Monthly Archives: November 2014

Down to Earth – Ryan McManus

I’m not here to tell you what you already know, you have read the website, you have looked at the company. Instead let me tell you the top 10 things that in my opinion, make the IBM apprenticeship amazing.

  1. The company- The reputation of the company is bound to impress.  It is a well-recognised and renowned company and of course, is a market leader.
  2. The Learning-This is what you’re in the apprenticeship for. You want to learn, you want to get a second to none learning experience and that is what you will get. You get online and classroom training courses. You could attend service line days where you will get the chance to listen/ speak to some inspirational and motivating speakers. You can attend lunch and learns via live conference or attend in account training sessions tailored for you and your role.  There are many written/video blogs posted by senior executives or specialists in an area of IBM, which will provide you information on the company, where it is moving, how it is performing and general learning that will help you perform in your role, build your understanding and develop your career.
  3. The money- Straight to the point. IBM offers a very appealing apprenticeship wage, which is better than the majority of apprenticeship wages out there! (Take a look for yourself)
  4. Their commitment to keep you-I know too well that some apprenticeships out there will take advantage of the opportunity to pay minimum wage. Yes they give you a qualification at the end of it, but apprenticeships should be much more than that. From day one IBM have you long term career in mind  If you can prove yourself on the apprenticeship, IBM have a full time job for you when you finish. They provide some outstanding training all the way through the scheme, both mandatory and optional. The training will help learn new skills and enhance your existing ones, so you can perform at your best throughout your career.
  5. The qualifications-You have something to work towards, something credible that you can add to your portfolio, something to be proud of! We are not talking about getting qualifications that no one has ever heard of, or an examining body that seems not quite right…At the end of your apprenticeship you will get well recognised and well respected qualifications.
  6. The roles- IBM is a huge company so needless to say there is a vast amount of roles on offer.  The types of roles that might be on offer could depend on the type of IBM apprenticeship you are going to go for. Nevertheless there are still hundreds of roles that you can go into. Some apprenticeship schemes on offer might put you in one role throughout the whole apprenticeship, but not IBM. IBM will place you in a role to help you settle in to begin with and after that role ends, you can choose your own!  Rest assured you will get all the help, support and guidance you need to help find new roles in the company whilst in your apprenticeship. I think this is amazing because I have not heard about this opportunity to move roles in other apprenticeships.  Moving roles gives you a huge breadth of experience, provides the opportunity to learn more, meet new people, creates fresh and exciting opportunities and give you the option to move locations.
  7. The support/ environment- From the day you get into the apprenticeship, is the day you become an IBM’er. You will walk into a friendly and collaborative environment with people more than willing to support you. You get assigned a Professional Development Manager whose responsibility it is to help you progress and make sure you are getting the most out of the apprenticeship. IBM is a very ethical and it makes it a really trustworthy and pleasant company to work for. They treat you very well.
  8. The responsibility- If you can prove yourself and show that you can achieve, the possibilities are endless.  If you think that you will be making cups of tea when you start, you are greatly mistaken.  If you can be trusted to deliver I have no doubt that if you wanted it, you could be given a high profile job that you would have never thought you would be doing as an apprentice! Getting some of the jobs that you think are out of apprentices reach, does give you great satisfaction when you’re actually in them!
  9. The Social Side- A great part of being an apprentice is the social aspect. You will get the chance to meet a lot of new people, make new friends, learn new things and as a result be invited to a lot of events and have fun!  If you think it’s not for you, then that is also fine, there is no pressure to attend any of them.  An example of my week after work could be:  Golf range on Mon, Football on Tues, Bowling on Wed, Meal on Thurs.  There are also things like IBM Ski trip and the corporate games events.
  10. The Bonuses- No I’m not on about financial bonuses here (Although there could be a chance to get them) I am on about all the other things that make it a great company to work for. Thinks like cycle to work scheme, a chance to opt in for pensions or healthcare, you could get a company car or work phone, discount off things like electronics and holidays through IBM rewards and the option to buy shares.  All of these things are all great incentives to become a part of a leading company and in my opinion the best apprenticeship going!

I hope I have been helpful in this blog, because if I had known this information when I was looking for apprenticeships, it would have been a no brainer.

My name is Ryan McManus, I am an apprentice. Give me a message on LinkedIn if you have any questions.

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Stepping up – Hollie Sauvage

Hello everyone! Since my last post, I have now completely rolled off my project in Preston and I am working full time in Farnborough. I have also completed some more educational courses – one of which all Apprentices have to complete, and I have also taken on more giveback.

First off, I am now working full time in Farnborough, which is exciting, and much better for my training, as I can learn and shadow for the full week and see the full process of changes much more clearly as well as having a better opportunity to understand what each change is about. I have also had the opportunity to be able to lead multiple client calls, as well as internal status reviews on the project on a daily basis.

When two of my team members went away on courses, I had the opportunity to manage an entire change process on my own for two days. At first this was quite daunting, but my team members had faith and I can now say that this has been by far my biggest achievement. This experience gave me the confidence to put what I’ve learnt in my training into practice and I felt secure in leading the client’s calls and status review meetings without my team as a safety net.

