Hi there! I’m Sam – I’m a regular 21 year old from the South of England. If I’m honest, before I started at IBM I knew very little about it; other than the fact that they dealt with computers, it was an international corporation and I have at least one family member who has worked at their UK HQ in North Harbour.
Throughout school I always struggled with what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never really hated any subject, but in the same vein nothing really stood out for me. I was encouraged to go down a few different niche educational routes by teachers, parents, family friends – the lot. I eventually came to the conclusion that maybe formal education isn’t the only option, and although I did have a job at the time, it was most certainly not as fulfilling as I would have liked. So I did some research; went to independent careers fairs and looked online …
Finally, I was able to short list a number of potential jobs that I was qualified for and looked like something I would stick at. After reading up more about each one it was pretty clear that an IBM apprenticeship was the best choice – not only does it offer ongoing learning (which you can tailor to your aspirations), a competitive starting salary and opportunities for progression but also (something that particularly appealed to me) the chance to relocate, so you can experience different cities, whilst working.
The only thing that I considered something that would put me off applying is that I didn’t have any kind of technical background and the Apprenticeship was for a ‘Technical Solutions Specialist’. However, I applied nonetheless and then all there was to do was wait. A few weeks after putting forward my application I was invited to attend an assessment centre at IBM’s Hursley location, in Winchester. So for the first time since my GCSE leavers prom – I put on a suit, complete with smart trousers, shiny shoes and a flashy tie. I woke up at 6am in order to get a train to Winchester at 6:45. On the way up there, I sat on the train going over all the notes I’d made in the previous weeks; worrying about what the assessors were going to ask me, how I would compare to the other candidates, thinking in my head over and over that I was going to make a huge fool of myself and have to slink off with my tail between my legs within the first hour.
However, after getting over the initial cold feet that I had – I got the chance to talk to some of the other prospective apprentices. This was possibly one of the most reassuring experiences I could have hoped for. I don’t know what I was expecting, but seeing that everyone in that room was clearly in a similar boat to me gave me the chance to fully compose myself and be prepared for what I needed to do to prove myself enough to become an IBMer.
What I’m trying to convey here is that as long as you’ve met the requirements and are keen to be a part of the company, it doesn’t matter if you’re hugely technical or not – You have the opportunity to migrate from role to role, broadening your skill set and making ties with your colleagues. This apprenticeship gives you a chance to work with highly skilled and extremely knowledgeable people – and just being in that kind of environment enhances your receptiveness, aids your development and moulds your character.
I’ve personally felt that from the age of about 15 years old my school, my family and a lot of my friends have decided that the only route to follow after GCSE’s is to head towards University, even if you’re not fully sure what you want to do. When I mentioned to a few of my friends that I was going to embark on an apprenticeship course I received a lot of funny looks and sarcastic comments – ONE OF WHICH BEING: ‘You’re going to become a carpenter, like Jesus or something?’, which just said it all for me: they didn’t have faith in my decision and weren’t hugely supportive.
Something I learnt within the first week of induction at IBM is that there is always opposition to change. People want to follow the ‘known route’, the path of least resistance – the question is, are you willing to be a wild duck (one of IBM’s stated practices is to ‘treasue wild ducks’!), to be innovative and open to new ideas in order to change yourself and others for the better?