Monthly Archives: November 2015

The tranquility of a data center! – Lewis

WHHHHUUUURRRRRRRRR!!!!! No my keyboard isn’t broken that’s what I can currently hear as I write this blog for you all from inside one of IBMs UK headquarters data centers in North Harbour.

I’m here with 2 penetration testers from a 3rd party, escorting them through the data center and assisting them with tests to ensure our system holds up its accreditation for the next year. As I sit here fingers crossed they aren’t finding too many vulnerabilities that I will later have to re-mediate, it gives me a chance to think back on 2015 because it’s that time of year again… the PBC period (Personal Business Commitments: essentially the end of year appraisal process for ALL IBM employees).

One thing that my new manager highlighted to me when I left foundation to become a full IBMer was to think about what your wow factor was. Naturally in such a large pool of people all of whom are skilled, motivated and ambitious standing out in moderation’s is difficult. So what are my wow factors for this year?

I have taken ownership of my first network! All be it the smallest of those our account manages but a network none the less. In particular this has been a great opportunity to improve not just my networking skills but architecture as well. There are a number of things I simply hadn’t thought about before as a network engineer which this account has forced me to step up to and boost my knowledge. It has also greatly helped with my ability to make technical judgments and decisions independently. The lessons I’ve learnt here I’m sure are easily applied to other accounts and will stay with me throughout my career.

Also I have become a Cisco Certified Network Associate. A great achievement both for my CV and for IBM. This certification is a milestone of a competency in this area and can lead to many more deeply technical qualifications.

I could continue on with a few more highlights but there is something else I’d like to mention in this post which I believe will make IBM a more appealing place to work for any potential apprentices. As technology moves on so has IBMs appraisal process! Next year the appraisal process will move to quarterly discussions with feedback coming on an adhoc basis rather than the usual end of year rush to get it all done. In addition to this they are removing the “bell curve” for ratings. This is where a set number of ratings are available and the demographic must fit within this, which can see those deserved of higher ratings fall short simply because they couldn’t award any more of that rating. In the past this had been my biggest “rage against the corporate machine”. I believe the new approach to performance is more progressive and motivational for employees. No one is 100% sure on how this will affect the ethos and feel of the company however the process was created with the input of thousands of IBMers from all geographies and am looking forward to 2016 with a fresh approach!

Finally thank you all for reading this year! This is my last post so see you all in 2016!


Signing out in style – Craig Wilkinson

If you remember at the beginning of the year, we ran a mini-series on Goals and Ambitions, and every Apprentice blogger provided a breakdown of their goals for 2015, 2020 and 2025. If you don’t remember, then refresh your memory by looking at the goals I’ve set myself for those years here.

Since we are coming to the end of the year, I thought it would be a perfect time to reflect back on the year and give an update to the progress of my goals I’d set for 2015.

Just as a reminder I set the following goals:

By the end of 2015, I would like to have achieved the following goals:

Passing my driving test (hopefully at the third time of asking)

Completed all compulsory Apprentice education to a high grade

Be more confident in my abilities and self-belief

Achieved an industry-standard qualification in Testing and Infrastructure

Become more productive and less ‘leaving things to the last minute’

Being part of a high profile giveback project (this blog hopefully) and with that, meeting more IBM and Client senior management