As well as this, I have also completed some more educational training. As part of the Apprenticeship, there is some mandatory education that needs to be done to be able to pass, and I have just completed one week of this. This week long course was a great chance to meet new people, and work together as a team. I was the only Apprentice on this course, as everyone else was Graduates, and most of these were in their second week of joining IBM. It was a great chance to share some of my knowledge about IBM that I had built up over my short time with the company. The course was a fantastic chance to work with a case study and complete a project within our teams in a short space of time, ensuring that all tasks were completed and ready, before presenting our prototypes and projects to some IBM managers. In our groups, we all had different roles to fill, but essentially, we all had to work together to make sure we finished within the tight deadlines set.

Coming up in the next few weeks before Christmas, I have more educational training to complete. I have a 3 day course learning about the fundamentals of Project Management, which will greatly improve my career prospects in this area. This is a course I have chosen to complete, which I hope will give me better understanding of Project Management. I also have some more giveback I am going to complete. I will be going back into my secondary school to give a presentation about the Apprenticeship Scheme, and we have also arranged to go into other schools in the area to give information to Students about the opportunities available.

The move from ‘Business’ to ‘Technical’ – Lewis Davies

Isn’t it funny how our ambitions change over time? When I started IBM the possibility of ever performing a technical role seemed more than unlikely. So how did I end up getting into infrastructure and networking you ask? In all honesty I’m not too sure myself.   No one in a business orientated role wakes up one day and decides: ‘actually I want to become a network engineer’ – it’s simply not a natural thought process.

When I started on my first change management role I had very little Idea what delivering an IT service really was and what delivering it actually involved. As a change analyst in my first role I began to read change request and get to grips with what technicians would actually be doing – this is where my interest in networks began. Being a fairly visual person I was attracted by the topologies and the logic behind how routing and firewalls worked.

While using TAD4D discovery tool (an IBM software discovery tool) I started to use some command lines in AIX and Linux. As childish as it sounds I thought it was out of The Matrix and my curiosity for what was possible grew.  Coupling this curiosity for the logic and the novelty of the command line I became quite enthused about this area.

It’s normal for IBM apprentices to move roles every 6 months to a year so as I approached the end of my time in Asset and License management I decided it was time to vamp up my technical knowledge and take on a challenge in the accounts infrastructure team as a network engineer!

So around 2 months in to the role, what tips can I give to anyone else who may also be taking the leap or thinking about becoming more technically orientated? Here are my top 4 lessons so far

1) Jargon

I’ll take that VLAN and DHCP it where the OSPF doesn’t shine.

Tip

There’s no simple way to get up to speed on the jargon other than to get on Wikipedia and read. If you need to use it in your day to day role you will naturally develop a deeper knowledge of what you’re talking about. I find keeping your own dictionary of terms is useful (as writing it out helps to remember).

2) Prioritisation

Suddenly hundreds of small and big tasks are thrown your way so how to prioritise?

Tip

Let people know what else is on your plate.  It sounds simple but often people want things done now but sometimes they realise they can wait when other work takes precedence.  Talking them through what else you have on ensures you don’t appear work shy when you say you aren’t able to deliver within the wanted timescale.

3) Negotiating a multi-vendor service

Ooo doesn’t that sound fancy! It just means we are using hardware from many different suppliers all with different command lines and GUI’s which can sometimes leave your brain in a mush.

Tip

Make sure you always know what the help command is: normally a ‘?’

4) The Banter

As someone who’s learning the ropes and is building their knowledge mistakes are bound to occur. But the banter that follows sometimes goes way over my head.  (For example a colleague described the problem as being a layer 8 issue…. After a quick google I think he means me the user)

Tip

My advice here is to keep your cool and learn from it. Try not to worry, if your manager is any good he won’t let you run before you can walk although it might feel like that sometimes! And take part! (When appropriate: don’t make jokes of a service outage for example).

Well I hope this has been a useful insight.  Overall I hope what this demonstrates about the apprenticeship is the diversity of roles you can get into and the level of support IBM is providing us to do so.

One Year In – Craig Wilkinson

Hello, you might remember me from a previous blog post where I gave a (somewhat) brief introduction to myself, what I do and my experience of being a new starter within IBM. You may also recall I looked forward to posting again soon. Well, I’ve stuck to that and here I am again, only this time I am no longer a new starter; this month I will be celebrating one year within IBM, and what a journey it has been!

It has been such a jam-packed year with a plethora of good experiences (and honestly, some challenging ones) I simply do not know where to begin and so much has happened, it is difficult to highlight singular memories and recall what has happened. So, to make things easier and not bore you with a life story, I have picked out some highlights!

I am going to begin where my last post left off, at the very start of my apprenticeship and shed some more light on my first role. When arriving in Swindon, and entering the Head Office of the client, I was shown around the building and introduced to many new people. I started to feel overwhelmed as I had never been introduced to so many people at once before in my life!  Two of the people I was introduced to were my new Test Manager and my Test Lead. Once I had been shown around and settled into a seat, my team had a meeting where I was informed about my role.

