Monthly Archives: August 2014

Opportunities: role rotation and education – Hollie Sauvage

Hello everyone! Last time I blogged, I mostly talked about what it was like getting into IBM, now I’ll talk about what it is like once you are actually here. I’ve been an IBMer now for only 4 months, but it has been a busy 4 months. After my move from home to Preston, which was initially very daunting, I have settled in to my role, taken part in an external course, and started to look at moving onto a different role already.

Over the past few months in our team, the role has been tough, and there has been lots of work involved, but it has been a great 4 months. Initially settling into the role was quite challenging as not only was I getting used to being an apprentice and working for IBM, I also had to learn about the role itself. In a short space of time I became a more experienced member of the team, and I am now entrusted with being on call. It is my turn this week!

Since my last blog post, I have also been on a 3 day course, ITIL V3 Foundation. It has been an excellent course, and although quite a challenge, it has given me a fantastic understanding of the basic way in which a project is run when providing IT services. Project Management has always been something that has interested me as I am definitely not a ‘techie’, and definitely a career progression route I am going to look into at IBM, so this course was fantastic for a basic understanding in this sense – one I would definitely recommend, despite the exam at the end!

Within the apprenticeship, it is also recommended that you try to rotate around to a different role every 6 months or so, and this is something that I am looking into next. My next project will be in Farnborough, and I will be working on the Change team, so managing hardware and software changes for a specific client that IBM works for. I am very excited to work in this role, and looking forward to the big move in October.

As well as this big change, coming up for me I have a few other courses to attend in the coming months. There are some mandatory courses that all Apprentices have to attend to be able to complete the apprenticeship, so I have to complete these in the coming months.

There are definitely lots of fantastic opportunities available in IBM, not only in projects and roles to work in, but also in the number of courses and different types of education that you can attend. I am looking forward to be able to take on a number of these opportunities in the coming months and all throughout my apprenticeship and time at IBM.


Educated and Graduated – an Apprentices view by Joe Hayes

My IBM Journey so far…

I have now achieved my first (and hopefully not last!) major milestone in my career within IBM – graduating the IBM UK Apprenticeship Program!!

It started in September 2012 when I was recruited as an Integrated Supply Chain Apprentice for System X in Greenock. We received a 2 week induction at New Place in Southampton, providing us with various group activities and challenges in order to give us an overview of what we could expect over the next couple of years. We also attended education on IBM, the tools and technology in general. This gave us a fantastic base to get straight into our roles and was concluded with presentations from each group in our intake of 44 on what we had learnt during the 2 weeks. This was just a taste of the many presentations to come…

Following our induction, I got started within ISC where I would complete rotations around the main pillars in order to gain an end-to-end view of the supply chain process. This would allow me to develop an appreciation for the different pressures and perspectives of the individual teams and also how they interlocked and fitted in as keys parts of the process.

The key areas of the business I spent time in were:

  • Customer Scheduling alongside Customer Fulfilment
  • Procurement Warranty
  • Supply Demand Planning
  • Finance
  • Supply Operations
  • Engineering
  • Brand Operations Team

Within each area I had daily job roles and also time spent shadowing in order to really try and gain an understanding of the end to end process and how each piece fitted in to the entire puzzle, not to get too focused on the intricate details of single job roles. Overall within each area we developed skills in:

  • Core Skills
    • Communication
    • ICT and Technology
    • Teamwork
    • Problem Solving
  • Microsoft Office Skills – mainly excel
  • Presentation skills
  • Report Management
  • Hosting Effective Meetings
  • Time Management/ Prioritisation
  • Flexibility
  • Managing small projects

Throughout my time working in the ISC I also had my responsibilities to Foundation and working through the planned education and ultimately gaining my qualification from OCR. One of the many bonuses to being part of Foundation is the Giveback opportunities. I was lucky enough to participate in interview workshops with young people in local schools, giving them the chance to practice their interview skills as IBM would provide them with materials on mock job advertisements to apply for with us playing the part of an interviewer from the business. These were very successful and we received some great feedback from the pupils and the schools alike. I also attended courses with the other apprentices and graduates to further develop our skills. It gave us the perfect opportunity to catch up with those we started with and also meet some of the other people in the Foundation community. The skills we have learned on these courses have proved to be extremely useful in our careers so far and will continue to assist us in the future.

