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 https://ibmapprentice.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/oliver-pope-tivoli-storage-manager-support-specialist-sept-2012-present-2/ 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!