Category Archives: ApprenticesVsUni

School vs. Corporate Environment – Sarah Naylor

I have now been working at IBM for five months and as we are swiftly approaching year end, I thought it would be perfect timing to reflect on the lessons I have learnt since starting my apprenticeship in HR and the big differences between being in a school environment vs. a corporate environment.

Kick-starting your career early definitely does have its perks. Being able to able to afford nice holidays, a car and save for a flat all on top of being able to gain my CIPD qualification and valuable work experience has been a bonus.

The biggest challenge for me has been getting used to being in a professional environment every day where your colleagues rely on your support and you have job responsibilities to deliver day in- day out. Going from a six-hour day at school to a full-time job as well as a 100 mile all-round commute each day has definitely taken some getting used to! I have already learnt some foundation skills which could tackle these challenges such has time-management, prioritising and knowing that it is ok to say ‘no’ if you don’t think you will be able to deliver something to a high-standard and on time. I also hope to put these valuable skills into practice as I begin my CIPD qualification in the new year.

In the last four months, I feel I have grown from being the typical, moody teenager who didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, to an adult (sometimes still moody if you catch me before my morning cup of coffee). IBM has supported me with such a big life change and I certainly would recommend this route to anyone who is looking to do something fun, challenging, eye-opening and to earn whilst you learn all at once.

My main goal for 2017 is to keep asking questions. As a newbie, it is a common trait to feel guilty for repeatedly asking why we do things the way we do, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is something that is encouraged at IBM and within my team, as it forces you to question the status quo and ask yourself if there is a more efficient way of working or re-inventing the current processes already in place. I am also really excited to have been chosen as 1/9 representing IBM in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2017 in search for the English apprentice team of the year. This will be a great opportunity to meet more apprentices, promote apprenticeships to school leavers and to give back to the local community.

As I go back to school this Thursday to collect my A-level certificates at the annual ex-year 13 prize giving, I will be returning this time with a more independent mind and a mature, confident and individual personality which has been brought to life upon joining IBM.

Sarah Naylor.

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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

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

Why I chose an apprenticeship with IBM – Sarah Naylor

My name is Sarah Naylor and I have just recently embarked on my career path with IBM upon the completion of my A-Levels in July 2016 as 1 in 3 of the first HR apprentices in the company.

I first heard about the IBM apprenticeship when my school took a visit to the Hursley site in Winchester to shadow some of the apprentices. Before this visit, I had every intention of going to university as most people seemed to think this is the only option for those who have just completed A-Levels. For me, I had no idea what I wanted to do and was very open to exploring the different options available to me after I had finished school. After having a great few days visiting IBM I was set that the apprenticeship route was right for me and the following February when applications for a Business Specialist Apprenticeship opened I was quick to apply.

The application process happened quite quickly for me. I was still in shock that I had passed the IPAT test (maths is not my forte) when I heard my assessment centre was soon to follow. The assessment centre experience itself was one I will never forget. It was both nerve-racking and exciting as early one morning in June I travelled up to the Southbank site in London where I found myself sat in a silent waiting room amongst many other young but ambitious individuals like myself. I felt as though any minute we were getting called into the boardroom of ‘The Apprentice’ with the tense atmosphere and nervousness that surrounded the room. Little did I know a few hours later we would all be chatting away and sharing stories as though that morning had never happened.

I am currently in my first of three rotations working as the UK Compensation Specialist Support which has really thrown me into the deep end as I started just as the yearly salary cycle was due to begin. My team has been incredibly supportive and I always look forward to the challenges each new day brings.

Although I am starting to notice my friends at home slowly disappear to University I do not feel I am missing out on any experiences. I believe there are pro’s and con’s to both and it really does depend on the individual and what is best for them. I would recommend the IBM apprenticeship to anyone who is not sure university is for them, is ready to leave full-time education, wants to earn whilst they learn, be in a business environment where they can gain valuable work experience and most importantly those looking for an excellent support network as they start to embark on their first major career journey.

