From Apprentice to Engineer – What Orange did right

I graduated from my Engineering School. A three year journey back and forth between school and Orange, The company where I worked as an apprentice-Engineer. This has been an amazing experience that has made me an engineer.

I think the learning path my tutors planned for me was interesting and I wish to share it with you. 

During these three years I did not only have one job, one tutor and one project. I had the opportunity to be mentored by various people, three to be exact. Each one of them with expertise in different backgrounds. I started my apprenticeship with Philippe, a former chemical engineer and an insatiable geek. We were working on ways to improve IT and ease Operations’ work.

But I thought you were a production engineer, an Ops.

Indeed, but my first job was to understand the process and eventually challenge them, I had a new insight and I realized some things didn’t make sense. I eventually presented a project about backups to a bunch of people, that were three hierarchical levels above me, my very first crash, good time.
Looking back I get this position was meant to apprehend the life cycle of projects, to understand how things work.

Later on I joined an Ops team that was handling critical financial applications. There I met Laurent, a senior production engineer who was a killer in Tech, literally. He had this just do it state of mind, together we created tools and automated tasks. He also taught me a lot about Ops work : handling the production, resolving incidents, writing postmortems …

During the first major incident I handled, he was telling me what to do on a macroscopic level. I was basically a wireless keyboard that could process the information he was dictating and translate it to Unix commands. Yet this was rewarding because I was deeply implicated in the resolution of the incident. I quickly picked up his way of resolving problems and could from then on handle the incidents myself.

After one year in Orange, I had a good overview of the environment, strong Unix knowledge and basic, yet sound, Operations skills.
Soon they gave me a small application to manage, being the beginning of my responsibilities. Because of good achievements they decided to give me several more a few months after, where some were critical.

Laurent was about to leave the team so a new engineer came in : Jean-Philippe. He had a very heterogene experience, leading teams for several years. Till the end of my apprenticeship he taught me everything I needed to know. He did not only go deeper into the overall Unix knowledge, he also trained me to manage and be part of a real business-related project. This was where I grew and took a leap in the right directionI was an apprentice but he made me an engineer. 

During the last six months, Jean-Philippe left, only two engineers were remaining in our team, myself included. Even though Jean-Philippe purposely let me organize my work and lead the projects I was a part of. This was particularly interesting as I wasn’t seen as an intern but really an employee, I felt 100% trusted for my expertise. But whenever there were improvements to be made, Jean-Philippe took the time to discuss it with me.

The last month was really thrilling as well. A new engineer came in, Romain. I instantly clicked with him, a thirty-something passionate guy about everything. With another colleague we did Romain’s onboarding. What are the tools, the process, etc. Eventually I supported him for his first tickets, more or less like Laurent did with me. Sharing my knowledge and my experience was really rewarding. I felt useful teaching someone important things and eventually challenge them with him.

This is more a story than a proper article but to sum up what was pertinent in my apprenticeship, I would say :

  • Three distinct mentors to learn from. They have heterogene backgrounds and are technical killers
  • Two jobs, first on the overall quality of IT and then as a proper Production Engineer
  • Real responsibilities (managing critical applications, handling the onboarding of a new engineer)
  • Letting me do mistakes and then take the time to discuss it and help me grow out of it

This way I learned a lot, was trusted and was recognized for my skills. An apprentice, an intern, are here to learn before being really useful. I had the chance to be mentored by people who understood that, they progressively made me an engineer.

Graduation Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash
Jump Photo by Arnold Exconde on Unsplash
Icon made by Freepik from