Monthly Archives: February 2016

John Longworth – An Introduction…

Hello to you all, and thank you for reading my first ever post on the blog! Let’s start things off with who I am (the only place to start!). I’m John, born and raised in Manchester, an IBMer almost exactly two years into my apprenticeship and someone who had no idea what to do after leaving college. Coming out with a BTEC in Games Design might I add. I never enjoyed classroom learning enough to go down the route of Uni so that was never an option in my mind and given the fact that I’d had an interest in IT and Technology, applying for Apprenticeships in the IT industry seemed to fit all too well. After applying for IBM (plus many others), I only initially received a reply and invitation to continue the process by IBM. More rolled in later but unfortunately for them, I’d already accepted IBM at that point! 6 months (I missed out on the first induction group and got into the second), 1 IPAT Test, 1 trip to North Harbour Portsmouth for an Assessment Centre and a few phone calls later and I found myself on a 2 week induction for one of the biggest multinational technology/consultancy companies and an Apprentice at IBM! 😀 But that’s just the beginning of it all, way back in 2013/14…

The 2 week induction didn’t only just teach me about IBM on a whole (values, admin tasks that need completing and all the technical fundamentals you could ask for). It introduced me to so many new people from all around the country (12 other apprentices to be exact) with all sorts of different experiences and backgrounds and taking all that in, completely improved my confidence. I came into day 1 of induction having no idea what to expect by the people but I can say I was pleasantly surprised. Having IBMers (mostly other apprentices) who volunteered time to come and speak to us and give us their experiences in the company so far. Sort of like what I’m about to do now…but in text format…

So after leaving the Induction, I started straight away on my first IBM account, situated not too far from home, in Liverpool. Being one of only two IBM apprentices on the account, it was one of the biggest learning curves I’ve faced yet. I was placed into a role of Junior Oracle DBA (Database Analyst), the only issue was…I had no idea how to write SQL or anything remotely related to Databases. TIP – Online courses were a must. Not only did they help me develop my skills, but it meant I could stay around the office and learn by doing and watching my (small – only 3 person) team. I improved my skills on PL/SQL infinitely. But unfortunately, before anything else transpired or I could get to the point where I would have access to the ‘LIVE’ system, my time on the account was cut short. As far as I’m aware, mostly due to the fact that the client decided to go down the route of having their own Apprentices on the account (which I personally had a hand in – pitching the apprenticeship scheme to the SDG team). So after a short few months, my time was up and it was already time to move on. Some great experiences and some (honestly) challenging experiences were had, but it was all part of a significant part of my IBM experience!

Next TIP – When moving accounts or trying to find a new role, contacts are essential, use them! So, I found out I would be moving accounts around 2 days before my ‘final day’, so after getting in touch with an apprentice whom I’d met one of the mandatory Foundation courses (FSPE) and I was passed along to the resource manager of another account in Preston. An interview call with the Service management lead later and I find myself where I am today.

I currently work in Service Management (Incident, Problem and Change/Release) on that very account and have been for the past year and a half. Thus far, they’ve been very intriguing roles to be in and I’ve learnt a huge amount! So the room I work in is purely Service Management, it’s basically “ITIL in a box”. I’m a believer in that the best way to pick up a skill or learn something is to be as exposed to it as much as possible and that is exactly what my time here has given me. Let me also not bypass the fact that I’ve met some of the most amazing people here too, a lot of them other (past or present) Apprentices! Being in the 3 roles has really kindled my excitement for Service Management, I feel like it’s something I’ve really gotten an excellent grasp of now and is definitely something I can drive forward with in a career sense in the future.

That brings up my final (and personally the most intriguing) point of my first post, the future and where I’m heading next.

After being in Service Management for such an extended period of time (over 12 months), I’m feeling like it’s time for something new. Something that will challenge me and push me outside of what I know and am comfortable with. As of the writing of this post, I’m not sure where to head next, but a move of accounts seems to be on the cards. Which in of itself will provide new certain exciting opportunities! But what’s next in regards of a role is still up in the air. I’ve given my all to ensure that my options are open and I’m sticking to the motto of ‘An open mind opens up opportunities’ and all being an Apprentice has done is drive that message home to me.

So that’s that for the future, where I will be or what I’ll be doing next is part of the excitement, but going off the previous 2 years alone I’ve spent in IBM, I’m looking forward massively to what will happen and who I’ll meet on the journey. You never know, by the time I next post I could be in a completely different place, doing something completely different. Things happen that fast!

Last tip and final statement from me for this post – A lot of opportunities come and go, and you’ll notice a lot pass you by. Take time to stop and think about what you’re letting go, because you never know, some of your greatest experiences might be passing without you even knowing it!

Thank you all for reading my experiences and until next time, goodbye and good luck!

John Longworth

IBM Apprenticeship – What’s not to like? – William Spiers

Firstly, I feel as though I should introduce myself – I’m Will Spiers, first time blogger and fresh apprentice, with only a year at IBM so far! For this post I am going to discuss my opinion and experience of the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, the good bits and the bad bits (are there any genuine pitfalls… we shall see).