The very first thing my team discussed was  the conduct that was expected of me; working at a client site I had to make sure I represented IBM in a positive manner and to make sure I handle conversations with the client carefully. Although this was a very serious discussion when I was already overwhelmed by my fresh starting, I understood what it meant to maintain IBM’s strict ethical and professional guidelines and to continue to provide a brand clients can trust.

After the serious note, I was then informed of what I would be doing in my role; I would assist the Test Lead with the execution of the test lifecycle on a project which involved protecting the clients’ end-customers from malware and phishing fraud transactions. As such, this meant I would have access to, and manipulate, several anti-fraud systems so I had to learn and memorise the names of the systems and how they work to prevent fraud. Cue relentless note taking.

After a few months, work on my project had died down as there were holding few issues delaying testing. As a result of this, my Test Manager put me in for a new challenge and assigned me to another test role on a new project with a new team. However, this project did not follow the same timelines as a usual project would. Due to the client having to meet the demands of the industry regulator, this new project had to complete the whole product lifecycle within a time period of six weeks; from planning and build to live release. As a result of this, the test team only had two weeks maximum to complete all required test cycles (ST, SIT and UAT) including retesting of defects.

With there being only two members of the test team, my Test Lead and I, this was obviously a challenging timeline to meet and I could personally feel the responsibility upon me to complete the testing at a very high standard. Being led by a great Test Lead, I managed to complete all the test cycles and had a massive feeling of accomplishment and relief! Although at the time it felt like I barely even had time to breathe, I am glad I was part of this project as it really taught me how to manage my time and how to work under pressure to get a job done. Due to the nature of this project, and the timelines we had to complete our work, our project team were highly commended for our efforts and achieved team of the month, awarded by the client!

Outside of project work and as part of the Apprenticeship, you have to attend the training courses FSPE (Foundation Skills in a Project Environment) and FCP (Foundation Calling Programme). These training courses are very useful as they teach, and let you practice skills such as the client communication model, working in teams, problem solving, engaging with the client, structuring a good conversation and improving presentation and conversational skills.

While the courses were useful for learning new skills, I found them a great ‘retreat’ away (one week for FSPE, two days for FCP) from doing project work. I found them a good place to network with new apprentices and graduates I’ve never met before while also re-connecting with the other Apprentices from my starter group and catching up. For me, the most useful part of the course was being able to practice conversations and presentations with personal development managers (PDMs) and obtaining feedback on how to improve. This all taking place in a relaxed environment where everybody encourages you to do well.

Shortly after returning from my FCP course, my first project (the one mentioned earlier with all the fancy anti-fraud systems) was still quiet due to a long standing defect which was still preventing testing. After discussions with my PDM and Programme Manager on the project, I felt it was a good time within the quiet period to begin the process of handing over and moving to a new role. Before hanging up my boots on the first role, I had to handover to another resource so I had the responsibility of planning knowledge transfer sessions over the course of two weeks. In these sessions, I had to convey everything I knew about the role to the new resource, including allowing sufficient time to sort out access and introducing the new resource to the wider support team. As I was the only test team member (other than the Test Manager) by this point, I had to make sure the delivery of the handover was of a high quality as any gaps would mean delays on the project.

I had to plan structured sessions to make sure all the different categories of knowledge were covered, be prepared to answer any questions the new resource may have and go over anything they are confused about, deal with any issues encountered during the handover, arrange calls and meetings where the Test Manager would test the new resources knowledge to find any gaps and re-plan sessions accordingly.  As well as doing handover sessions, I had to continue to do my project work as normal as well as complete detailed daily reports on the status of the hand over. I would say the handover was one of the most challenging situations I have occurred to date as there was a lot to cover but also a lot for me to learn at the same time. After twenty-four hours worth of handover sessions, I had completed the knowledge transfer to the satisfaction of my Test Manager and could fully hand over to the new resource which allowed me to move on to my new project and thus, a new challenge.

Although my new role would still be a testing role in Swindon for the same client, it didn’t mean that I could sit back and become complacent; each and every project is different, especially since I will be working in a new building with a new team utilising different tools and systems. Once again, there was a lot to learn.  My new role was entirely different to my old one; I will be testing a system which will validate files which will be sent from the client’s ex-subsidiaries systems. It sounds simple on paper, but our testing involved creating test cases to make sure the correct files and stored in the correct database and that validation conditions are met such as ‘First Name’ not being too long, ‘Date of Birth’ is of date format etc.

This leads me nicely to today, where my test team and I have just finished our second cycle of System Testing on the project and this short quiet gap has given me the chance to reflect on the year that has gone by and write this post. I can honestly say that my first year within IBM has certainly been a good eye-opener for what will be my career through IBM; I just wish I could write every single experience down but between my poor memory and keeping you interested, I have only provided some key highlights.

In one year alone, I have experienced so much that has forever changed me as a person and how I conduct myself; not just at work but at life in general but I still feel like this is the beginning and I look forward to whatever comes next with great excitement. I will, of course, keep you updated on this exciting journey and any new experiences I will encounter.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this post and hope you continue to have great experiences that will change you for the better. Seize them!

Bring on year two!

  • Craig Wilkinson