 

Sarah Naylor.

The next big step – Tom Cope

Hello, Its me Tom.C back with another blog post. So you may be wondering where I’ve been since my last blog post? You maybe sitting there in your arm-chair asking yourself “Cave what kind of tests are theses? am I in danger?” well let me answer that question with a question: “Why am I now talking about Portal 2?” No. No, back on topic. The reason why I’ve not written a blog post for so long is because I’ve been at Oxford. Or to me more precisely, Oxford university. Let me explain:

About a year ago I finished my apprenticeship here at IBM. After a month I was encouraged to pursue further education to develop my skills in Security. After looking through various courses my Dad suggested that I should try a part-time Uni course. After some research I found Oxford do a Part time Master Degree course in Software and Systems Security. It covers all sort of topics such as agile software development, embedded systems, ethical hacking, social engineering. The full nine yards and the best part is it’s all part-time. In order to complete the masters you have to do ten modules. Four in software and six in security, then a dissertation at the best. So I applied!

So how does it work? Well first you book the courses you want to do from a calendar. Each course takes place at Oxford University in the Computer Science building, so I tend to stay at Oxford for the week I am taking a module. There are lots of places you can stay and Oxford is a great place with lots to do. A month before you a due to start you are sent a care package with various details of the prerequisites to the course. In the case of the Java module it was a Book on “OOP Design” and I had to read the first six captures.

Then you move on to the courses themselves. Each course is five days where you get to learn about your chosen topic. The classes are really interesting and quite practical. Everyone in the class is also working part-time so you are all working on the same level. The classes are quite relaxed, if you have to take a phone call you can dip out of the class and there are regular tea breaks. At 12:00 everyone goes for lunch which is a cooked meal at the college. The food is amazing!

The class increases in difficulty over the week. On the Friday everything comes to a close and you are handed the assignment. The assignments can be anything; make an application, write an essay or both! You have some time to read it through and ask any questions you may have. Then its back home to start the assignment. You have six weeks, which may sound like a long time but when you are working full-time it goes by quite quickly.

Hows it going so far? Quite well. It’s a lot of work. There have been many long nights in order to keep up but I find it really enjoyable. You learn so much and at the end of the assignment you can look back and be proud of what you have achieved. So far I have completed three modules. Java OOP which is a prereq for the Software side of the course. Embedded software systems which was very interesting since I did electronics at A level. Embedded systems are everywhere. Writing software for them is a whole different world. To think that a millisecond delay could cost a life in an air bag system really makes you think about how reliable and safe your code is. Most recently I have completed the “Concurrent System” course which was all about “Erlang”. A really cool language with a “Let it crash approach” (it’s better than it sounds) and was by far the hardest module so far.

How does this work with IBM? Well IBM requires each employee to complete 40 hours of training a year (which is quite cool). My Oxford work equates to about three weeks a year. So I end up taking one as education leave and two as holiday. My project is great because they are very flexible and they don’t mind me taking the time off.

I have completed three courses so far all in software engineering. Now I am moving into the more security related ones. Next up is; Security Principles, Trusted Computer Infrastructure, Secure Programming and Cloud Security. All of which I am really looking forward too.

The big question that remains is would I recommend it? The answer would be YES! It is definitely hard work, lots of hard work and it can be hard juggling work, Oxford and a social life but at the end of it I will have a Master’s degree and that’s something to write home about.

-That was me Tom.C see you in the next one.

What Is Expected of IBM Apprentices – Jenny Taylor

It’s over a year now since I wrote my first guest blog on this Forum and I’m delighted to report that in that time, the IBM apprenticeship programme has gone from strength to strength, achieving unprecedented success in terms of winning external awards on both an individual and an overall programme basis. My admiration of our apprentices remains at the highest levels.

I’ve now been asked to return to write a second blog on “What is expected of IBM apprentices”. I see this as a question in two parts: what attributes do we look for in potential recruits to the programme and then, what do we expect of our apprentices once they have joined IBM.