They have mainly been focused around ‘The call model’ which ultimately is developing skills in the best practice of engaging with clients. This initially sounded like it was sales focused but proved to be applicable in all areas of the job as I learned that the client can be both internal and external. The final course was PSC and this gave us the challenge of using our skills previously developed for managing successful client meetings in order to understand their goals and combining them with planning and submitting a proposal of what IBM can provide to alleviate the issues understood from our meetings. This was a week long course and we were graded throughout the week resulting in a pass or fail at the end, thankfully everyone passed due to hard work and some late nights!

After completing all my planned courses it was just a matter of simply writing it all up for the assessment to gain my formal qualification. I was required to align all our collated evidence over our time in IBM and the relevant courses I attended towards the framework provided by OCR for assessment.

Most recently I have been working within the STS PCoC Content Management competency starting to understand the O2O bid process and the role the ICAP Specialists play, supporting bid teams and sellers. I have been working primarily with the UKI team supporting live deals and also supporting projects to assist in our transformation to a globally integrated enterprise. I have already picked up a vast amount of knowledge in our short period within the team and can see there is still plenty more to learn.

Last week was our graduation ceremony in IBM Southbank, London which gave everyone a great opportunity to network and catch up with the other apprentices we had not seen in over 6 months. Most of us were joined by family and partners to share the day with. After being seated we were given an inspirational presentation by David Stokes, our UKI General Manager, on the technology industry today and his perspective on how the apprentice role fitted in to this. David presented us all individually with our certificates and we had a quick chat on our current roles followed by some photos. After the presentations were over we had our buffet lunch!

It is now time to continue within PCoC as I transition away from Foundation. It has been an interesting time and a great experience on my journey within IBM’s Foundation Scheme. I appreciate the effort from everyone within Foundation and ISC to develop such a great program with a special mention to Lynn Ford and Ross McLean. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of it and I can say I am looking forward to rest of my career within IBM wherever that may take me!

Craig Wilkinson – An Introduction …

Hello and thank you for taking time out of your day to read my post on being an IBM Apprentice. I am Craig Wilkinson and have been an IBM Apprentice since October 2013. I am currently a Test Analyst working on the largest test account in Europe for one of Britain’s (and the world’s) biggest Building Societies – but we will get to this later.

You’re probably eager to know how I came across the IBM Apprenticeship scheme and the reason why I applied but first a bit of background is in order. From an early age I had a keen interest in technology and, especially, computers. When I was born in 1993 (2 millennia’s in technology years), the latest technology fashions were mainly Windows 3.1 and Nintendo’s NES. As I’ve grown up, so has technology, and this fascination has carried on throughout my school and college years influencing my studies. However, finishing college I wasn’t sure whether I was heading straight into work or continuing with my studies and going to university. My exact thoughts at the time were ‘I always want to be learning about the IT industry, but I also want to start earning my own way’. Then in my last two weeks at college, a presentation on the IBM Apprenticeship came along.

After attending the IBM Apprenticeship presentation, I decided it was definitely a career path which could get me a solid grounding into the industry; an Apprenticeship that would a) give me valuable training, qualifications and insight into the IT industry, b) provide a salary so I can start earning my way and c) work for one of the world’s biggest multi-national IT and Business Consultancy Services companies. My application to be an IBM Apprentice began from this point; my first step was to complete the IBM CV. Post completion of the CV, I was then invited to take the online aptitude assessment. After completing the aptitude test, my CV was then reviewed and I was subsequently invited to an assessment centre in North Harbour (Portsmouth). Although previously anxious, I found the assessment centre to be quite relaxed and enjoyable which helped me prepare to do my best in the business interview, one-on-one presentation and group exercises. Sometime after participating in the assessment centre, I was delighted to learn that I performed well and had got onto the IBM Apprenticeship and furthermore, IBM.

The start of my (and every other new starters) career as an IBM Apprentice began with a two week induction where my starter group and I had chances to learn and test skills which would be essential within IBM. These included presenting, speaking with clients, working with all different types of people, learning technical knowledge and methodologies, understanding IBMs many offerings and services and working in teams. While performing the aforementioned activities, it was the perfect opportunity to work in teams and get to know the rest of the Apprentices and start to build a support network. Induction was also a great opportunity to ask questions, make mistakes and learn from them and learn all about IBM using the expertise of the PDMs and other IBMers around.