So, how did I end up here, and why? After leaving college with my newly achieved A levels in Business, Statistics and Geography, (no IT based subjects I hear you say… let’s broach that one later!) I was left with two choices: university or a full-time job. Whilst I had the grades for university, there was no subject I felt passionate enough about to be certain I wanted to chuck tens of thousands of pounds – and years of my life – at. So I was left with the full-time job option – let a life-time of standard 9-5s begin! Initially I took to full time work in a label printing business, which in my mind was only temporary, and during this time my awareness of Apprenticeships grew and I began trawling through the National Apprenticeship website on almost a daily basis. However, for the most part I still remained uninspired. I wanted something with the potential to try new things, and many of the more traditional “trade” Apprenticeships (in industries like electrics and carpentry) did not interest me. Persistence was key though, as eventually I stumbled across the IBM offering – the name pulled me in initially, followed by the description and what seemed like potential for varying opportunities.

In order to leave you with a nice positive feeling of the scheme I thought it best to start with the pitfalls – are there any?! Well truthfully for me yes there are some… is any scenario perfect? But (and that’s a big but) they are minor and apply to Apprenticeships generally rather than specifically the IBM scheme. Firstly, it’s the age old one of not moving out of home like you do when you go to University, which it seems these days is becoming almost a rite of passage! However, with the IBM scheme there are so many opportunities to travel and move around, and this has almost faded away for myself, and hey for some this may be a positive. Secondly – and I think what follows may be slightly obvious, so I’ll just come out with it – the Holidays! There are no more 8 weeks plus off in the summer, but I’m getting used to it! As you may have noted these are some pretty minor gripes and none actually apply to the Apprenticeship specifically, more work in general, which I think speaks volumes as to how good the scheme has been for me so far.

Moving on to the positives, which certainly come to me more easily than the negatives. Let’s start with something I mentioned previously – my lack of IT qualifications. Coming into the scheme this is something I thought may hinder me, however, everything I’ve needed to learn has been taken from the very basics. This is a great attribute to the scheme for me and it’s allowed me to try my hand at something new. Alongside this it’s not just technical opportunities, there are many different aspects and lots of more business-style roles to explore if this is your thing. In addition, the potential for change is one of the most significant benefits to me. Despite having only been here a year so far, it is already becoming apparent that I have so many different options for learning and career paths, be it technical, managerial etc. For me, at only 21 years of age, this is so important. Personally I feel these days it’s an early stage in my life to commit to a lifelong career, so having these options has really helped me not feel trapped down one specific career path with no opportunity for lateral progression or change! Now I could go on for a fair while about the positives of the scheme, but I want to keep it fairly brief, so allow me to just explore one more. The people! Being at IBM gives you the opportunity to draw knowledge from willing, industry-leading experts in so many different fields. This means that any subject I want to explore, I am almost certain there will have been people at IBM who have been down that road before and are now experts, and in my experience these people always seem happy to help and encourage.

I want to finish this post with one last note. When I first became involved in the blog, I took some time out to read through many of the previous posts, and the thing that really stood out to me was the achievements of some of the other bloggers who have been around a bit longer. It really highlights what’s possible with some hard work and the opportunities the scheme has to offer!

Will Spiers

What has IBM done to me?? – Avtar Marway

Before joining IBM in September 2014, I had only knowledge that I gained from school and from the places that I had worked at. The experience that I had was in IT, but more in a hardware, or the design field. I worked as an IT Technical Support, and had a YouTube channel where my twin brother and I uploaded various videos that we edited. The YouTube channel is called “FranticViperz” if you want to check out some of our old stuff. FYI, some of our videos are deleted as my twin brother cringed at some of the content we made! Anyway, back to the topic… I had barely any experience in the corporate world and working as a consultant.

I’ve been in IBM for almost a year and a half now, and I want to reflect on what I’ve learnt so that you are able to understand what IBM has done to me, and what it can do to you if you work for IBM, whether it’s through an apprenticeship, graduate scheme or other.

I have worked in 3 different fields, with 3 different clients. I was in a Performance Test role at a large building society, then a Technical Support on TADDM role at one of the largest Scottish banks, and now a SAP Performance Analyst Role at a large utility firm. These are 3 different roles that I have been in since joining IBM. A testing role, a technical support role and now a SAP role. I have gained knowledge in these areas that I have worked in. For example, I am able to explain testing, and have knowledge of Performance Testing as well as other testing, such as UAT Testing and Functional Testing. The benefits of being in IBM, is that you are able to change your role if you feel that your role isn’t best suited for you, or if you would like to try something new. IBM has allowed me to experience these areas and gain more knowledge in this way.

IBM have provided me with training and learning which have helped to develop my skills. Although some training that I have completed is specific to Apprentices and assists with our development, there is other training that can be done online, at IBM locations, at client sites etc. For example, when I was a performance tester at a large building society, there were often training and learning sessions held after work, and during lunchtime. Often, I am sent emails about learning offers at IBM bases, and online learning that can help assist me, such as lunch and learn. Now what have these training and learning sessions done? These learning sessions have helped to develop my interpersonal skills, consulting skills, learn more about the client and their area of work.