Not giving up on my gym regime

Started travelling to different places in the world

So where am I at with these goals? Let’s start with the first one…

  • No, I have not yet passed my driving test but I still plan to pass before the year is up!
  • I have now completed all the mandatory Apprentice training, and to add to the cherry on top, I also recently received the news that I had completed my apprenticeship! More on this later.
  • I feel that as I have progressed through the apprenticeship, I learn more as the months pass by and become more experienced, and with experience you naturally become more confident at what you do and as a person.
  • As for achieving an industry-standard qualification in Testing and Infrastructure, these are currently still pending so these plans will likely take me into 2016. I’m in no rush, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been training; just last month I had completed my ITIL Foundation Certificate in Service management, and I am currently in the process of completing my CompTIA Security+ training.
  • I feel as I’ve moved roles and gone on to a role that’s kept me busy, I’ve naturally become more organised. And, if I’m honest, if I left things to the last minute in my role, I’d likely be in trouble.
  • My big giveback project for this year has been to focus on this Apprentice blog but I will cover this in detail later on in the post.
  • I most definitely have not given up on my gym routine. In fact, these days I generally feel a lot fitter, don’t get tired as easily and my family have noticed changes too. Not to mention going to the gym is a good release after a long day at work. (It’s not always fun and games)
  • I’ve definitely broadened my horizons in regards to holidays this year; in March I went to Tenerife and in September I ventured across the pond to spend my 22nd birthday in New York. Next year, I am heading off to Barcelona and Portugal and have plans to go to the Maldives.

So while I may not have definitively achieved all my goals, I’ve made great progress towards them, and for the ones I have achieved they are significant milestones for me in my life and my career.

One significant milestone is completing and passing my apprenticeship. This means that I have now been officially recognised for all the hard work I have done over the two years I’ve been on the apprenticeship.

What does this mean now?
Passing the apprenticeship now frees me up to start working on Career Framework, where I will begin to put together my promotion case so I can transition smoothly into the business. Passing my apprenticeship also coincided nicely with celebrating my second year at IBM which means that I have exactly one year left in Foundation to get promoted. It also means I have one year left to get qualified in as much as I can.

On top of achieving my goals, and passing my apprenticeship, I am also immensely proud with the progress of the IBM UK Apprentice blog. If you are an eagle-eyed follower of the blog, you’ll see that I’ve been around on the blog for a while and have made a number of good posts. I have also been working with a few of the authors behind the scenes as part of the IBM UK Apprentice Blog Administrator team.

At the tail end of last year, we set our agenda for 2015 to be the year we really start getting the momentum going and do what we can to increase our readership. I set myself the task to research into ways of improving the end-user experience for our readers as well as improve things behind the scenes for the other authors. You may have noticed some of these changes in the form of the search bar (we didn’t have one before), the tag cloud (the bigger the word, the more popular it is), author accounts and general Search Engine Optimisation as well as other minor cosmetic changes. I have also had the privilege of implementing a streamlined publishing process which allows us to get great content out faster and at the best times for our readers.

As I am responsible for the Blog site, I also see all the stats. And it’s looking at the stats that makes me proud of the work that the whole of the Apprentice Blog team have done this year. Compared to the same period last year, we more than doubled unique views (people reading our articles) and we are on track to double unique visitors (new people reading our articles), not to mention our content reaching over 60 countries around the world. This is an impressive achievement and exceeded the expectations we set ourselves at the end of last year. You see why it’s good to set S.M.A.R.T goals?

With all these achievements over 2015, it got me thinking about my goals and what I wanted to do over 2016. The next year, being my promotion year, looks to be my busiest yet and I look to focus and prioritise training and education as well as my day to day role.

It is these goals I have set myself that made me decide it best that I take a step back from blogging duties, so I can really focus on performing to the best of my ability.

From this moment on, I will taking a backseat role on the blog and look to drive our gathering momentum from behind the scenes. While I wont be blogging, I will, however, be taking over from Oliver as co-owner of the blog with Avtar, and we have some great ideas lined up for the team in 2016.

On that note, I feel it’s high time I wrapped this show up. It’s been an absolute pleasure writing for the blog and I’ve received some fantastic feedback as a result so I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to you for staying awake throughout my ramblings! I will now leave you in the hands of our great authors who I am confident will continue their great work.

Signing out…

Craig Wilkinson

So Long … and thanks for all the fish – Oliver P-M

So this is a bit of a strange blog post for me. Having recently graduated from the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, I have decided to take a step back from running and contributing to the blog.  For me, it was an important element of my Apprenticeship, allowing me to both extol the virtues of the Apprenticeship, and also to learn from my colleague what they are doing and how the Apprenticeship has helped them.

