Category Archives: Day in the Life

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

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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

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.

A Day in Architecture – Gus Parkhouse

Quick question – which of these do you think Architects really do?

  1. Engages with clients.
  2. Create and design Architectural deliverables.
  3. Generate solutions to a client’s requests.
  4. Use emerging technologies to create innovative ideas to help their clients reach their full potential.
  5. Provide technical leadership.

The answer is in fact all of these. Yes, it’s true that architects really do get involved in quite a broad range of activities. I’m going to give you a closer look into what I personally do on a normal day in my role as an apprentice Infrastructure Architect. I perform a variety of tasks but I’ll start from the beginning.

When I arrive at work I need to check my email as there may be some important tasks from other members of my team. This also gives me a chance to see if I have had any replies to questions or requests that I have sent out, whilst also seeing if there are any updates amongst the communities I am a member of.  As sad as it sounds, I quite enjoy catching up on my emails in the morning as it sets the flow of the day. Whilst checking my emails I also see what meetings or calendar invites I have been sent so I can plan my day around these. These two pretty basic tasks help me to get organised and prepared for the day ahead.

On the account I am currently on, one of my main tasks is to review work requests for capacity management of servers and the allocation of these servers in their physical racks. This is an ongoing task for myself and helps to develop my knowledge of the accounts infrastructure. The requests for placement are sent across from various different team members on the accounts and it is my responsibility to place these correctly and supply the corresponding information back to them.

On this account I am also the Governance manager for all architects. This involves taking on board the work that each architect is doing and then formatting this into an easily understandable format and passing it to the chief architect, this allows him to correctly request and supply resources when necessary. As the Governance manager I also deal with all the key collateral documents on the account that help, as suggested by the name, govern the architecture work stream on the account. This requires some time with the chief architect on the account to discuss details of what we are delivering to the account, and relay these details to other architects. One of the governance documents shows the technical overview of the account and what we have promised we will deliver to the customer regarding technology, as you can imagine it’s very helpful for myself.

I also go to meetings to discuss work deliverables, which helps to build my knowledge for tasks both internal and external. The majority of my meetings are client facing which helps to build my confidence but I do also have internal meetings. In the internal meetings with other IBMers we discuss new patent ideas and review existing ideas that may need a bit of work. We also have catch up teleconference meetings to see what other apprentices are doing, whether this be the architect apprentices or the wider apprentice community, as well as “Lunch and Learns” which are very informative as some of them relate to new emerging technology or roles that I work alongside.

In the Architecture role, I’m helping to create supporting documentation for other architects including the chief architect on the account. This helps me to get a better understanding of the account and also build core knowledge on the documentation process for myself to use later on down the line. It’s beneficial to myself as an apprentice architect also because it can be used for part of my assessment evidence. Sometimes it can be daunting as when I come across a new document I haven’t seen before I like to try having a go for myself before asking multiple clarifying questions.

As any and all apprentices will say during their apprenticeship, I spend a segment of my working week writing up part of my OCR Mapping document. This involves finding and refining evidence from past activities as well as asking team members to give a statement to help reinforce the evidence I have obtained.

I regularly speak to my buddies regarding any work queries or apprentice queries, but also just to chat and catch up with them as I’ve become quite good friends with them. They are always happy to chat and listen to any problems I have and help to find a solution to them, or point me in the direction of someone that may be able to help.

Some of the information I manage in my role is requested by other teams, for example capacity management details. When these requests come through, I look through the information I have available to me and then send on the relevant data. If I don’t have the data I advise them who might have it and pass on their request. Throughout my day I receive and send emails, so it is vital that I keep on top of emails that I’ve received through the afternoon as they may be requests for vital information.

I do spend parts of my day, but not every day, looking through and diving deeper into education. This education can be role specific or a more general topic that IBM suggests may be helpful to take some time to learn.

Of course I do the important task of getting a cup of coffee, for myself, to help keep the energy high on more demanding tasks.

Gus Parkhouse

Training: the core part of any Apprenticeship – Megan Murray

One of the most common questions asked about apprenticeships is about the quality of training available. Is it actually worthwhile? Do you actually get taught anything or do you just do the rubbish jobs nobody else wants? Does the employer really care about you and your learning or is it purely to fill a quota?

Well, I thought for my blog this quarter I’d give some insight into some IBM training I’ve received, because let’s face it, before you start work it’s impossible to know what to expect from ‘training days/weeks’.

I receive training throughout my apprenticeship of course, with various formal education days around various subjects, I recently attended a Digital Marketing Workshop day for instance; then I have university learning; there’s online learning, with IBM’s ‘Think 40’ initiative which promotes IBMers completing at least 40 hours of learning a year and which provides lots of online videos, reading and even games to learn more about various topics; and finally there’s informal learning that happens every day, in the form of guidance from those around me.

Last week I went on a 1 week long formal education course, and I thought I’d make this the focus of today’s blog post as an example of one of these training methods.

I’d been looking forward to this course for a while (yep, looking forward to training, I said it!) I’d heard good feedback about it from those who had been on it previously and I knew it was centred around talking to and presenting to clients, which is something I was beginning to dip my feet in to with work and needed a real confidence boost with. Whilst those I’d spoke to had said that the course did have a bit of a tough ‘practice interview’ that they hadn’t been too fond of, I was still eager to go and see what I could learn. I knew I’d be going with new IBMers I hadn’t met before either which I always look forward to and it was based at a conference venue/hotel down near Southampton, so provided a change of scenery for a week too which is always refreshing.