In terms of recruitment of apprentices, we understand that many school-leavers may not have a wealth of work experience which they can list on their application form.  However, we do know that there are other skills and personal characteristics which they should be able to write about and our application form is tailored to these “competencies” as we term them. These are Adaptability, Teamwork, Effective Communication, Self-motivation and drive to succeed, Initiative and creative problem solving and Client focus. Additionally, we ask applicants to tell us why they are motivated to apply for the role and give them a chance to provide us with any extra information they feel is relevant.

We don’t mind from where examples of these competencies are sourced, and in fact the greater variety of scenarios we see on an application form, the better. So, examples could be taken from part time employment, school and social activities, volunteering and charity work, Scouts and Guides, sporting achievements, Duke of Edinburgh award projects or hobbies.  It’s also worthwhile remembering to write about and include inherent digital expertise. All millennials have grown up in a digital world with apps and technologies being second nature to them, so here is an opportunity to capitalise on these skills and show us exactly how valuable they can be in the workplace.

Equally important is to know about IBM and what our most recent achievements are.  It’s vital to us that any potential apprentice demonstrates a passion to want to work for IBM and some knowledge of our business. There’s so much information available on line about IBM, it’s easy to pass this part of the test.

Once inside IBM, we understand that new apprentices will lack specific skills, so initially we are looking for enthusiasm and an appetite to learn.  We can train apprentices in our systems, processes and knowledge specific to a role, so interest and a willingness to learn and work hard are all that is required………and that is what I see from our current apprentices on a daily basis.

I’m delighted to observe that our apprentices have demonstrated that they possess all the requisite skills and knowledge to succeed in IBM, both through their high success rate in apprenticeship qualification and also in achievement of promotions to higher professional levels in IBM.  We are very proud of them.
Jenny Taylor

My IBM Apprenticeship Opinion – John Longworth

Thinking back to when I began my time here on the IBM Apprenticeship, I’ve had a lot of amazing encounters and things happen. So I thought, now would be a great time to go back and give you all a small insight into all the good things that go on in an IBM Apprentice’s time.

So probably the best place to start is with the people. You meet so many of them sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but that’s one of the best things. There are so many other Apprentices you meet, with such a variety of experiences, expertise and sense of welcoming, it’s never seemingly difficult to get yourself unstuck with any issue or queries you have. It’s not difficult to find yourself a group of people either, wherever you end up, who make your whole work life feel like you’re involved in some sort of community. There are so many Apprentices scattered around the country, you’ll bump into them more often than you think!

The next thing surely has to be the experiences and activities you get to participate in. Just recently, for example, I was part of a IBM @ Wimbledon event for a select few Foundation members in which there where prizes up for grabs, plus the chance to go ahead and implement your own idea with the actual IBM Wimbledon team! (Unfortunately, my team didn’t win. Can’t win everything I guess!!). But that’s just an example of the types of events you could expect to take part in and have a chance to put yourself forward for, definitely something I would suggest doing and I’m going to continue to look for myself in the future! If anything, it’s an opportunity to meet and work with people that you wouldn’t usually on a day-to-day basis and you might even pick some new skills or tips along the way.

The number of work opportunities/roles and chances to pick up some expertise, in a technology area you couldn’t ever imagine yourself being a part of, is something that should, for sure, get a mention in this post. It’s actually, in it’s own way, something you have to take into your stride. Having that many opportunities available to you, in areas you don’t even know, but having the chance to learn, can become quite overwhelming at times. But from what I’ve seen and from my own experience, you’ve just got to go for it, put your best foot forward and just jump into the unknown, you often end up enjoying what you’ve done, picked up a new skill and become more prepared for the next role or opportunity that comes your way!

So, that’s just a brief few of the amazing encounters I’ve come across during my time as an IBM Apprentice. I didn’t really think all or many of these opportunities or encounters would actually happen, but they have, and I feel like I’ve tried to make the most of them whenever I can!

John Longworth