Monthly Archives: June 2016

What do Apprentices do? Tea and Coffee? – Josh Abrahams

Even now, with the Government putting more and more into backing Apprenticeships, many young people are still afraid that they will be condemned to a life of making tea and coffee. Whilst this may be true for some older Apprenticeships, but any one from a modern Apprenticeship scheme, such as ours here at IBM, will be more than happy to let you know this is simply not the case. I learnt this very early on in my career, my first day after induction in fact. Fifteen minutes had gone by since I had met my new colleagues; I was already in “trouble” for offering a drink to the Technical lead of the team when I went to go get one. I was just being polite, but they wanted to make it clear, Apprentices are not tea boys/girls.

Here at IBM, as with most, the Apprentice is given real responsibilities from the get go. During my brief two and a half years here I have been in three different roles which I’ll talk a little bit about now. Each had their ups and downs however in all of my roles, I have felt I have been delivering meaningful and valuable work.

For my first role in the company, I was placed as part team which supports Rational products, (Rational is brand of software IBM own,) I worked in three different locations during this time, supporting both internal and external customers. I worked on data migrations, configuration management, software upgrades and installs, user administration & general errors from users. I helped to develop bespoke changes to tools used by the customer, developing, testing & working through error codes and finally implementing. I held demonstration sessions for customers & fellow IBMers alike, this list goes on – but all of these pieces of work left me feeling like I had added value to IBM and to our customers.

The second role I took on was a progression of the first. After being in the support team for just over a year, I was promoted to Support Team Lead, taking on managerial responsibilities over our team of six, four offshore guys and two onshore. It was my responsibility to ensure the level of service we were delivering did not slip. I would hold service review meetings with the team, looking at sets of reports I created, organise shift rotas & holidays and train the team in weak areas (Which is surprisingly harder than it seems.) I was the first point of call for customer issues & quereies, I would help to work out solutions & price up any new work. I would talk through the customers first days & train them in correct tool usage. Whenever the team were going through upgrades, I would coordinate the process, design testing and be the face of the team in international calls with hosting providers and customers. All on top of my previous responsibilities – two roles down and still no tea or coffee.

My most recent and current role saw me move from being based in the South to being based in the even sunnier haven of Manchester City Centre! After my brief stint of experience management/service delivery, I decided to move away from Technical and learn other aspects of the business, with the end goal of becoming a Service Delivery Manager or work in Project Management. I am currently PMO (Programme Management Office) on one of our Financial Sector accounts. The PMO works closely with the Project Manager and Programme Governance teams and maintains various aspects of the account, such as onboarding, leavers & training. I work with the Commercial team & aid in ensuring accurate forecasting and billing and writing Statements of Work and contracts. It is my job to create a set of reports for the account which show IBM’s current status, our issues, risks, progress. I’m also aiding in ensuring our release is on track, attending meetings discussing progress, making schedules etc. Of course I haven’t left my Rational skills completely behind, I’m also Rational Administrator for the account.

These are just the three roles I have done in my time here at IBM as an Apprentice so far. Although each Apprentice will be doing different jobs and no two Apprentice experience at IBM are the same, as you find the role you want to be doing. None the less the work you will be doing will be beneficial to your career & be meaningful. I hear of so many people in office jobs complain that their life has no meaning, the work that they do has no meaning and that must be the worst, especially if that were to come from an Apprentice. At IBM I have meaning, I have purpose and I do not make tea or coffee for anyone. *

*  (Except myself)

Josh Abrahams

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A day in zSeries – Nicole Covey

Another day in the life of a zSeries software support specialist… Wake up… bowl of cereal…. Depending on your mood and how hungry you are you possibly have another… if you’re really struggling you may even consider one more but you talk yourself out of it because that’s just greedy. Then comes the drive to work… sometimes you get to the office and feel lucky to be alive because you’ve had a close encounter with someone who is just way too keen to get to work. That, however, is about the only part of my day that is predictable. In my role you never know what is around the corner, it’s the thing I like most about my job, every day is different.

I am currently a zSeries Software Support Specialist here at IBM. zSeries are our big mainframe servers and It’s my job to help keep our mainframe customers up and running. This involves helping them with any queries they have with their mainframe software and also investigating any issues they experience to help get them back up and running as soon as possible. You can probably guess from the last half of that sentence that sometimes the job is very high pressured and stressful! Headache tablets are kept in the top drawer for those days that you wish you hadn’t got out of bed. (Let’s be honest it doesn’t matter how much you like your job we all have those days!)

We use PMR’s which are Problem Management Records to manage client queries/issues, these hold all the data on the client contact and the reason the PMR was raised, including product and release levels, any diagnostic data and times and dates of the incident. PMR’s also contain all the communication between us and the customer as well as all our findings during our investigations.

