Monthly Archives: May 2016

My Opinion! What Is It Really Worth? – Gus Parkhouse

An opinion is a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. It could also be a statement of advice by an expert on a professional matter. The following is my opinion of the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, although I am not an expert on this matter.

I considered a lot of points when writing this blog, but the main one I kept coming back to was the stigma I thought would be attached to the title of apprentice. I was concerned about being at the lowest entry point in the company and being treated differently because of this. Therefore, I wanted to make a positive impression as quickly as I could after joining the company to help tackle this worry. I also thought the people in IBM would judge me for doing an apprenticeship instead of going to university, but working alongside and talking to graduates showed me that there are benefits to both paths.

After a few days into the scheme, and when all the admin work was completed, I was quickly shown that I was not seen in this negative light at all for being an apprentice. I was treated with respect from the moment I met with my peers and felt very welcomed. This was quickly reinforced when I was given a large amount of responsibility for work deliverables in a short amount of time. The perception was set that I was trusted and this gave me good expectations for my future as an IBM apprentice.

During the first days I also had a chance read through an online description of the scheme. It mentioned that I would be considered a permanent employee and the scheme would be flexible with the roles, work-life balance, exposure, experience and great benefits that are offered to all the staff. These are all true and, put simply, it does what it says on the tin. The apprenticeship scheme provides a more than adequate amount of training; helping me to develop my technical, business and personal skills. The two week intensive induction provides a good cushion of technical and business knowledge to fall back on if necessary. The induction also helped me to ask any questions about the scheme out in front of other apprentices who may have the same worries.

On the scheme I have developed a great social and work colleague network around me that consists of early professionals, distinguished engineers, managers and senior employees. This network helps me to develop in my role, which I see as being the most important aspect of the scheme for me and the business as a whole. Within this network I have an early professional’s manager (EPM) that helps me with queries that aren’t related to my account, no matter how small they may seem. This is incredibly supportive as apprentices can be quite young and in need of a mentor to be able to talk to whenever it is necessary. My EPM has also helped me to develop through routine reviews to gain feedback, work on a development program and see what is necessary to progress in my career.

To emphasise how strong my network as an apprentice at IBM is, I have been assigned two “buddies” who are more experienced apprentices. The two buddies I have been assigned have been able to help me with work, as they are both in the same role as me, and help me with any queries I have about the scheme, as they have experienced it themselves.

The time it took to get onto the scheme was lengthy. There were times when I wouldn’t hear from the IBM team for a while and the gap between the assessment centres was quite nerve wracking. However, my assessment results were sent out quickly. The HR team were very obliging during the application and on-boarding process, helping me to feel at ease with starting and creating a good first impression.

There are a lot of apprenticeship schemes available in this day and age, but my opinion is that this is the best suited for me as it caters to my need to grow and develop continuously.

IBM Apprenticeship : yay or nay? – Joe Barry

When forming an opinion of the apprenticeship I often look back at what I knew at the start of the programme and what I know now. Two years ago all I knew about IBM was this first paragraph that is on the IBM website describing the apprenticeship scheme;

University isn’t for everyone and here at IBM we have a fantastic alternative. Apprenticeships at IBM are all about picking up new skills and lots of them. It’s three years of brilliant training, lots of exposure and an experience you simply couldn’t get anywhere else. If you’ve decided to dive straight into the world of work after college we believe our apprenticeship is one of the best learning experience out there.

This paragraph ticked every box for me. I had been on apprenticeship schemes before and I was happy that this was the best way for me to learn compared to university as the only other alternative. IBM was not wrong when they spoke about new skills, skills from employment and from courses available for all of Foundation. During my first role I was given as many opportunities to learn new techniques and master new skills as I could handle (clients have no problem teaching you new skills if it means you can become more useful to them). The responsibility that I was given allowed me to develop my organisational, technical and personal skills to a point that I could be a valid contributor to real world problems. New skills are not just learning a new coding language or programme; you learn to be a more skilful person.

