Monthly Archives: March 2014

Christopher Hey – Application Management Services – IBM Apprenticeship – August 2011 – present

I joined the IBM Apprentice Scheme in August 2011, after successfully getting through the application process and finally an IBM Assessment day. I was excited to join so jumped at the opportunity to start in IBM Farnborough.

IBM has multiple business lines and I joined as a member of Global Business Services and more specifically in Application Management Services. I work for a large Public Sector client where I provide support and solutions, as well develop applications to improve them day by day.

I’m somewhat limited on what projects within the account I can talk about due to confidentiality but I can say that I have worked with a great deal of programs and applications. I have become knowledgeable in SQL, Datawarehouses, CloudComputing, Records management, Microsoft Access and Excel and much more!

As an apprentice we not only gain a qualification alongside our project but we also get to go on several client interaction courses as part of the scheme. These courses teach us the skills in an artificial environment but are directly relatable to my day-to-day job. I speak with the client daily and the courses the IBM Apprenticeship scheme provide allow me to meet and interact with many apprentices and graduates which helps me expand my network and meet more people in my situation.

Since joining, I have been given the opportunity to join multiple projects and IBM is very supportive of you taking the time to look for your own. After two successful interviews for other roles, I went full circle and the person who did my interview was determined to snatch me up again and offered me a great role working and developing new skills for another project for our client. This year I’m looking forward to developing my skills in .net and multiple record management and build development systems.

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Aaron Kinchen, IT Specialist, IBM Apprentice, February 2014 – Present

I have just completed my first month as an IBM Apprentice. It started with a two week induction into IBM and I’m now fully under way in my role it has to be said that it has been one of the best and most exciting months of my life.

I first became aware of the IBM Apprenticeship scheme in my final months at Havant College, where I was studying A-Levels in PE, ICT and Travel and Tourism. I already had conditional offers from a number of universities having submitted my UCAS application like the majority of students that attended the college, but was this what I really wanted to do? Being bombarded with tight deadlines and long lectures?

From here, I decided to investigate with the very reputable careers service the college had, I sat down with them and discussed what other options I could explore … with the first one being the apprenticeship route. They showed me a number of different apprenticeships with many different companies but the one that stood out for me the most was IBM. The scheme has won awards as the best apprenticeship in 2013 and also many IBM apprentices have won awards as the best apprentices in not only their region but nationally too. So with all these fantastic facts and statistics, the choice was made and I began the application process.

I started with a two week induction at Warbrook House Hotel; this was a very enjoyable couple of weeks in which I met some fantastic people and built some really good friendships. It was very interactive throughout with the chance to present your work and do plenty of group exercises which were all generalised towards helping you succeed at IBM. It was not all work though, in the evenings we had the chance to meet experienced apprentices that gave us advice on what to expect on a day to day basis, as well as give us a chance to make new friends who can offer us help whenever we are stuck.

Having finished the induction I started my role as an IT Specialist at the Technical Exploration Centre (TEC) within the Client Centre at IBM Hursley. The TEC effectively organises events which are hosted by IBMers, who often require Laptops or PC’s. It is my job to set them up with the required setup ‘image’, operating system and any other requirements. I also then have to be on hand to fix any problems or issues that come up.

I have only been in the job a couple of weeks now but I’m starting to understand all the concepts involved. Before I started I was worried that I would be ‘thrown into the deep end’ as such, where I would have no clue what to do and make a fool of myself, but I couldn’t be more wrong – the team I’m with have eased me in slowly, going through all the processes with me step by step. Of course I don’t know how to the job completely yet, but I know that I have the support around me to help with that and it is something that IBM and in particular ‘Foundation’ (umbrella scheme for Apprentices, Graduates and Interns) are very good at.

IBM is one of the biggest IT companies in the world, and now that I am an IBMer it is something that I am very proud to say. In my opinion an apprenticeship is an opportunity to learn and work at the same time while also having the chance get established in a business. It is a fantastic idea and I believe that it gives you a much better learning opportunity than going to University, as you really are putting your learning into practice.

If I had any advice for future candidates looking to join IBM it would be that you don’t have to be remotely technical to work here, the idea of an apprenticeship is for the business to train you. There are hundreds of different roles within IBM so finding the right the one for you will never be a problem.

