Monthly Archives: December 2015

Looking back at my Apprenticeship – Ryan McManus

So with 2016 just around the corner I cannot wait to see what fresh challenges and new experiences it brings. However with my apprenticeship now completed and 2015 coming to an end, I want to take a moment to look back on the past 3 years with IBM. I don’t plan to bore you with my achievements, I’m not going for promotion with this blog, so take a look at some of the things that summarise a few of my thoughts on the apprenticeship.

What was the best part?

The best part for me was the opportunities available and the responsibility associated with some of those opportunities. If you are driven to succeed and really want to get your career kicked off to a great start you can rip that apprentice label off from day 1. There is no making tea or getting your bosses lunch, you can seek out as much challenge and responsibility as you like throughout the 3 years if you prove your capabilities.

If you act like an apprentice you shall get treated like one, no matter what career or industry you are in. Only you can take that label away by committing yourself and proving you are capable of taking on new experiences and challenges. IBM offer lots of training and has a very well planned out apprenticeship scheme, but they are only effective if you want to learn and expand your skills.

Something associated with the above are the people that support you in creating the opportunities. In every company you get your fair share of great and not so great managers. I have been fortunate enough to have some really great managers and worked with some really great people. They have created opportunities to enable me to prove myself and when I did prove myself, work with me to increase my responsibility and therefore my learning. I cannot thank these managers enough and the people who supported me in my roles! IBM promotes this kind of work ethic which is great!

The friends I have made and the social events I have attended are definitely highlights of the 3 years. The three years have really brought the term “work hard, play hard” to life.

What did I utilize?

When I entered the scheme I had no real idea about the career path I wanted, nor what industry I wanted to be in. A lot of apprenticeships take you on so you can learn about one area. But that was no use to me as I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The IBM scheme suggests you move around in different roles every six months and I really tried to stick to that. I knew I had 3 years to learn about some core areas so wanted to use that time to take opportunities to accelerate my growth, knowing that I had the support around me to do it. Every time I got comfortable I wanted to move and do something different. I have done 7 roles and worked with 4 different clients in the span of 3 years.

What could have been improved?

What would have benefited me is a list of the high level areas that you can go into within IBM and a short explanation. I am talking very high level, but an insight into what is actually on offer would have helped me. This would have given me confidence that I can try different areas and less of walking into the unknown.

What would I have done differently?

No one is perfect …sure there are things that I would have done differently and below are a couple of them.

There are so many roles within IBM it is impossible to cover them all. I would have taken time to plan my roles to cover all aspects of a project life-cycle. If my plan changes then that is fine but having a plan enables you to think about what you wanted to do anyway, so it can help you make informed decisions when you look at changing roles. Luckily I have ended up doing some amazing roles that have been very steep learning curves, however I shouldn’t have left it to chance!

I should have made more time to keep in contact with my network. What I mean by my network are people I have met throughout my apprenticeship, whether it is apprentices I started with or previous bosses etc. In my apprenticeship I was so driven to deliver I started to forget about the people who originally developed me and enabled me to deliver in the first place!

How has it set me up?

There are many things that it has done for me so here are a few….

  • Place me in a company that is at the forefront of the technology world! IBM is a great name and is a renowned business leader. It is a company that cares about you and wants to keep you on after your apprenticeship.
  • Given me knowledge in many areas of the business that I shall keep with me throughout my career, therefore has given me a base of skills to develop my career path on.
  • It has provided me with experience of working in many different client environments.
  • It has given me the challenging experiences that have enhanced my CV.
  • I have gained a better idea of the career path I now want to pursue.
  • IBM is very competitive on its salary….you can guess that benefit!

What helped me get through the apprenticeship?

  • My dedication to succeed.
  • Wanting to show everyone that apprentices can perform to a very high standard.
  • Having a passion to improve things no matter what role and grow as a result.


If you want to know more or have any questions, drop me an email at


What is the IBM Apprenticeship? – Avtar

University isn’t always the choice for people studying A-Levels. Some people prefer a hands on learning style, and some do not see university as the only choice for further education.
IBM offer an Apprenticeship scheme and this blog explains what the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme is.

So what is the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme?
The IBM Apprenticeship Scheme is an apprenticeship which is 3 years of training, before becoming an permanent IBMer. The aim of the Apprenticeship is to help you obtain the Advanced Apprenticeship for IT Professionals qualification as well as giving you experience in business and technical areas. The IBM Apprenticeship scheme is an alternative option for university and is considered one of the best apprenticeship schemes in the UK, which is proven by the awards that our apprenticeship scheme has won.

What do you do in the 3 years?
During the three years, you have a chance to complete other training courses such as ITIL, Prince 2 and more. You get great exposure to working with large clients, and this will increase your experience in the working world. The experience that you get from being an IBMer is one of the best experiences to have, and having IBM on your CV is also a great thing!

After the 3 years what happens?
At IBM, you are considered as a permanent employee, as soon as you join the company. After the completion of your Apprenticeship, you still have your job and you are still employed with IBM.