Now, when I read that it was a three year scheme I was a bit concerned. My last apprenticeships was only for 1 year which I though was ideal as a big deciding factor in my argument towards apprenticeships was the fact that I was not committed to a specific subject matter that half way through I could lose interest in as could be the case when you are enrolled in Uni. If you share this concern then let me help you out, if you join IBM for the next three years you initially have a choice between Business and Technical programmes. This choice does not affect the education throughout the 3 years nor does it limits your opportunities. Switching from the two after you joined however is hard to do, possible but not guaranteed. I myself have never been 100% convinced that I preferred the technical side to the business, in fact since joining I have preferred the business related tasks I have had the opportunity to do over the technical. This scheme is set up so even if you join the technical programme, as I did, you still get a taste for the other sides of the business. Three years I believe is the minimum amount of time I want to be with a company that offers so much variety as IBM does.

You are not typecast to one area of expertise, if you have a change of heart you have courses and job roles out there that will build up your skills, knowledge and hopefully interest in what you love doing.

IBM Apprenticeship, Yay or Nay? In my opinion the scheme is the best opportunity for young people to pick up new skills, experience a role/specialisation that you love and connect with a massive community of IBMers that all want to push the business and one another to new heights. Only if you push for every opportunity and get involved with your own development will you reap the full benefit of the programme and understand why IBM have moulded the next generation of innovation.

IBM was and still is the best opportunity for myself and everyone who shares my views, dreams and concerns so it’s a YAY from me.

My opinion of the IBM Degree Apprenticeship – Megan Murray

Hello!

For my blog this quarter I decided to cover my opinion of the Degree Apprenticeship Scheme… and as a painfully honest person it’s always a little bit scary to voice your opinion on anything; let alone when your employer and people responsible for your future career will be reading what you have to say!

A summary for those of you reading who may not be aware of the scheme – the IBM Degree Apprenticeship is a part time degree over 4 years in Digital & Technology Solutions (Computer Science and Business essentially), and we attend Queen Mary University of London twice a week during term time and work at IBM for the rest of the time as normal employees. This year was the first year of the scheme and after a couple of weeks of exams the first year of uni will be complete!

The first opinion I guess I’d have to give is that it is hard work… you get plenty of uni students who struggle and they’re often not even having to balance going to work for one of the biggest tech/business companies alongside it all! It can be stressful and difficult to keep up with everything you’ve got going on, plus depending on your background, the content can be tough to get your head around, especially if you’re trying to learn stuff for work at the same time! Thankfully though IBM really are very flexible with it all and if you’re struggling, there is always something that can be done or someone who can help, but resilience definitely goes a long way.

The second thing is the number of opportunities to do something else in addition to your ‘everyday’ apprenticeship, it’s astounding! For me I wanted to fully focus on university and getting through first year until I really got involved in anything else, but I can’t wait to start to get stuck in to some other events and opportunities that are open to apprentices.

Thirdly, it’s massively rewarding… even more so because it is difficult. Whether it’s passing a mid-term or handing in a piece of coursework, or doing something to really help your team, or taking part in some Giveback. You are praised for what you do achieve, and supported in what is more difficult. The apprenticeship scheme at IBM is recognised and you are appreciated. It’s difficult not to be proud of yourself when everyone is telling you how much you should be when taking on a degree and work at the same time!

Finally, because it is a central reason why many people take apprenticeships, it’s undeniably a huge attraction not having to pay your uni fees and get in all that debt. They’re covered by the Government and IBM, plus you get a salary so technically you almost get paid to go to university, plus you get tons of real world experience and knowledge too… and that’s pretty sweet whichever way you look at it.

In summary, I guess my opinion is that if you’re willing to put in the hard work and dedication then this scheme is a really good option. It’s rewarding, comes with plenty of opportunities, gives you the chance to learn loads of new stuff and kick starts your career… I don’t think anybody could say that isn’t a good choice.