Lawrence Abde Amin, Systems Integration Specialist, IBM Apprentice, September 2012 – present

Growing up, in school and throughout my time at college, I was always under the impression that there was only one way to land yourself a successful career with a good income, job security and opportunities to learn and thrive. This being the traditional route of attending university and gaining a good degree.

For me, an apprenticeship was something that I’d not even contemplated. Rightly or wrongly, I held an image in my head of slightly more ‘hands on’ work – carpentry and the suchlike. It therefore seemed unnatural to me to stray from the path of academic education, to specialize in a niche line of work whereby I could be expected to spend the majority of my working life. However, university didn’t seem like the kind of environment where I’d really be motivated, so I looked for alternatives and a friend recommended the IBM scheme. After doing some research, I was impressed with the offerings, I applied and was thankfully granted a place.

I won’t say that preconception was shattered from the second I stepped foot in the office, because that wouldn’t be true. More accurately, my first few days and weeks were a blur of technical jargon, security pass applications and attempting in vain to remember what felt like hundreds of my new colleague’s names. It could have easily become overwhelming, were it not for the warm welcome and level of patience I received from my team.

Within the opening weeks of my time in IBM, I was exposed to the inner workings of my account and the complexity of it all was somewhat astounding. The knowledge of those working around me, some of whom had been experts in their field for decades, was certainly impressive and made a lasting impact.

My role involves supporting the various applications and software used within my account. More specifically, I help maintain code and write scripts that do all manner of tasks from housekeeping databases to installing configurations. Recently, I’ve been looking into a product called Websphere MQ which is used to transport data as messages, the underlying technology which enables businesses to build architectures which are flexible and reusable. Nearly all of this work is done on the Unix operating system which is used universally for programming, making these skills highly transferable.

In the 18 months that I’ve been here, I’ve learned a great deal and have the fantastic group of colleagues, who tirelessly go out of their way to help me truly understand the work we do, to thank for it. Applied knowledge really does trump learned knowledge and as my role in the account grows and my responsibilities increase, I look forward to looking back at my career and saying with pride that ‘I didn’t actually go to university’.

James Dennet, Information Security Advisor, IBM Apprentice, September 2012 – present

I joined the IBM Apprenticeship scheme a year after I had left college. I knew I didn’t want to go to uni, but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. Fortunately, my tutor at college told me there was going to be a talk from IBM about their apprenticeship scheme and I should go along. Well, needless to say I did and the rest, as they say, is history. Here we are 17 months into the scheme and I’ve loved every minute. My time consists of a small portion of application development – working with a colleague on collaborative applications to aid with automation in the business. The rest of my time is spent as an Information Security Advisor (ISA) for three different strategic outsourcing accounts, I am part of a security team on one large account, and am the lead ISA on the two remaining, smaller, accounts. There is a great deal of responsibility with the role, which has led to me developing the ability to work well under pressure.

0800 – Arrived at the office. Farnborough today. I haven’t been here in months now, as I don’t have a requirement to be at this location usually but today was different, as I will explain later.

0815 – Began morning tasks, checking through the compliance reporting tools to see what changes have taken place overnight. This allows me to identify tasks to take on during the day if any of the metrics have slipped. Compliance is key in security and I hate to see anything other than 100%.

0845 – By now I’ve recorded the statistics for the day and discovered there are some new applications showing for one of the accounts. Some applications need to be scanned, whereas some do not. I checked through the requirements, discovering that these new applications did not need to be.

0900 – Next step is to check through my email – luckily, I didn’t have too many to review today so this didn’t take too long. Sometimes an email can arrive that results in the day being spent on that particular issue so I’m glad that wasn’t the case today.

0945 – Having reviewed everything, my to do list was ready for the day. 1000 was the big event of the day, so I went to meet up with Jim and Johnnie beforehand.

1000 – GTS Executive Round Table with the Vice President of Business Development and Sales for Strategic Outsourcing. Well, this was a fantastic opportunity to listen to the stories and advice from Albert Joseph. Albert talked through the many different roles he has had in his 30 year career with IBM and explained his way of thinking, detailing some of the risks and decisions he has taken to get him where he is today.

