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!

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