassurance together.


“We didn’t have too much to compare it to as it was how we started, and as everything was online, it was fine working remotely. In fact, when we first when back into the office I wasn’t sure I’d like it – but actually it was really helpful to all be together and to talk to one and another instantly if we needed anything.”


And as for the apprenticeship and course itself?


“It really has been crucial in building my confidence – for me, the technical side tends to come naturally, but communication doesn’t, so it has really helped me develop that. I am working on my fourth project now and it has been so good to learn what I am doing to help the wider team.”


“Women in tech is growing – I was in a mixed school and was always one of two girls in computer classes, but I wasn’t too worried by that. It’s great to see more females coming into this field.”


Does the thought of a career in RPA interest you? Get in touch with our team today!



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How many of us knew exactly what we wanted to do when we left school? And did we really know the exact path to get there?

There are so many options when it comes to further education ; college, universities, internships and of course, apprenticeships and traineeships. Here at the School of Automation (SOA) it’s our mission to help anyone build a career in Robotic Process Automation. We know that we work in a fast-growing industry and want to give anyone – no matter what their background – the chance to thrive in this field and have a successful future.


George and Liam are two of our current recruits from our 12-week foundation programme in Ireland which is followed with a one-year Software Process Automation Developer Traineeship.


Liam’s story

Liam, 27yrs old from Co. Clare first saw the SOA traineeship on a jobseeker’s website and it struck him due to the fact he would be able to work and learn whilst taking part in the course. Prior to the pandemic, Liam spent three years at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) studying internet systems development. He had been looking for something remote, so again SOA’s traineeship ticked all of the boxes.


Liam said: “When it comes to remote learning, as long as I had direction on what I was doing and how to learn, I am fine. We really are supported all of the time and whenever you ask for help you get it. After the initial interview, the team spent about a week getting to know you and see your creativity – it was great that it wasn’t completely just classroom-based, but very interactive.”


Liam added that the traineeship journey so far has been great; trainees go at their own pace and are not rushed to do projects. With the training projects, they are largely done with others so people can work together to generate ideas for projects.


Within the first 12 weeks, the trainees work on test projects to mimic real life scenarios such as gathering data from websites which bots will then put into an excel spreadsheet.


Liam concluded: “I would recommend the traineeship to anybody who isn’t interested in the typical academic experience. It’s quite nice doing things for an actual purpose.”


George's Story


Much like Liam, George, 24yrs old from Co. Clare came across the initial information on SOA during covid. George had ideas of going to college, but it would have involved a great deal of upheaval with finding accommodation, buying a car and moving.


In fact, he had been working in the same local pub for years, just two minutes from his home and realised he wanted to do something different, thanks to his uncle.


George explained: “My uncle actually came to me one day as he found information on the course and asked if I would be interested in attending an open day. I went along and heard Marc (SOA’s CEO) and one of the developers talk and they spoke about working from home and that you didn’t have to be tech savvy. I honestly really went along to the open day to please my uncle - but after 15 minutes of hearing them talk – I thought, ’Why should I be working in a pub for the next five years when I could be doing this?’ I am so happy I went along.”


While he had done an IT course previously, George knew nothing about RPA coming into it and he admits it first looked like rocket science and he was intimidated by the software.


He added: “Our trainer Sophie broke it down into smaller processes and I really enjoy it now. I can see how useful RPA is for businesses for menial tasks instead of humans and spreadsheets, you could have a robot doing it for you, and more accurately.”


Both George and Liam agree that SOA has given them the stepping stone not only in a career in RPA, but also in terms of office experience,email etiquette and professional skills before getting into a real working environment.


George concluded: “The more I hear about RPA, the more it sounds like a growing career and industry, especially here in Ireland where there aren’t many people doing it. I really enjoy the development side and can see myself doing it for a long time.”


Are you interested in finding out more about SOA’s apprenticeships and traineeships to see if it could be the right move for you? Get in touch today.

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SOA is pleased to announce that it has become an accredited centre to deliver SQA qualifications as part of its apprenticeship model in Scotland. SOA’s Robotic Process Automation apprentices are supported by an SQA qualification while on their journey to becoming experienced developers. We are delighted to have been granted accreditation by SQA and look forward to working closely with the awarding body.


What is SQA accreditation?


The Scottish Qualifications Authority provides a wide range of high-quality, internationally-recognised qualifications and associated services. Based in Scotland, but working across the UK and internationally, the SQA works with training organisations like SOA, as well as schools, colleges and universities to develop and deliver qualifications and assessments which accurately reflect learners’ knowledge and skills and provide routes to jobs or further study.


SQA Accreditation quality assures the qualifications offered in Scotland and recognised internationally by approving and regulating awarding bodies and accrediting their qualifications against published regulatory requirements. Once as awarding body has received accreditation, the SQA works closely with training providers and offers support, advice and guidance to enable awarding bodies to comply with its regulatory requirements and promote effective regulation and continuous improvement.


Speaking about the accreditation Marc Cooper, CEO of SoA said:



“Our ability to deliver the SQA qualifications and industry certification gives our learners further confidence that their training will be recognised globally and will open the doors to exciting opportunities in the world of process automation. We are proud to be able to add this to our portfolio and it is a testament to the quality and standard of learning that we provide.”

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