Monthly Archives: October 2016

University vs Apprenticeships – Katy Turner

I was asked to write a guest blog post as a member of the behind-the-scenes blogging team and I thought in a completely original style I would just essentially borrow John Longworth’s blog post from a few weeks back titled ‘IBM Apprenticeships vs Uni (in the view of an Apprentice)’ but write it from the view of a University student on their placement…

When I was in my last year of sixth form I had very little idea of what I wanted to do with my future, I’d had images of me “finding myself” on an elephant in Thailand but with no financial savings this idea was firmly placed on the bucket list. So that left me with the option of an Apprenticeship or University.

My parents were both entirely supportive of whatever decision I made (maybe less so backpacking across the world), but with no actual plan in place they both encouraged me to apply for UCAS so that at least I had that option. Even at this point I recognised experience was going to be essential so only applied to courses that offered Marketing courses with a year in industry – which narrowed the choices considerably.

I was actually more interested in an Apprenticeship than University which in 2014 was pretty rare for my age group, I was eager to earn money and work my way up from the bottom. However, Apprenticeships back then are not at all what they are now. They mostly focused on routes such as admin, hairdressing and brick laying – none of which remotely appealed to me and they also seemed to be targeted towards those who wouldn’t get the grades to get into University as opposed to those who wanted to take an alternative route after college. After a series of equally uninspiring events by similarly uninspiring employers I decided that this route probably wasn’t going to be for me.

A few months later some form of miracle/a very generous marker happened and I exceeded the criteria needed for my first choice University. After my experience with Apprenticeships so far I felt I would just follow the masses and sign myself up for thousands of pounds’ worth of debt along with many of my peers…. and three years later here I am, student at the University of Liverpool on my third year doing my placement at IBM working in Attraction Recruitment Marketing.

Since my initial experience I have to say that after only a few months at IBM my opinion of Apprenticeships in general has completely changed. As a regular reader of this blog it amazes me how much they all seem to know about coding, software systems and java scripts… all this is like a foreign language to me. They are all in real roles that matter, engaging with top clients, traveling the country, have huge responsibility and in 2017 their starting salary will be higher than placement students such as myself.

In my role I go to so many conferences with other recruiters and it’s so apparent that Apprenticeships are taking off as key talent pools for employers, there is so much choice with so many employers and they are really starting to gain the recognition they deserve.

I think the key thing we, as a society need to focus on, is that University and Apprenticeships are both options within their own right. It’s not about discouraging young people against going to University and choosing the Apprenticeship route, it’s about providing school leavers with all the information to make that decision for themselves. There are so many choices out there now; University, Part-Time University, Higher Apprenticeships, Degree Apprenticeships, Advanced Apprenticeships and even a gap year in the workplace.

I’ve met a lot of Apprentices at IBM that have made me question as to whether I have made the right decision pursuing University and I do wonder if there would have been a different outcome had I been at sixth form a few years later when these changes were starting to be implemented. Although I think I would have gained immensely from an Apprenticeship, I can’t really regret the path I’ve chosen. For me personally, it feels like I’ve suitably pro-longed the inevitable ‘adulthood’, learned a huge deal more about a subject I’m incredibly passionate about at a great University, made some life-long friends, feel entirely independent and have a fair amount of experience within the workplace. But with University costs continuing to rise I think for the next generation it’s more important than ever that they are making their decision for the right reason and not because they see no other option.

Katy Turner

A Day in the Life – Joe Barry

A day in my life will be different to another IBMers and completely different to a day in your life. Instead of telling you why you should join our Apprenticeship scheme I wanted to instead talk to you about a subject that is never the same – a day in my life.

So before I begin I will mention that I am currently a Project Management Officer in Hursley. However I am pretty new to the role so I don’t think my day now would be very helpful until I know my role fully. Also because anytime I move to a new role most of the day is taken up but listening and reading and that is hard to blog about.

The day I want to portray is back in June when I was working in Manchester for an Insurance Company. When I was working up in Manchester, I was part of the Data Governance Team, who are in charge of working out how we can transfer current data from an old system into a new one. In order to do this, I would have to talk to specialists on both sides, arrange a possible solution and show this in a presentation for the Business on Friday.

So let’s take a specific Friday where I had to create slides to represent all the info I gathered from last week. Each problem that we came across we classed as units and every week we would pick a number of units that we would present solutions for. An example of one of the units we had to solve was how to migrate customers’ occupational data into the new system. Currently customers would manually type in their occupation when applying for any level of insurance. However this resulted in some entry’s being misspelled or hard to define. It’s amazing to see how many people misspell their job title! We had job titles written as “BrickLaier” to “Bus Diver”!