1145 – After the round table it was back to work. There were calls to be made, emails to be sent and risks to be raised! Before any of that could happen, one of the service managers called me to discuss some new Key Performance Indicators that have been introduced. We discussed what they meant to the account and how we would deal with them going forward to ensure that not only were they completed correctly, but that we were completely compliant and in the green! You can never have enough green!

1200 – Next, I had to speak to the health checking team to arrange for some manual health checks to take place instead of the automated ones that we attempted to run earlier in the day. The automated tools were unable to connect to the servers for some reason, but this is not enough to prevent a health check from being completed. They just have to be performed manually instead. Fortunately, there were just two required so the team were able to get them back to me within the hour.

1215 – Lunch time! Cleverly, I left my food at home today and as I live about an hour away from the office, it was a quick trip to the shops for me instead!

1245 – Back in the office and before I even started on lunch, there were at least three messages needing my attention. One of the account Delivery Project Executives was asking for an update on a non-compliance issue that I was working on as his boss had been asking for an update. The issue was in hand so it was just a case of providing an update of the current situation – out of my hands at this point as I was waiting for a change that had been made to reflect in the metrics.

1400 – The afternoon carried on with the monthly review of the operational risks on the account. I joined a conference call with the security manages and management team. The team discussed the risks and assigned necessary actions to take away from the meeting. Following the review, we discussed the plans for migrating all the risk data into a new tool as the current one is being closed down shortly.

1500 – Stopped for a brief catch up with some of the other apprentices; Jim who was in the roundtable earlier and Yaz, based in Farnborough whom I haven’t seen in ages!

1530 – Spent the next half an hour tracking down some risk documents that had been stored away. I’d never used that method of backups before so that took some time to understand!

1600 – The next hour saw me working through a few items on the to do list. A project that has been running in the background to add storage devices into the health checking database is starting to come to a close as all the parts are falling into place. There is only one device in scope for that account so it is a good way to learn the process without being swamped. To get the device loaded correctly, I have to produce a service request that needs a copy of a clean health check and some metadata about the device – well, this wasn’t ready to hand… After some digging around, a call with service management and a chat with the database lead, turns out we do not actually need the missing data! This meant I could get the service request completed and submitted.

1700 – My final hour was spent planning some events that were going to happen for the rest of the week, writing this very blog post and making a Vine for National Apprentice Week with Jim!

Every day is completely different for me. Which I love. I’m never bored and there are always new challenges right around the corner. I will be moving to a new account in a few months time so whole new experiences are approaching rapidly. Originally I didn’t know what I wanted to do… Now I don’t look back.

Hayley James, Test Manager, IBM Apprentice, November 2010 – present

I joined IBM as one of the first Apprentices in November 2010. I found the IBM Apprenticeship scheme online through the brilliant IBM recruitment website. The reason that I applied for the Apprenticeship scheme is that although I really enjoyed college I knew that spending the next 3 or 4 years in a classroom based environment was not the best career path for me.

Doing an Apprenticeship gave me so many immediate benefits; learning whilst I earn, no debt, fast route into my chosen career path and mentorship.

I was the only one of my friends to go into an Apprenticeship scheme rather than University. One of the things I was most worried about was the fact that I may miss out on the independent lifestyle that you gain by going to University. I soon realised that this in fact was not true. I was soon able to afford to move out into my own flat and if I really wanted I could easily afford to visit my friends at their various Universities. I am also currently living away from home Monday to Friday and home at weekends.

When joining IBM I was assigned to a test analyst role. It was an area of the business I quickly enjoyed. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this role was being able to work with the client and understand what they wanted from the product IBM were creating for them. From this, I decided I would like to explore a more technical role and I moved into a developer role. In this role, I learnt many different technical languages over a 6 month period, however it was not a role that suited me (when considering my future career) so I moved back into the testing sector as soon as I could. Working in this role gave me amazing skills to become a better people manager as I was able to understand what different members of the team were doing and what work that they need to do.

I have built up my career path within the testing sector. I have worked on a variety of accounts, travelling all around the UK. It has meant living out of hotels and exploring new areas – however I have loved every moment of it. I have had incredible opportunities – from going to India for a month to speaking about Apprenticeships, and the IBM Apprenticeship specifically, at a Westminster employment forum.