A Day In The Life – William Spiers

Since my fist blog in February I’ve been mulling over creating my second, considering various different topics I could write about. I came to the conclusion to open the doors to my actual day job by creating a ‘Day in the life of’ post. Let me explain the rationale behind this decision – IBM’s a great company, and one of the things I think makes it great are the endless job roles and career paths available. Highlighting this is the fact that ever since I started at IBM, I’ve spoken to so many people (be it Apprentices, Graduates or regular employees) and I’ve never met two people who do exactly the same job. Ok, so that may sound like an exaggeration but, even if people have been doing the same role, it’s always been for a different client, in a different location or had some other variation making it unique. Now whether this is actually the case, or merely my experience being relatively new, we shall see, but one thing for sure: IBM’s got opportunities. Now I’ve digressed slightly, but I thought it was an important point to make. So back to why this influenced me to describe my daily role. This uniqueness, often for me at least, causes a slight haze over what people do; what does Technical Consultant or Test Analyst actually equate to on a day-to-day basis? As such, I thought it interesting to explore my first role in “Application Support and Configuration”.

So my role… since I joined IBM in February 2015 I have been part of a small 3rd line team who support and develop a business critical work flow application. Now I feel the key point in my description there is “small”, the reason I highlight this factor is because this is what has made my role so varied – with few resources available everyone pitches into most different aspects. First though let’s go through what I would consider my “core responsibilities”. My days generally start the same, checking access requests and doing proactive maintenance of the application and its surrounding infrastructure. This sounds mundane and don’t get me wrong it often can be, however it’s the “bread and butter” of the service my team offers, and by working in a proactive manner it ensures a good experience for the client. I then move on to dealing with incidents. When the client raises an issue with the application it gets assigned to our team for investigation. Resolving these issues entails contacting users, carrying out Route Cause Analysis of issues and occasionally creating problem and change records. Truthfully this is what takes up most of my time, as well as being the part of the role that can be challenging and by the same token incredibly rewarding. These incidents vary from single user problems to large scale high priority issues – single user problems are unsurprisingly what we deal with mostly and again can be very interesting. However for me where it really gets interesting is in high priority issues. The Service Level Agreements on these can be tight, and upon one arriving it’s a drop everything kind of scenario. Although these can be stressful, I’ve found I learn incredible amounts in very small spaces of time by just getting involved – I also always seem to come out of these with a genuine enthusiasm to find out even more, and the day flies by!

Moving on to my other responsibilities – this is where the “configuration” aspect of my job role comes in. Within the team we not only support but also develop the application and, as such, I frequently get involved with different aspects of this. Generally it starts with the client raising requirements for changes they would like. As a team we then analyse these and pass back a solution. From here the build begins, starting with development work in most cases, and this is the one aspect of the team I have not got involved in due to having specific people dedicated to the role. As such my input begins with the configuration of the front end of the application, by creating flows and inputting information to support the build etc. Onwards from here, I then get involved with raising the necessary change requests to progress the builds through from Development environments into Production. Whilst this is not the most stimulating job, for me it really cements my understanding of the changes when I have to explain and document them. As well as this, it really imprints the importance of change processes and procedures – a bit of a necessary evil shall we say.

So in a nutshell that’s my role, although there are other bits and pieces I do, there’s certainly not enough space to list them all out! I’ve enjoyed this role immensely, as it has brought me on in virtually every aspect – from presenting to problem solving, it’s had snippets of everything. I’ve developed a small amount of understanding in all these different areas, and it’s this attribute that I feel has made it the perfect first position. In turn, this has allowed me to understand what I like and what I’m not so keen on, which is invaluable considering I came into IBM with very little specific direction. Despite enjoying this role, I have now come to a point where for personal development, I want to move on to something new, and with my new-found understanding for my likes and dislikes, this decision has been made much easier! As such, I am now moving into a “Service Management Consultancy” role – a more hazy job description than “Application Support and Configuration” that’s for sure, but let’s save that explanation for another day, when I’ve explored it more myself perhaps!