The training itself was intense, and at times quite stressful, especially when you were put under the spotlight having to question a purposefully awkward customer, but it had fun aspects too and it really did teach me a lot. There were so many things that had been brushed over in conversations I’d had with others about how to talk to clients but that hadn’t quite clicked with me in the way they did through this training course. It gave me the opportunity to learn and practice, get feedback, and learn and practice some more, before actually going through this process with a real customer and gave me plenty more confidence for when this does happen. I feel more prepared now, more able to guide the conversation and with a clearer idea of how to get what I want from it, whilst ensuring the customer does too.

In a year’s time I’ll be invited on a follow up course to this one, even more intensive, with even more difficult practice customers, and even worse, I’ll be graded (always scary!) But, in that time I’ll have had a year of real life practice, a chance to read up more on what I’ve learnt and more chances to learn from others too. Plus, I’ll have learnt tonnes of other things in the meantime too!

So, in answer to those common apprenticeship questions: At IBM, yes, the training is high quality; yes it’s worthwhile, it’s relevant; yes, you get taught lots and it’s not just ‘rubbish’ jobs, there’s lots of exciting things to do; and IBM take plenty of care to provide plenty of training and development opportunities, you won’t come out not having learnt anything.

Megan Murray.

Year One (and a bit) Reflection – William Spiers

Given I’ve been with IBM for over a year now – one year and four months to be exact – I thought it would be the perfect time to do a year one (and a bit) reflection. I hope to give a broader view of my experiences at IBM, rather than focusing on a specific element, as I have in my previous two blogs. There have been many different aspects to my time at IBM, my job role being just one piece of this puzzle, with an abundance of opportunities and experiences outside of this – something I hope is portrayed clearly across this post!

My first role back in 2015: Application Support within a small team on a client site. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know lots about it already, so I won’t go into too much depth again. To summarise, I learnt such a variety of things and it was constantly challenging, but one thing it lacked for me was real depth on any specific topics. This – especially for a first role – was a major benefit, since it gave me a small amount of experience across so many different topics; it provided breadth, but not depth. Consequently, when moving on I wanted to drill down into a more specific area. As such, this was my focus and priority when looking for new roles. The process of finding the right role for me took some time, as it relied upon multiple things all falling into place. However, a month or two after starting the move process, it all began to click…

So, come April I moved onto another account, and into another very different role. This time my job title is Service Management Consultancy (although this is very loose and I’m beginning to feel often doesn’t represent my actual day job accurately!) My primary focus is on the service management tooling, and by this I mean a service desk/help desk tool that’s used to log incidents, changes and problems amongst many, many other things. Within this I am currently working on setting up the various Metrics for the client, such as Service Level Agreements. These are essentially measurements that record how quickly various things are done, from responding to an incident, to calculating the down-time of specific applications for each month. This has already proved to be very challenging, but in turn it’s certainly rewarding when you get it! The role has begun to develop, even at this early stage, and I have now started to build the results of these metrics into an analytics tool, which will mostly be used for reporting purposes, as well as giving live feedback on performance. I’ve found this aspect particularly interesting, as it holds the ability to chop data up in different ways to get genuinely meaningful statistics. I may have studied statistics at A Level – and enjoyed it! – but this work has provided a whole new aspect to the discipline, helping me to appreciate its real-world applicability first hand. Additionally, despite the obvious differences between my roles, I’ve found so many skills have been transferable – be it dealing with the client, or having an understanding of service management in general.

As promised, enough of job roles – I want to cover some other aspects, starting with Foundation courses. When you join IBM as an apprentice, you are housed under Foundation, which essentially gives you more flexibility in terms of learning, and more opportunities to develop yourself. Throughout the 3 years you spend within Foundation as an apprentice, there are many compulsory courses to attend, and although I’ve only attended around half of these so far, I’ve already taken so much away. To date the topics have tended to be relatively general, so everyone can take something away. For example, they’ve involved a lot of learning around how you present yourself, and dealing with client conversations. This is invaluable learning, which you’re guaranteed to use both immediately and throughout a career, regardless of the path you end up following.

This takes me onto the other types of courses and learning I have utilized in my time so far – compulsory foundations courses are just a small slice of what’s available. For me, particularly initially, the online training resources within IBM proved to be very beneficial, as well as flexible. For example in my first 6 months, whenever I got any spare time I would do a short online course, which enabled me to gain an introductory understanding to many different topics. This also helped me to distinguish between what I did and, more importantly, did not find interesting. Alongside this there are an abundance of reading resources available, from services that offer thousands of titles, to IBM published Red Books. Again, these are generally my go-to when I hear something I want to find out more about, and something I’ve used frequently.

In terms of learning, that brings me finally to external courses. You’re probably getting the general gist by now, but again there are (at least in my experience) many opportunities to do courses and certifications from other providers. When joining my current role, I was given the opportunity to travel abroad to take a course on a specific tool we’d be using. This was not only a fantastic experience, but I was able to come away with knowledge on specific areas, which I was then easily able to utilise on a daily basis in my role. Furthermore, I’ve also signed up for a course in ITIL – this is a Service Management certification that’s recognised widely throughout the industry, and not only is it great to have on your CV, but it is also applicable in so many different scenarios.

The final aspect of my time I want to touch on is the giveback opportunities. These are essentially opportunities for you to take some time out of your daily routine to – as the name suggests – give something back. For example, I’ve been involved in multiple outreach style courses, where students from local areas have been invited into IBM locations to spend a day understanding what IBM can offer, and the various different student programs. I think this kind of thing is particularly important, I personally stumbled upon the IBM scheme to a certain extent, and although awareness for this sort of program seems to be growing, any encouragement and education around what they can offer is still hugely valuable. I know I would have snapped up opportunities at college to hear about my wider career options!

William Spiers