What type of Apprenticeship Schemes do you offer?
IBM have two roles within the IBM Apprenticeship Scheme. These are the Business Solution Specialist, and the Technical Solutions Specialist. This allows you to start your apprenticeship in either a business or technical role.

Am you restricted to the clients that you can work with?
Nope, not at all! You are able to work with many different clients and you are classed the same as other employees when working at client sites. The clients that you can work with, are within a wide industry. For example, we have clients within the medical industry, hardware industry, oil and gas industry as well as many more! You are not restricted to the clients that you can work for.

What benefits do you get?
A salary of £15,000
Company Pension
Travel Insurance
IBM Reward
25 days holiday

If you would like to know more about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, feel free to leave a comment, tweet me @AvtarMarway, or message me on LinkedIn!

This will be my last blog for the year, so have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A cup of T – Joe B

Welcome to my final blog of the year, and what a journey this year has been! From Madonna taking to the sky to the Hotline bling and Drakes….err…Dancing??

But the journey I am most interested in is my own. From a new starter at a massive IT company to an IBMer. This apprenticeship has definitely given me a big push in my career development and although I have encountered some growing pains, it has all been worth it. Join me in listening to my story, it’s no blockbuster, if it was the climax of the story would be ‘Will Joe survive this brutal paper cut’ or ‘How could Joe save the day now with his crippling finger cramp’. Instead we can look at the professional and mental obstacles I had to over come and also the obstacles that I didn’t need to face whilst on the apprenticeship.

September 2014 I arrived for my two week induction with 24 others also in my position. We were all given basic  knowledge of what we could be doing going in the company; from binary to testing. We all had opportunities to work in teams which really allowed me to meet new people, most of whom I still speak to now. One of the things that stuck at that time was creating your own brand, i.e what will your name mean to other people, how will you be perceived. Near the end of the two weeks they emphasised what you could get out of the apprenticeship. They spoke about a T system which always comes back to me when I look back. I had not heard of it before and it means when you start you career you build knowledge and get more capable, this is represented by the vertical line of the letter T. Once you have accumulated enough knowledge you can branch off to learn a wider scope of whatever field you are interested in, completing the T.

I left the induction with this firmly in mind.

My first role as a Test Analyst in the financial sector started off really well for me. I had good teachers to learn from that where also on the Apprenticeship. I was able to grow my network along with my technical knowledge. I was seeing the development of my T shape very early. I believe I was able to progress quickly because of my network and using it to widen my knowledge base.

Whilst most people were following the yellow brick road, I was taking the networking escalator.

Although everything was on the rise it wasn’t without problems. This was highlighted in my 6 month review. Balancing IBM and Client work was something that was mentioned and this affected my business hygiene. Hour plans late, receipts not claimed, stuff that was as important as the knowledge I was gathering whist with the client. It is important to keep a healthy balance. After the review I was motivated to be a more well rounded professional. Education out of the office from lessons set up by IBM from my client site as well as online courses was just a couple of the things I did to improve.

The Agile courses really interested me as it was relevant to the job I was doing.

It’s been 8 months and I have gathered a large amount of knowledge in my current role, I was the only person in my team that understood most of the systems we dealt with. I believe I am at the top of the T shape ready to branch off. Now I was looking for what my next role could be using my network and people from my starting group. One role that came along was a Change Management role which really put a spanner in the works. There I was gathering knowledge, doing online courses in testing only to find myself wanting a role I had little knowledge off.

But me being me I went head first for it.

And it turns out I could have done the role, My status as an apprentice was not a factor. The role has even been filled by an apprentice before. IBM foundation really do give you the opportunity to try anything. I sent them my CV, had a call with the role owner and everything was going well. Unfortunately this time I didn’t get the role. It was filled by someone with more experience. I was gutted, I really wanted to make that jump, making my Tshape career into an ishape. Instead I felt like it was more like a S or Z swaying from one ideal role to another.

Whilst my brain was dealing with all this algebra I carried on working hard on my work.

I have now been at IBM for 14 months and will be starting my new role in December, what role you say? Well its not as a Change Manager but instead as an Inter-System Test Analyst on a large project. Although it sounds similar to my last role Inter-Systems Analysts have a wider scope of testing to perform as well as more considerations and workarounds to consider. I am mostly excited about the project I will be working on, unlike before where I was doing small amounts of testing for dozens of project this would allow me to get behind a product and learn all about it. Online courses and networking still allows me to start branching out my T shape but with this role I can develop more by adding personal experience and team work to my base knowledge.

Therefore I am taking that Networking escalator once again but not aiming for the T shape career I wanted rather the F shape that my career needs.

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t come together and you have to adapt to your situation. Embrace it, use it, make the best out of it. As long as you stay motivated, have at least a rough idea of where you want to go and keep on gathering knowledge you will never go back on yourself. You will continue to climb.

How will your career shape up?