The new system we needed had a drop down box that would narrow down the occupation selection for the customer. The original data would need to be categorised to fit into this new system.  I enjoyed finding out how the Build team fixed problems and added functionalist that other competitors were not doing.

From this point I would need to have a meeting with the different areas of the business, Financial, Pricing, Build, Service and Customer to highlight any issues they can raise that I might not have seen. It was very useful to have this step, as I liked to have other people’s ideas collaborated into my solution as well as it being very interesting to see how other people solved problems. After this I would go back and discuss this with an Subject Matter Expert for the new system. Usually this would not prompt any major changes as I had a good understanding of the new system as it was quite logical.

So now that I had gathered all the info and approvals from all affected sides of the business I could create the slides to present to the business. I had to make sure I tailored the slides for both technical and non-technical people. It had to connect with the rest of the slides and it had to display the areas of the business it is effecting.

This was just one day in the 2 years I have been here. If you can experience this in that time ask yourself what you could experience with 364.

IBM have really helped me progress my Presentation skills from talking to other IBMers and educational courses available in the apprenticeship. The progression I have had from doing my 3rd ever interview for the IBM apprenticeship 2 years ago to presenting my solutions to Senior members of the business has been amazing and I hope to develop my skills some more.

Thanks for reading my blog, feel free to check out other blogs on our site, and message me on LinkedIn if you have any further questions. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-barry-43526289)

Joe Barry.

Five-point plan to get the most out of your Apprenticeship – Oliver Pope

I recently celebrated my 4th ‘birthday’ at IBM.  Don’t ask me how four years have gone so quickly, because I don’t have an answer (and I’m trying to ignore the fact!).

With that in mind, I thought I’d share an updated 5-point plan that I use every day, that will help you get the most out of your apprenticeship and indeed, your career.

  1. Get a Mentor – I can absolutely assure you that there is no point in your career when having a mentor is a bad thing. And when I say ‘a mentor’ – I mean collect them like Pokémon.  Having a ‘council of advisors’ means that whenever you have a difficult decision about your career or how to handle a tricky work situation, the act of listening to people you trust will, I can guarantee, show you the right path
  2. Stay Excited … but not too excited – To this day, I still don’t understand people when talk about ‘that Monday morning feeling’. Talk to people (your manager, your colleagues in other parts of the business, your mentor), and find the role that suits you (you’ll know when you’ve found it, trust me).  But remember, you are starting off in your career (and building your understanding of technology, your role in the company and the machinations of office politics) so you are at a slight disadvantage to some of your colleagues who have done it before.  I have found that, in cases where I don’t know everything about a subject, I need to remain conscious of that fact and not allow myself to make assumptions or assertions that may end up coming back to haunt me or my client.  Which brings me on to my next point …
  3. Do the Reading – I cannot understate the importance and value or taking the time to do some education (formal or informal) in and around your area of expertise. Subscribe to development newsletters … most of the time you’ll just delete them, but even if you only read one white paper a month that teaches you one new thing, you’ll benefit. All of this provides you with the foundation to start implementing your own, new and innovative ideas that could change an industry –  and the next time the client asks a tricky question, you’ll be the one coming up with the answer
  4. Work Hard and Earn Your Place – Put in the hours. It’s that simple.  You won’t always be the most intelligent person in the room (I rarely am), but you honestly don’t need to be.  If you build a reputation for putting in the work, being personable, approachable and diligent, important people will soon start coming to you.  At first it will ‘only’ be to help do some research maybe, but then you’re helping them author a white paper, and then you’re implementing what you wrote about and changing the face of your business or industry (trust me, I know what I’m talking about on this one!)
  5. Chill Out! – Relax. ‘Wellness’ may be an annoying buzzword but really, the simple things still work best:
  • Avoid working from home (that’s where you go to in order to be with your family and turn your brain off!)
  • Work should start and end at specific times (obviously there are exceptional circumstances, but don’t get into the habit of answering emails whilst settling down to watch the next episode of The Walking Dead)
  • Have lunch away from your desk (sounds silly, but it dramatically increases your productivity over the whole day)
  • When it all gets a bit much and you’re juggling 15 tasks at once, step away from your desk, get some fresh air, write everything down and tackle the priorities one-by-one

I hope that helps – I can honestly say that I use most, if not all, of these points on a daily basis.  I really think it helps, and I really believe that you can start an amazing career as an Apprentice by implementing these in your day.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you’ve got any other ideas that I can implement in my day!

Oliver Pope-Mostowicz, IBM Cloud Architect

@oliverjpope_

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/oliver-pope-mostowicz-90554358