Monthly Archives: March 2016

IBM Brathay Challenge!

IBM apprentices need your support!

A team of nine apprentices from IBM have entered the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2016, the search for the apprentice team of the year, which will see our company up against employers from across England to be crowned apprentice team of the year 2016.

Our team is made up of:
Acacia Hayles, Identity and Access Management Specialist
Amy Magistris, Bluemix Garage Office and Communications Manager
Katie Fielding, z/OS Systems Programmer
Georgia Crane, Commercial Manager
Martin Dawson, Customer Engineer
Jonah Reid, Customer Engineer
Luke Pearce, RFS Manager
George Marshall, Software Designer
Dmytro Oliinyk, Configuration Manager

What is the Brathay challenge?

The Brathay Apprentice Challenge (#BAC16) is the search for the apprentice team of the year, supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.

To win the Brathay Apprentice Challenge, teams undertake a series of exciting and interactive work-related challenges to develop new skills and showcase their employer by engaging with young people and businesses to promote the benefits of apprenticeships.   The challenges are designed to ensure that the teams demonstrate their team building, leadership, logistical and communications abilities.

Teams of nine apprentices can be from a single employer, a group of small businesses, an industry, supply chain or training provider.  There is no limit to the number of teams that can be entered per organisation or group.

The apprentices will need your support throughout. Regional Heats take place from February to April 2016 consisting of a Community Project and activities that raise the profile of the team, employer and apprenticeships.

What have we done so far?

So the Brathay challenge is split into two parts. The first is making awareness of apprenticeships where we as a team have to conduct a series of presentations and host events to increase the awareness and benefits of apprenticeships to young people, parents and businesses. And the second part is doing a community project in a local community to benefit young people.

Apprenticeship awareness:
So far the team have reached out to numerous students, parent and teachers in order to make awareness of apprenticeships. We’ve also got involved in National Apprenticeship Week 2016 events, done an Apprentice panel at BT centre, run mock assessment centres and completed job swaps with executives.


Community project:
For our community project we have partnered up with the charity SEHCO (South East Hampshire Community Outlook) in order to rejuvenate Spithead Resource Centre in Southsea. This is a fantastic opportunity for us as SEHCO have received funding from the lottery to carry out the project. Currently Spithead Resource Centre looks very tired so we are will be redecorating, refurbishing the inside by buying new equipment and getting the IT suite set up and planning the project from start to finish.

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What our community project will offer:

Our project will help people living in the area of extreme deprivation adjacent to Spithead Resource Centre by providing a friendly place to drop in, enabling them to find out what’s happening. It will also be an ideally-located base for outreach from local colleges and training providers, a number of whom we have already contacted.
It will assist the large local population of young people, who are often poor and who (living in rented accommodation or lodgings) can be socially/emotionally isolated. It will do this by providing an important part of the framework of support that they need in order to thrive and make the most of their life rather than ‘drop out’.
A rejuvenated Spithead Resource Centre will help the wider community by offering a friendly and welcoming source of varied opportunities for informal engagement. As many of these people will have low confidence, this may well prove a first step towards enrolling in courses that could change their lives.
The area immediately surrounding Montgomerie Road has changed. It is now predominantly populated by young people, a fact that only serves to exacerbate the social isolation of the older members of the population. Bad credit is, increasingly, a feature of the area.
A medium-height chair is no longer merely a piece of furniture but becomes the means by which an older person can participate. The projector screen is not simply a high-tech adornment but an important tool that will help in the informal learning of a young Mum starting to prepare for employment.
The fridge and microwave are not merely kitchen appliances but key resources in preparing the refreshments that mean young people can enjoy a hot drink and a snack and talk with others, making them feel welcome, valued, part of something worthwhile.
Similarly, an Xbox with games is not just a big toy but a way of engaging with young people. The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, already supportive of SEHCO’s work, will be invited to present the trophy to the winner of the Xbox competition, thus giving us the publicity that could attract even more lonely and vulnerable young people and encourage them to participate.

In the meantime, please support us and keep up to date with our progress on Twitter @IBMBAC16.


A Weeks Worth of Opportunities – Joe Barry

As I have been blogging about all the things I have experienced and learnt during my time in IBM and how it could benefit you guys looking into apprenticeships I decided to instead for my first blog of 2016 to talk about one of the things I haven’t experienced or taken advantage of. IBM optional opportunities once you have joined.