Now though, I feel like anything else I have to say has relevance in a different way, to a different set of people (though by all means if you’re still an Apprentice, please feel free to read/listen to me whenever I open my big mouth – there’s always room for inflation of the ego!).  The community, and indeed prospective students, will be better served by a new set of authors publishing content relevant to the Apprenticeship as it is today, and the trends affecting them (and everyone else) in the tech industry.

So what does that mean for me?  Well I am diving head on into my full time professional role.  I am an Infrastructure Architect – meaning that I ‘design’ and document technical solutions at a high level to resolve business problems.  It is a fascinating role, and one that I think I will pursue for some considerable time.  I feel a bit like I lucked into my dream job, but when I look at things critically, I know that unashamed ambition and active personal development certainly moved the scales in my favour (I helped to make my own luck as it were).

Therefore, I think as we come close to the end of the year (and the end of my tenure on the IBM Apprenticeship blog), I’ll look at the top 5 things I did (or didn’t!) do that I believe helped me get to where I am.  So, in no particular order:

  1. Social Media – a blessing and a curse

We live in a social age.  Those of you that saw our recent series on CAMSS know that corporations like IBM believe ‘social’ to be one of the defining trends in the IT industry for the next few years.  So use it!  Get on Twitter, get on LinkedIn, reach out to the people you work with and start building your network.  Share things that are genuinely interesting (no, your breakfast doesn’t count – unless you actually have Heston Blumenthal over for breakfast – in which case stop tweeting and start eating!) and become that person that everyone looks for updates from.

But remember … double edged sword and all that … once it’s out there, it’s out there.  I’m not saying don’t have a personal social media presence, I’m just saying make sure your ‘work’ profile isn’t full of expletives and selfies of you at the bar at 2AM – remember, your prospective partner, boss or client might well Google you prior to meeting you!

  1. Networking – truth in the cliché

Leading on from the above, Build. Your. Network.  I know it’s clichéd, everyone says it, but no-one says how to do it.  Sorry, but the harsh reality is that if you can’t be bothered to put the effort in to work out how, you’re never going to get as far as you could do.  There’s so much out there on the art of networking (including other people you work with!) that there really isn’t an excuse nowadays.

And to give you a bit of motivation, through my network I have been to formal dinners/awards ceremonies, worked on *massive* global projects and been to a 5* hotel in Barcelona (expenses paid of course!).  It’s tough, and a little awkward sometimes, but the payback is huge (and if you aren’t doing it, you can be sure your colleagues are!)

  1. Work really, really hard

There is no magic bullet.  You don’t start as an Apprentice one day, and then lead a global project the next.  No executive was actually just ‘given’ their position (and if they were, they’d be pretty quickly out of a job!).  You need to get into work every day and grind.  Become known for being the hardest worker.  You don’t need to know everything and you certainly don’t need to be the best at everything.  But if you can work harder than everyone else … again, the rewards will come falling into your lap.  Like Sir Branson says:

branson quote

Also, and I truly wish this wasn’t the case, there are some people who are still going to think you aren’t as good as your colleagues because you are an Apprentice.  It’s wrong (demonstrably wrong in fact), but that’s what some people are going to say or think.  I don’t know about you, but I love proving people wrong … and as Apprentices we always do!

  1. But not too hard!

Don’t go overboard.  Don’t take on the world and prove you are right to every last person you meet.  There isn’t enough time in the day and frankly, most of the time it isn’t worth it.

So long as you aren’t training to be a surgeon, or a firefighter, or something like that, take comfort in the fact that if you stop working for an evening, or if you make a mistake, no-one is going to die.  I know it sounds slightly sacrilegious, and everyone likes to think that they are truly vital to their organisation (and in some ways it is very true), but having a weekend with your friends and family (or Netflix – no judging here!) and ignoring work is normal, healthy and actually benefits your working life.  You need to stop, recharge, and come in Monday morning fresh and ready to take on the world.  That’s when it’s time to game on!