IBM have spoiled me! It’s the perk of working for a consultancy company. You get sent out to client sites away from your home, and often away from your base location. I’ve worked in 3 different cities. Swindon, London and now Leeds. As these are away from my home, IBM accommodate me and make sure that I am comfortable when I am away from my base location. For those wondering, a base location is your closest IBM location, where you travel to and work without getting expense. IBM Warwick is my base location.

IBM spoiling me is not a bad thing at all. It’s a great thing because it shows how IBM are making sure that you are comfortable in the location that you are working. If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, and would rather commute, you can apply for a company car, providing you are eligible for the scheme that IBM offer. You can also apply for a company car if it is cost effective for IBM. So IBM haven’t really spoiled me, they’ve just made me comfortable in the location that I am working.

So overall, what are the major things that IBM have done to me? They’ve increased my confidence, presentation skills, time management and client interaction skills. They’ve allowed me to get experience in multiple areas, and have allowed me to work in various locations without incurring large expenses. They’ve allowed me to go on internal and external training courses and have provided me with learning that allows me to develop further. They’ve given me a great salary and a great benefits package. I’ve got a great manager who cares about my wellbeing, career and development. They’ve given me all of the support that I need and that’s what IBM have done to me.

IBM are a great company, and I’m glad that I work for this company. Hope you enjoyed reading my blog. If you have any questions regarding The IBM Apprenticeship, Gap Year (Futures) Scheme, Graduate scheme or anything else, feel free to comment asking, tweet me, or message me on LinkedIn.

Avtar Marway

 

 

Reached Unexpected EOY – Thomas Cope

Hello it’s me Tom.C back with another blog post. This post was originally planed to go out December of last year but due to complications it has been moved to this year. So first things first … Happy new Year!?! Well it is February so it’s a tad late for that but oh well the point still stands. So what’s the first thing you do in a new years blog post you may ask. Well you completely forget you’re in the new year and start rambling about last year! So lets look back on 2015 and ramble for a bit.

So last year back in my blog post “Where are they now? – Tom” I discussed how I made and met my new years resolutions for 2015 so time to set some new ones for 2016, and they are:

  • Progress from Band 6 to Band 7

  • CISSP

  • Continue on my Oxford Degree

  • Continue to try new things on and off project.

Within IBM promotions are done via “Bands” and you have to create a “packaged case” to explain why you should be promoted. My goal this year is to have that package written and submitted before my birthday so I can hopefully (fingers crossed) go for promotion this year. Next is CISSP orCertified Information Systems Security Professional ” which is a Highly regarded security qualification which one of our SME’s has and to be honest it sounds really cool. You get to learn all about security systems and practices end to end and you gain a qualification out of it. The only own side is it’s really difficult, like super hard. You need to do tonnes on training before the exam which is three hours long. So something I want to keep in mind at attempt later in the year.

Next up is Oxford. During the wind down of last year I started a part time degree in Software and System Security at Oxford. Which so far has been going very well. I’m taking the module along side my work at IBM in Week long blocks through out the year (2/3 a year) and then in my own time completing the assignments which can be anything from Cyber Security Forensics on a memory stick to building a shipping application in Java. I plan to continue with the Modules and hopefully be half way by the end of 2016.

Finally is to continue with trying new things, not so much as a goal just a general rule of thumb. I would still like to continue with my Linux / AIX work as well as my security role. I enjoy the fusion of the two and with lots of new changes within the project there should be plenty to keep me busy for a while.

Back in my last blog post I mentioned that “I’ve also become a BCS IT Apprentice of the Year 2015 Finalist ” well as things turned out I went on to Win BCS IT Apprentice of the Year! A experience I can not express in words but was truly amazing the event had over 1,000 people and the IBM table went wild.

Another activity I took part in last year was the “Skills Show” and the NEC. An event I signed up for and completely forget about as it was months before they got back to me. Until I received an email informing me that I was in the finals and in a weeks time I needed to be at the NEC in Birmingham. Strangely enough this was the day after the BCS event. So I caught the train and tube up to the BCS then more tube and a Virgin train all the way to Birmingham. IBM is great because you can put all the expenses on your Corporate Card. Personally I was shocked at the size of the Skills show and I would highly recommend going if you get the chance. There’s activity from building robots to filming for the BBC and you get to see the competitions LIVE. Such as my Network Security, Electronics, Plastering, Metal Work and Brick Laying. You name a career and they have it there. For the Network Security competition I had to configure some Cisco switches / firewalls as well as configure a Linux server for VoIP. It was a great competition and I got to meet some interesting people and I ended up claiming the bronze for the event!

Overall 2015 was a amazing year and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. I’ve been told I will be joining another project which should be interesting so here’s to the future.

That was me Tom.C see you next Post.