IFS Apprenticeship
IFS Apprenticeship

We caught up with IFS Apprentice Ahmed Mahmood to share his experience as an IFS Associate Apprentice.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a first-generation Irish-Pakistani, born and raised in Dublin. I love Fashion, Art & Music but I choose finance as a career. I was previously studying Accounting and Finance but dropped out and started a full-time career in Zara. In 2018 I applied for the IFS Apprenticeship Programme and I can happily confirm that I have passed my exams and feel really positive now about my future options.

Where are you doing the apprenticeship programme?
I’m currently on the IFS Apprentice programme in the National College of Ireland and working in Fidelity International.

Were you always interested in getting into this line of work?
Before joining the apprentice programme, I was finding it hard to choose the direction I wanted my career to go in. I didn’t enjoy studying accounting and finance, so I switched to a career in Zara. But although I was going up the ladder there - I realised that I missed numbers and the stability that further education could give me. I was working long hours - not knowing if I have the weekend off and often worked until 9 pm or 10 pm.

How did you come across the IFS Apprenticeship programme?
A family relation alerted me to the IFS Apprentice programme. I started trying to find information about it and soon realised it was my time to move from retail and get back to education – which I was eager to do.

How’s the IFS Apprenticeship going so far? What skills are you learning?
The IFS Apprenticeship has been an amazing experience for the past two years. What I love about the programme is that you can study as well as work and earn a living. You are given a whole day each week to focus on the qualification you receive. I can’t complain! In terms of skills - you get an insight into a whole different world. Time management, teamwork, communication and IT are the wide range of skills that I have obtained over the past two years. While working on certain projects you can become frustrated as progress seems slow, but you learn that patience is key and not everything goes to plan. If you stay focused, you will succeed.

How has the programme benefitted you?
I really have the best of both worlds. On one side I got an education which was fully funded and on the other side, I got a job which gave me a huge insight into the financial sector (it's not all numbers, tech plays a huge part too). Personally, it brought balance and structure.

Plans for the future?
I really want to secure a job and I’m hoping to pursue another degree in NCI. I'd love to achieve a master's degree or a PHD in the future. Now that would be a dream come true…

What would you say to someone interested in doing the programme?
When I joined, I was so nervous because I had no clue about the financial sector. One piece of advice from me would be to go for it and don’t be nervous. If you think that you don’t know anything, don’t worry, the College will teach you and you then put your knowledge to work in your role with your employer. Finally, if you are seeking a role in the Financial Services Sector, this programme offers a journey of a lifetime.

How do you feel you were supported in your role both on and off the job?
When I arrived at Fidelity, I noticed my colleagues were quite busy with the BAU tasks. I was trained on some processes and given the responsibility to cover these tasks while my colleagues could focus on projects. Not long after, I was also given some projects to analyse and test, and I can confirm that we successfully launched the application in November 2019. I feel I was a great support to the team during the Covid-19 pandemic. I was stuck in Pakistan as the airports had closed. My holidays were coming to an end and I was unable to come back so I decided that I’d work from Pakistan, "WFP" as I like to call it. It was definitely a unique experience - you’d be surprised how great the internet is here in Ireland and the time difference was something I had to get used to.
What I loved the most was how understanding my manager and NCI had been throughout this process. They completely understood the situation and were a great help and support. NCI allowed me to extend my assignment submission dates and Fidelity allowed me to work hours that suited me best. My main goal was to support my team as I knew that Covid-19 had shaken the world markets and the workload would have increased. Thankfully after two months, I was able to return to Ireland.