  1. Education, Education, Education

Most employers taking on Apprentices view you as a blank sheet of paper.  You know nothing, you have no experience and right now, you aren’t too useful to them in making money.

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it proves my point.  It benefits your employer for them to facilitate your education.  You have chosen to start your working life in the work place instead of building skills and experience through University.  That means you have no degree showing your skills yes, but it also means you have no preconceptions about ‘how it should be done’.  You don’t have any bad habits.  And you’re hungry to learn (if you weren’t, you wouldn’t have applied for an Apprenticeship).  IBM is particularly good in facilitating world class education on it’s employees (every employee has a target of 40 hours of education a year).  For Apprentices, IBM understands it’s even more important.

Take the opportunities.  Learn as much as you can.  It’s never going to be easier, and you’re never going to have the chance to start your career again.  Get in there, get all the education you can and, you guessed it, go far!

So there it is.  Certainly not a magic bullet, and maybe you’re screaming at your screen the number of things that I have omitted, tortured or just plain don’t agree with … doesn’t matter, I can’t hear you!

But that’s what has worked for me, and I’m pretty sure that if you take the dive into being an Apprentice, this will serve you well too.

I look forward to meeting you, feel free to reach out (networking, remember!):


Twitter: @oliverjpope_


And I hope you’ll join me in following the blog authors as they take things to even higher levels next year!


What changes after you graduate? – Avtar Marway

Hi all, it’s Avtar Marway here, back with another blog!
As you may be aware, the theme for recent blogs have been about IBM Apprentices who have graduated out of the apprenticeship scheme and today my blog will be about what changes when you graduate.

When you start your apprenticeship with IBM, you are already considered a permanent IBM employee. You are given a duration of 3 years to complete your apprenticeship, and once these 3 years are complete, your title as an apprentice is taken away, and you are just known as an ‘IBMer’.
When you graduate, you are still considered a permanent IBM employee so there is no change in your status as an IBM employee.

Another thing that doesn’t change when you graduate out of the apprenticeship scheme is your role and service line. Unless you decide to change roles, or request to change your service line, you will still be in the same role that you were in before. This means, you can continue to work in the profession that you would like to after you finish your apprenticeship.

Now, what does change? In IBM, there are different bands, and different levels that you can be. The higher these levels are, the more dependent your role becomes. For example, a higher band role could be a Test Manager role, whereas a lower band role could be a Test Analyst role. When you are an apprentice, you start in an educational band, and progress to the first professional band. Once you have graduated out of the apprenticeship scheme, you can progress up through the bands. However, being in a lower band does not mean you can’t do higher band roles. It just means you will not be in the band that most manager roles etc are already in. You are not limited to specific roles based on your band type.

Another thing that changes is that you’re no longer part of Foundation! As an apprentice, you have an Early Professionals Manager (EPM), who is there to help develop your skills, as well as be your manager at IBM. An EPM is only there for you during your Apprenticeship and while you are in Foundation. Once you have progressed out of the apprenticeship world, you also progress out of Foundation, which means you no longer have an EPM. Instead, you have a PeM which is a People Manager.

Is that all that changes? Nope! There are a few more things… such as not having to complete specific documents like IBM journals which lead toward completing your OCR mapping document. The OCR mapping document is used in the apprenticeship scheme in order to help you complete your Apprenticeship qualification. As you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you will no longer be required to complete these.

I’m sure I’ve given you a few points of what changes and what stays the same when you graduate out of the apprenticeship scheme. And I’m sure, if you’re interested, you’ll want to find out more.
So as usual… feel free to tweet me @AvtarMarway, message me on LinkedIn “Avtar Marway” or email me “, if you have any questions, queries about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme or IBM in general!