My email from the minute I joined in September 2014 has been full of information regarding courses, events, giveback, charity work, up and coming technology that IBM is involved with and is giving me an opportunity to be a part of. With IBM being involved with numerous industries there are a very wide variety of events to be a part of. Recently I have been focusing all my attention on my day job for the client, which is great, but an apprenticeship should allow you to explore, find an interest and make a impact.

So to show you all what I mean I saved a weeks worth of mail from IBM on up and coming opportunities so I could share how much there is to gain and how much people like me have missed out on in the past.

First of all the 14th to the 18th of March is National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) which IBM has always been a part of. IBM volunteers from all accounts can help to promote apprenticeships in new and creative ways. You are always encouraged to join the NAW team and your work will get noticed by other IBMers as well as different business owners. My biggest motivation for doing NAW is getting to help students with there careers choices and giving them as much information on what is out there for them. I wish I had that when I was still in school.

Not surprisingly when I get into the office on Monday the first email I get is about NAW and all the events they are doing on that day. One of which was the ‘Rise to the Top’ event at The Shard in London. There Apprentices, Employers, Ambassadors and a variety of guest speakers share there experiences and talked about what they see for the future of there industries and how apprentices can help. In the interest of keeping you attention I wont talk about everything the IBM team have done for NAW but on Twitter #IBMNAW16 has all the details.

Tuesday I get an invitation for an IBM Senior Leadership Open Forum. These sessions create a relaxed environment where you get to talk to Senior IBMers about there career path and ask questions about your personal development. This is particularly helpful for understanding the process to achieve your goals here at IBM both within Foundation and after graduation. If you are like me and as not 100% sure on where you want to be after the apprenticeship I would recommend taking full advantage of the forum.

Foundation send me an email on Wednesday about ‘Hackademy’. Hackademy is a four day event based in IBM Hursly focused on Front-End Development. It is particularly helpful to designers, engineers and architects so if you join the apprenticeship in those roles you will be encouraged to go and learn more about the up and coming software you will most likely be using. My role as an Industry Test Analyst doesn’t use Front End Development but I am very keen on learning more about coding languages so I will keep an eye out for emails about this in the future.

One of the many emails I got on Thursday was from UKI Service Leaders mailbox. Senior IBMers regularly us this to spread information on changes to the industry whether that be via a blog they have done or a forwarded email from Some of IBMs UK leaders. This Thursday I was sent a blog by Paul Farrell the UKI IMT Leader for Global Business Services.

At the end of the week I was informed that IBM had acquired Optevia. Optevia is a leading Microsoft Dynamic and Cloud company based here in the UK. Notifications like this keeps IBMers in touch with where the company is heading and could be useful to someone who is interested in the technology. The email had links to a press conference that goes into more detail about the negotiations and how this acquisition came to be.

And there you have it, a weeks worth of opportunities provided by IBM. This list was not hard to create as in total I received 18 emails from the 14th to the 18th of March from IBM or IBMers. When you have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, grab it with both hands.

6 months! Feels more like 6 weeks! – Megan Murray

It’s official, next week will mark 6 months to the day that I joined IBM. I’m still so new, but now, already in that time, so many more new starters have joined and are even newer than me! I’m Megan, new to IBM and new to this blog, so … Hi!

I’m from the midlands, went to school, sixth form, had a couple of part time jobs whilst there, and had some idea around going into a design/marketing job after I had finished studying. I applied to study a foundation degree in art & design to see if it was what I really wanted to do before committing to university, and I didn’t even make it to enrollment. I thought travelling Europe would be a far better way to spend that time (and I wasn’t wrong!) The other important revelation though was that I didn’t want another year in school to see if a design-y job was for me, I wanted to see if I could cut it in the real world. My Dad was the one who suggested I look at internships with the likes of IBM, suggesting I could use my love of design in a more practical way, for a job in consulting maybe, or in marketing to aid communication. As soon as I started my research I realised this would be the perfect company to gain a year’s work experience with and I applied.

I completed the application form, agonising over whether I’d have a chance in a million; I completed the horrible IPAT, feeling certain that I had failed. Each stage had such a long wait for the email to say I was through to the next filter, but I made it to London for the assessment centre, completed the group tasks and I sat down in front of my interviewer ready with my presentation about myself and IBM. The question that threw me in that interview: ‘Why didn’t you apply for an apprenticeship?’. Honestly, it was because when I had first applied I had only wanted work experience, to see if it was for me, to help decide what to do next, but this no longer applied, I knew I wanted to work here, I like learning and I wanted to gain qualifications as well as skills… so, I was moved from Futures onto the apprenticeship application track.