When talking about a day in my role, typical is probably not the best word to use. The process is the same, I look at PMR’s, talk to customers and look through diagnostic data such as system memory dumps and trace data, but each PMR is unique and different. Z is such as massive product, I’m constantly coming across new things and sometimes things that I’ve never heard of! Even my colleagues, some of whom have been working on Z for longer than I have been alive (which they love me reminding them of) are coming across new things every day.

Looking through system memory dumps is where all the fun lies, we use a tool called IPCS and it looks like the Matrix, just a mass of green HEX code on a black screen. The feeling of satisfaction you get when you solve a problem has got to be one of the perks of the job. You get a great sense of achievement when you see a problem all the way through from gathering the problem description, investigating (the fun part) and providing the customer with a solution.

Z has a bit of a reputation for being a ‘Dinosaur’ product, it’s been around for a very long time – I kind of like that though, dinosaurs are awesome. This does mean however that a large number of our z people are retiring which means it has become challenging with there being only three of us in Front Office UK support, but it is also a great opportunity for me to continue to grow my skills and become more competent. It’s like how my mum taught me to swim; chuck me in the deep end and I’ll learn quickly. Personally I think she’s lucky I’m not now terrified of water and will never trust her again (it took a while).

The funny thing is I never planned for a career in technology. In fact, before I came to IBM I had very limited technical knowledge (OK – I’ll be honest, I had absolutely none!). Five years on, I wake up every morning and drive into the office knowing that I have a challenge ahead, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me developing. As an added bonus I don’t hate Mondays. Well, I don’t love them, I wouldn’t even say I like them because no one likes Mondays, but I enjoy what I do and that’s all you can ask for.

My Placement Year at IBM – Maddie Coutts

Hi everyone! I’ve been asked to write a guest post for you all seeing as I’ve been a member of the behind-the-scenes blogging team. So here goes…

I’m currently in my third year at the University of Leeds studying BA Management and as part of my course I opted to do a placement year/year in industry. I chose to go to University because it was a better fit for myself and I wanted to continue my education whilst playing hockey for one of the top teams in the country. However, from the start I knew I wanted to do a placement year because I think gaining real work experience is one of the most valuable things you can do.

So I did what anyone looking for a job does … began searching! IBM was the first application I completed because the name had always been on my mind and I was impressed to see they offered a Marketing placement. From then on, whilst waiting to hear if I’d successfully passed the IPAT test, I filled out more applications for other companies. After a successful assessment centre, which was so much more relaxed than I would have thought, I entered the ‘matching’ process. The first match was quite a Technical Marketing role (yes it does exist!) down in Hursley, however, my first preference was for the Southbank office. This was one of the trickiest decisions I have made to date – do I accept the job even though my heart was set on working in London or do I risk not finding a placement and reject it? Well that’s the great thing about IBM – if you say no they will try and find you another match (although not always guaranteed) and that’s what happened.

My role during my placement year has been the Schools & Universities Attractions Coordinator which basically means I am responsible for the marketing activities to attract candidates to IBM. A lot of this is social media based, generating all content for Facebook and Twitter, alongside managing our careers website and creating promotional videos. I also work closely with companies such as Rate My Apprenticeship and Target Jobs and I create our online profile and any adverts we have on their sites. At first I found this challenging as it required extensive use of Photoshop however IBM were supportive in helping me acquire this skill.

Being an intern means that like Apprentices and Graduates I am part of Foundation. This is a great programme because, even within such a large organisation, there’s a real feeling of community among the ‘younger’ IBMers and there are always social activities going on across all schemes at each location. I have also found myself attend lots of Giveback events with IBMers from different schemes and backgrounds so this is another great way to network.

Some highlights for me during my year at IBM have been attending the Target Jobs Awards (where we won Best Apprenticeship Programme 2016!) which is where the picture below was taken. I’ve also had to start thinking of which area of IBM I would like to come back into as a Graduate. Watson is one of the most dynamic parts of IBM right now and I would love to come back into this area. As a result of networking and just putting my name out there, the Watson team invited me out to Lisbon to help run an event. This was really amazing because not only did I spend a few days abroad, but I worked closely with executives and partners and the advice I received was invaluable. I also have a pretty exciting end to my year – I’m working at Wimbledon! This was not easy to get as I had to attend an assessment centre against my peers which was slightly strange. But I’m very excited to experience Wimbledon and the amazing partnership they have with IBM.

TJ4

So that’s just a very (very) short summary of my jam packed placement year at IBM. As you can see from my experiences there are a wide range of things to get involved in outside of your role and if I had to give any advice after a year in industry – take control of your future. It’s up to you to put yourself out there and try something different and no matter how you enter IBM, as an Intern, Apprentice or Graduate, I guarantee there will always be support and encouragement from those IBMers around you.

Thanks for having a read and feel free to message me on LinkedIn!

Maddie Coutts