I am currently a test manager for a Customer Development Centre. I manage an offshore team of 15 people, and a further 3 people in the UK. My role includes defining the scope of testing (i.e what it is that we are actually testing, what areas of code or functionality etc), working with the client to maintain a good relationship, ensuring communications remains smooth across a global delivery and maintaining a high level of skilled personal in my team.
I do believe that Apprenticeships will be more important in the future, and I am proud that I am an IBM Apprentice.

Simeon Sit, GBS Consultant, Ferbruary 2013 – present

I discovered the IBM Apprenticeship scheme through a friend of mine who actually went to the same college as me and was in the same class. Whilst he had already joined the scheme on the intake before me, I had decided to do another year at college to boost my grades and apply for a top university. It was during this time that my friend and another colleague who was also an apprentice arrived at college to discuss the career opportunities available at IBM compared to university.

I saw how much he had learned in such a short space of time and as were both in the same IT class, we had similar interests. I wanted to learn and I wanted to learn from the best which is why I applied to join the February 2013 intake.

Furthermore, talking to IT teachers in college who had worked for IBM previously and learning about the good, solid grounding they received in the industry was another massive factor in my application.

After taking part in the assessment centre at IBM Hursley, I was accepted into the apprenticeship scheme and began my role as a tester on one of the major growth areas of IBM – Smarter Commerce.

Coming to the role with no knowledge of the testing methodologies apart from what I had learnt about IT in college, I began to comprehend and use the methodologies, tools and techniques required to perform the test role which at the time was with a major retailer.

From the role, I picked up skills in areas including AIX, DB2, SQL, HTML, CSS, XML, SEO and many more. I can wholeheartedly say that I would not even know what some of those acronyms stand for if I had not joined IBM.

After a period of time, I moved onto another PMO role on a different project. In February of this year, I began to work with the Commercial team with a large bank. Undertaking the PMO role prior to joining the Commercial team was really helpful in understanding what was expected of me and how to go about the role. Both these roles have been a real eye opener for me and gave me a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes to make a project a success.

To date, the proudest moment in IBM is probably during one week last year whilst on Smarter Commerce whereby we successfully tested three releases in quick succession and subsequently received a lot of positive feedback directly from the client, associate partners and senior managers.

Apparently, we only use 10% of everything that we learn in school and college. After all, Pythagoras, William Shakespeare and Mandarin are fairly obsolete if you are stacking shelves. Although I do not use many of the things I learnt at school and college, I don’t have to because IBM has taught me everything I have needed to know. I can confidently say that without the apprenticeship, I would never have learned or had exposure to the people, experiences and skills that I have met, been part of and developed since I joined.

For any people sitting on the fence and considering applying for the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, I can only say that I thoroughly recommend it as the best the country, perhaps the world has to offer. Three years of apprenticeship compared to three years of university is a major advantage, and the on the job learning that takes place is immense. Working for the largest IT company in the world opens up so many doors of opportunity and discovery which I hope to move into in the future.

The question for someone thinking about applying isn’t ‘why?’, it’s ‘why not?’.

Dmytro Oliinyk, Power Systems Support Specialist, February 2014 – present

I became aware of the IBM Apprenticeship during my last year of college. I was studying BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in IT and during my last year of studies, I heard about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme as it was talked about a lot by our lecturers. I have always been interested in IT so I decided to investigate the scheme further, and once I found out what the IBM Apprenticeship scheme involved and what opportunities I would have, I decided that it was definitely something I would like to do. I wasn’t interested in going into University I have always believed that the apprenticeship is a better way of getting qualifications and also doing on the job training which gives you an opportunity to gain some valuable experience in the working world.

I started the IBM Apprenticeship scheme on the 10th February with two weeks of introduction education which showed the history of IBM, and how the business looks like and operates today. During these two weeks we have also had some technical training which I enjoyed the most as I consider myself to be a very technical minded person. I have now started in my new role in Power Systems support. I am currently in the process of learning about the system, what techniques I will be using to help support the systems and the clients using them, and how the whole process of troubleshooting problems works.

My most exciting achievement so far is joining IBM. I have put a lot of hard work to get here and I am proud to say that I am an IBM Apprentice. This apprenticeship means that I can gain a wealth of experience in different sections of the IT industry while achieving my qualifications at the same time. I am excited by the opportunity to work with like-minded people and learn from their experience, which I appreciate the most.

In terms of advice to all future apprentices – be honest and be yourself! IBM (and all companies) value that factor.