It got to the time I was leaving to go travelling and I still hadn’t heard much, I thought my chances would be ruined because I was away and wouldn’t be able to go to London for interviews. However, IBM understood, I had phone calls on the roof of a hostel in Munich, in Vienna, a failed phone call in Rome thanks to building works, then more calls on a beach in northern Italy, then France. My application process was by no means a normal one, but everyone is different. I was in the south of France when it was confirmed I was being hired by IBM as an apprentice; it wasn’t till all the admin came through a week later on iffy WIFI on an old computer in a hostel in Barcelona that I actually allowed myself to believe I had it.

A month or two later and I had moved to London, started and completed the 2 week induction and got started in to my role supporting a software sales team.

6 months after starting and my role has evolved and expanded as I’ve settled in. It feels like it’s been no more than 6 weeks, but when I look at how much I have done, how much I have learnt and the opportunities I have had, well, no art & design foundation degree could of taught me all of that.

Stepping into IBM – Gus Parkhouse

More than 872,000 people were employed on government funded apprenticeships during the 2014/2015 academic year and I was fortunate enough to be one of them at IBM. I wanted to join the IBM apprenticeship scheme because I saw our products everywhere and heard how IBM worked with the majority of big corporations. I wanted to be involved in that!

When I first got the email and phone call that I had been accepted onto the IBM apprenticeship scheme I was overwhelmed by a wave of emotions, I was ecstatic, nervous, apprehensive and proud – all at the same time. I didn’t even know this was possible. I, of course, immediately informed my Mum and passed on the good news.

Once the excitement had simmered down a bit, I was overtaken by nerves and a sense of worry that I wouldn’t have the knowledge or experience to competently perform the role I was going to be assigned. Over the next few days from receiving the good news I was swarmed by emails informing me of the next steps, what I needed to send in and what I needed to complete before my start date (the more admin side of things). I knew these emails were meant to be helpful but, honestly, it just made me more nervous. Fortunately the foundation team set up a call for the new apprentices to chat to a foundation early professional’s manager and learn more about what to expect on the induction course. This was great as I felt like I was finally getting to know some of my peers, albeit over the phone.

I really wanted to get their opinions of the hiring process and how they found it all. The general consensus seemed to be the same as mine: that the online skills test was impossibly hard but somehow we passed it and the interviews, as daunting as they were, were actually quite nice once I got over my nerves and managed to string a few sentences together. It was a great opportunity to showcase past experiences. Whilst waiting to start the apprenticeship I kept thinking which ever role I got, technical or business, I would definitely need training to make sure I had the adequate skills required. I thought the overall hiring process was quite long but looking back at it I think, with the vast amount of applicants, it couldn’t really be shortened or it might seem a bit rushed. As my start date got closer I couldn’t help but feel a bit scared and intimidated that I would be joining a team of more experienced IBMers and may not meet their standards.

Once I started on my induction course I was very promptly met by the other new apprentices, who I’m happy to say were both excited and nervous about the apprenticeship as well. It was nice to get to know my fellow apprentices finding out about their backgrounds and what prompted them to apply in a quick “ice breaker” session. Over the course of the two week induction there was a lot of information to take in, ranging from how to use our new laptops down to how binary works. I feel that although the information I was being taught was helpful it was all completely necessary, but I am finding a lot of it is coming in handy as I’m going through the apprenticeship. On the first day I met my Early Professionals Manager who was incredibly helpful and welcoming which was great as I found out I’d be meeting with him quite regularly. The first week was very “new joiner” focused like getting through documentation and health and safety. I’d say a lot of this I knew before I had started but it had to be covered. The second week was a lot more intense and interactive as we were learning about different parts of technology that we may come across. At the end of the technology week we split into groups and presented a final presentation on what we learnt over the two weeks and what were the key points to us.

During my induction I was contacted by an IBMer and informed that I was placed in an Infrastructure Architect role which was incredibly exciting. I’ve never had a job role like that before it sounded like unlimited possibilities. Not so bright but early on Monday morning I arrived at work to meet my new manager and peers, I was keen to learn more about my role and to make a great first impression as I knew I’d be around my team mates a lot. When I arrived in the office I was greeted by my line manager who was quick to introduce me to the rest of the team in the office. This consisted of 3 other apprentices and 4 senior architects. As the day went on I got to know my team and what they were working on – they were all very inviting and knowledgeable. The apprentices within the room took me for a brew and a chat to impart some early tips and advice for starting up. Unsurprisingly there first tip was to do the mandatory education first so that you have time freed up for my project when I’m aligned to one. The other apprentices in my team had a lot of tips to pass on and just proved what I had been told by my early professional’s manager on my induction that “Everyone is willing to help and share information”. So no surprise I decided to get started on the learning I had been assigned for both on boarding and for my architecture role. I was slightly overwhelmed by the amount of learning I had to do straight away, although I have not used a lot of it I can see parts of it being useful in the future. Through doing the education and chatting to the team I was able to learn an exceptional amount about my new role and began to want an account to do work for.