In the last week of induction, I had learned that I had been assigned to a Test Analyst role at Britain’s biggest Building Society, which surprised me as Testing was an aspect of IT I had no experience in. When I first started the role, I was anxious with what to expect; I had just joined this big organisation and am being sent to a client site in an unknown place with unknown people to do work I had very little knowledge about. This was also my first real time away from my home, family and friends so this was a big change which, fortunately, I quickly got used to with the help of the Foundation community in Swindon.

Being a Test Analyst, my main role is to perform test execution cycles against a solution built for the Client but other responsibilities include assisting with test preparation, defect reporting and management, smoke and regression testing, knowledge documentation, test documentation and analysing systems to find problems. I also have knowledge on specialist anti-fraud systems and architecture which allows me to assist other projects and aid their test preparation and problem troubleshooting. Every day is different and there’s a lot to learn and there is a real sense of achievement when others appreciate and utilise your knowledge and expertise and, of course, when you exit the testing phase of the product lifecycle successfully!

That’s enough about me and what I do, I hope my experience of being an Apprentice at IBM has been an interesting insight for you and, hopefully, answers some questions you may have had. If you are thinking of applying, or are currently in the application process, then my two top pieces of advice are 1) make sure you double check your CV before you send it in and 2) always be yourself throughout the whole application process and your time at IBM.

Thanks again for taking time to read about my experiences, I look forward to posting again soon.

  • Craig

Oliver Pope-Mostowicz on ‘An Introduction to Education Opportunities @ IBM’

Hello again.

So far we’ve had a number of great posts from a number of the IBM Apprentice community, introducing themselves and giving you a taste as to why they decided to bold decision to commit to an apprenticeship rather than take the more traditional route of attending University (and there will be a couple more in the next few weeks, introducing you to the last members of the full time blogging team so make sure you keep an eye out for those).

I thought however that it was about time that we gave you more of an insight into the benefits that we have already gained from choosing this route in furthering our education, and in this post I will be focussing specifically on that – how I have furthered my education by joining IBM.

Now, as I am sure you are fully aware – having seen the huge variety of personalities and experiences already documented in this blog – the education path that I have taken in the nearly two years that I have been with IBM will be completely different to that of any other apprentice so bear in mind: if the below doesn’t directly appeal to you – you can do pretty much anything in the IBM Apprenticeship in terms of education (as I suspect future posts will show). But back to me …

One of the great things about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme is no assumptions are made of your previous experience or knowledge, whilst at the same time any lack of experience or direct knowledge does not mean you will be excluded from doing exciting work. I have a basic background knowledge of IT and technical fundamentals (I studied Computer Science at college and for a year at University – see for more on this), but I joined the Tivoli Storage Manager support team with precisely zero knowledge in the product or in formal problem determination techniques. In the first week, I spent a number of hours with my team leader going through the product’s fundamental concepts and how the IBM support ticket process worked. I also spent a couple of days working in a virtual lab environment on my work laptop, working on the product and getting to grips with how it worked. Within the first two weeks, I was asked to start picking up real support tickets, talk to real client and resolve real problems! Although I had the support of my team sitting next to me, the introduction to the product was delivered, the expectations of my team in terms of my client interaction were explained and I was asked to start working. It was great! This was exactly what I had wanted from education and precisely the reason I had chosen an apprenticeship over the University experience. Crucially however, my education didn’t stop there.

One of the words synonymous with IBM since it’s early days under Thomas J. Watson sr is THINK. Out of this has come the THINK40 campaign – every IBMer, no matter who they are, or what role they perform, should do 40 hours of education every year. We are a company focussed on ‘restlessly reinventing’ ourselves and the company. These fundamental beliefs has led to a company that spends a huge amount of time and money on its’ employees to develop each IBMer to be the best they can be. What these ideals mean to me is that, although the informal education from my team meant that I was perfectly capable of performing my job, IBM wanted me to learn more. In real terms, this meant 2 weeks in London, attending formal education on Tivoli Storage Manager (the product I support) that resulted in me now being certified as an IBM Tivoli Storage Manager administrator with further qualifications in advanced administration, tuning and troubleshooting. Oh, and in case you were wondering, those 2 weeks were all paid for by IBM (travel, hotel, meals etc)!

