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?


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