Within a few weeks of starting at IBM I had been assigned a task manager and an account, and I was quickly given work to do for my task manager. I quickly learnt that I was capable to deliver the work being asked of me and asked for more to help stretch my comfort zone and hopefully learn faster. My mentor and task manager understood I was an apprentice and helped me only when I needed it – so I was not spoon fed. Once I had the workload under control I wanted to get some further training which IBM agreed to put me on to continually grow as an employee and a person in general. I am proud to be an IBMer!

My role “Solutioning” – What is it? – Ryan McManus

It’s not even a real word…how can it be a real role…and what is it? In this blog I aim to tell you a little about my role, why I chose it and how I have benefited from it.

Why I chose the role and what I looked for

This was going to be my 6th role and my apprenticeship was near completion. I knew I had some gaps in the project lifecycle and therefore I wanted to do something that would help fill these gaps quickly, whilst still presenting me with a challenge. I had been in Test, Defect and Service Management roles but these were at the end of the project lifecycle and I needed something that touched on the technical side that was near the beginning of the lifecycle.

I do have a passion for management and I feel the best way to manage is to understand what you are managing. I knew if I gained skills in different areas it would give me that breadth of knowledge to act as a solid foundation to build my career upon. Additionally by exploring new roles I had the chance to see if I enjoyed any other areas of IBM, that I could then look to pursue in more depth after my apprenticeship.


My account comprises of many “Development Centres”. The purpose of these centres is to generate individual bits of code for certain aspects of the enterprise. I work in one of these Development Centres that specializes in middleware.

The role

There are many projects within my account that want to improve things or change the way things are done, but with so many centres within the enterprise developing individual bits of the code,  it’s not exactly easy for someone to tell what centre their project impacts or how much the project is likely to cost. That’s where I come in.

On project start up there may be some high level requirements and an outline of what the project aims to achieve. There is no need to waste money defining, designing and documenting your whole project in detail, only to be told later on that it’s too expensive or can’t be done in the timescales. My role is to give the project an early sight of impact, cost and timelines related to the Development Centre changes that need to be made. The project can then use this information to apply for budgets, secure resources or deem that the project should be deferred / close the project down.

It starts off with the project submitting their documentation to the Development Centre. My role is to then use this information and based on it assess where the impact lies within in our centres components, to then come up with a solution to meet the needs of the project.

As the project moves closer and closer to their end goal they get more and more specific information about the change they want to make, so the Development Centre may assess this new information, therefore providing the project with a more accurate quote or deem that the information is enough to design/ build off and then move them through to actually making the change within the centre. At this stage I engage lots of different teams within the Development Centre to get specific quotes from each team e.g design, build etc to ensure we are providing an accurate quote that we can then deliver on.

The benefits

It gives me technical understanding – I do not class myself as a “techie” but I now understand how middleware works and the basic principles associated with Design, Build and Test. Also middleware connects a lot of things together, so I understand about the components it connects to, how it connects to them and dependencies that different components have on each other.

I wanted a role that gave me visibility and involvement of a lot of roles…. and boy did it do that! I work with Change Managers, Design, Build, Test, Architects, Environment Services, Security and Project Managers to understand the impact on our Development Centre for the change that is needed. This requires me to understand how and why it impacts the different teams and therefore I gain an overall understanding of what the teams do, along with the principles and processes they follow.

Stakeholder Management–In this role I engage with the client from when the request for an estimate comes in, to when the estimates are delivered back to them. I also have to present to senior members of the Development Centre to ensure the solutions I have come up with are sound and the cost/ estimate documentation is appropriate.

Gained different perspectives – My previous role was within a project, facing into a DC (Development Centre), but now I am in the DC facing out to the project and therefore understanding how both sides operate.

My skills/ knowledge are transferable. Due to the fact that I am learning everything at a high level the skills I have learned and the knowledge gained are transferable to other clients which is just what I need at this stage.

I could tell you a lot more ….but hopefully that has given you an understanding of what my role is and the sort of opportunities available within an IBM Apprenticeship.

Feel free to contact me if you want any more information!