But wait … there’s more! On top of a culture that pushes you to develop your skills in areas that directly affect your day job, IBM also understands that you may not work in one role for your entire career. Foundation (the part of IBM that covers all Apprentices’, Graduates’, Interns etc) understands that this is even more pertinent for IBMers at the start of their career. You are therefore, as an Apprentice, able to attend education that has no direct relation to your current role, but will help you develop your knowledge and skillset for your career aspirations and future roles. For this reason, I will be attending a four day course on IT architecture (specifically the thinking processes/framework used in IT architecture – the design of high level solutions to business problems/requirements) – again, being covered for travel, hotels and meals by IBM. Oh, and this time it’s not in London …. I’ll be going to Vienna, Austria for this education! I’m sure I’ll be able to write a fair amount on this opportunity in a later post.

Outside of the technical education that I have detailed above (and I do appreciate that I have listed very technical courses – that’s just in line with the career I am aspiring to) there is a huge amount of formal education within the Foundation development path that focusses specifically on your ‘soft’, business skills like the understanding of a project and it’s lifecycle, how to communicate to your peers, managers and clients’ and more. We will get more in-depth posts about these courses when some of the team attend them, but having attended all of them myself, I cannot say enough about them. The courses are hugely informative, delivered in an exciting and engaging way, they teach critical (and timeless) business skills, and are all residential stays in nice hotels with the other apprentices’ in your intake – so are a great opportunity to network and start building your list of contacts.

We’ll be diving deeper into education opportunities in future posts on this blog, but hopefully the above has given you a good taste of the opportunities available to you when you become an IBM Apprentice, and really does show that an apprenticeship is a viable alternative to University. By the time you graduate from the Apprenticeship you will have a full toolkit of skills and education, plus the 2-3 years of industry training to kickstart your career. The education possibilities are pretty limitless and are tailored to developing you in the way that want in line with the career you aspire to. And with the correct education, there really is no limit to what you can achieve!

Congratulations ….

Graduation of the 37 Apprentices who joined IBM in September 2012

Graduation of the 37 Apprentices who joined IBM in September 2012

A massive congratulations to the 37 IBM Apprentices’ who graduated from the first half of their Apprenticeship and achieved their Level 3 OCR Apprenticeship award!

Nirjeet Gorvara on ‘Why to do a Technical Role’?

This is my second post for this blog and I want to keep this post around “Why is there a need for Apprentices’ to do a Technical Role?” and expand into the opportunities for learning/developing technical skills alongside the recommended courses with IBM.

Why is there a need for technical Apprentices?

In personal development books or strategies, I have rarely seen anything mentioned on how to develop and maintain strong technical skills.

I believe having solid technical skills is becoming increasingly important and I don’t see this changing any time soon. This is because computers (and indeed most other technologies) are becoming easier to use but cutting edge technology is more complicated than ever. I think it is this complexity that can intimidate people and they therefore don’t consider learning or developing their technical skills.

For Example: Why Do We See Technical Skills in Business Analyst roles?

Most Business Analyst roles now involve working on IT projects meaning that a large part of the solution they are working on is implemented in software. Importantly however, to perform BA work you don’t have to be technical or have a technical background.

Having said that, I believe it is important to have some general understanding of software systems. A basic knowledge of servers, databases and client side technology is definitely helpful as this will help to lead more effective communication with the implementation team to understand how long a particular piece of work will take.

As a Technical Solution Specialist and having been an IBM apprentice for just over 16 months now, I believe it is important to have some understanding and skills on the technical side of IT.

My Current Role: Functional Tester

As a Functional Tester my role is revolved around “BASE24”.


BASE24 performs a number of functions, all of which are designed to support payment systems. “It is used to acquire, authenticate, route, switch, and authorize financial transactions across multiple channels” and supports transactions over other ‘interchanges’ such as VISA LINK and MasterCard. One of its main functions is to operate as “an EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) processing and switching system that provides ATM support and management including transaction routing and authorization, Electronic Data Interchange, settlement, reporting, network control, and stored-value card functionality.”

BASE24 can run on high availability servers to ensure that businesses are provided with resilient and high performance payment processing solutions to ensure they can process the required level of consumer transactions.

This is my fourth role in 16 months so you can see that within IBM there’s nothing stopping you from developing and moving on in the organisation.

Opportunities with IBM

Being on this particular role for over 4 months now I have decided to specialise and do one of the recommended courses – ISTQB® (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) – within IBM. As a ‘Functional Tester’ it is a good opportunity for me to develop and have this qualification for my growth so I can progress in future. Now that I have written this post you can see there isn’t anything stopping you to do what you enjoy.

Apply for the IBM Apprenticeship and develop yourself into what you enjoy.