Where are they now? – Tom

Hello It’s me Tom.C back with another Blog Post. The 10th of September 2015 marked a very important date for me – the end of my 3 year apprenticeship. To be perfectly honest I can’t believe the time has gone so quickly. For other apprenticeships now would be time to find out if the company you have been working for still wants to take you on, IBM is not like that. On the day you are accepted into the apprenticeship you have a full-time job. The only real difference being that you no longer have a Early Professional Manager, instead you have a People Manager (PEM) – so your manager changes and that’s about it.

I’ve had a fantastic time at IBM and I plan to continue work here. I’ve had 6 different roles, a wealth of both on the job/external training and lots of interesting challenges on the way. You may remember in my last blog post I set a series of goals I wanted to complete before the apprenticeship finished. They were:

  1. Become a Certified Redhat System Engineer
  2. Achieve a CompTIA Security+ Certification
  3. Become a CREST Certified Ethical Hacker
  4. Gain a Windows Qualification
  5. Increase my “Social presence”

Lets first start with the Systems Engineer. This was by far the hardest exam I have done within the apprenticeship and it took me two tries to pass. I failed the first time by 5% so spun up a Redhat virtual machine at home to help revise for the second attempt and I passed! I am extremely happy with the result. I know so much more about Redhat and have used everything I learnt in my Job.

Next is the CompTIA Security+. I would really recommend the online training along with the exam. The site asks you a series of questions and it you get them right it stops asking you so as you progress through the questions the revision adapts to what you don’t know. If you get a question wrong it will tell you the answer and a block of text explaining all the details. I have learnt a great deal more about security – everything through different Access Models to Type of Intruder Detection Systems.

The “Certified Ethical Hacker infrastructure Testing” has to be one of my Highlights of this year. I have never been so interested in a course. I learnt about all the different tools and techniques used to hack into both Windows and Linux Systems. breaking into email accounts, hacking smaba, hijacking internet traffic, elevating privileges. You name it! The best part was you got to try all theses methods and more on real systems. Very interesting and it has allowed me to defend against the attacks on projects. I recently followed up the infrastructure Hacking with hacking into WiFi which still remained the Practical aspect and it was extremely interesting to learn all about the cryptography behind WiFi.

I am still looking to achieving a Windows Qualification hopefully I can work on that in the near future.

Sadly my Social presence has stayed rather the same. A few tweets here and there but it is something I need to approve on. I am currently working on some Programming and electronics projects so once they are nearing completion I hope to write / tweet about them.

Its been a Fantastic Year. I have achieved three additional qualifications in the subject I enjoy and will be following up with a new Release on Project.

Looking back on my three years at IBM, I feel a great sense of achievement. I still remember my first day in the office sitting down and wondering what was next. I remember my first task and I look back on the first script I wrote and I have come a long way since. It really has been a great experience.

Its also been a interesting journey. I started off working to maintain an Application called “TAD4D” then progressed into the AIX team where I helped out in my first ever Release. I then moved on to join other projects and help with the Identity and Access Management. I got involved with other internal IBM projects such as Wimbledon and even got to architect a solution for one of the new programmes. All of this eventually ended me up in the infrastructure and Security mix I am in now.

Along the way I’ve also been lucky enough to have picked up some awards – Apprentice of the Year South Central Region 2014 and Apprentice of the Year South East Region 2015. I’ve also been become a BCS IT Apprentice of the Year 2015 Finalist and part of the new RITTeck program.

So what happens now? I have really enjoyed my apprenticeship and am looking forward to see what comes from being a full IBMer. I plan to continue here at IBM. Our program seems to have many new projects on the horizon which I am looking forward to getting stuck into. We are going to start using Redhat 7 so I can put my Certification to good use and work on using new Open Source product like docker. I’ve also made some good friends on projects and I enjoy working in the team. My plan is to continue developing my skills and aim to become a distinguished Engineer. Lets see how it goes!

That was me Tom.C. See you next time.