Category Archives: Goals & Aspirations

Goals achieved for 2016 – Joe Barry

2016 was a year full of ups and downs, for Business, Politics and Sports alike. For me I will remember this as the year IBM helped me to achieve all my goals. When I started the year, I had three things I needed to do for my career and anything less than all 3 would be disappointing. January 2016 I was in Swindon working as an Industry Tester and by December 2016 I was a Project Management Officer (PMO) in Hursley. Allow me to talk through my journey.

  1. Improve my Work/Life Balance.
  2. Make an effort to learn new skills that would help me in the future.
  3. Determine my next career steps and start the journey towards it

Why would I or anyone need to improve my work/life balance?

Well in my case I was living in Portsmouth but working in Swindon. Monday I would travel up, staying a hotel and at 6pm on Friday I traveled back home. I found that I was always tired and quickly got bored of the routine. My family were under the impression that I was living the sweet life. I would always get the same comment.

“Staying in hotels must be great, don’t have to tidy up, use the laundry service for your clothes, food gets brought to your door”

This was all true but once you have been in hotels for a year the novelty had worn off.  When I finished the work day I would get back and start thinking about the stuff I needed to do the next day. I never switched off.

So, to remedy this I spoke to my IBM manager and asked for some help in getting a role closer to home that would still test me and progress my career. I got my ideal roles narrowed down to Project Management or Test Specialist and I used my network to speak to a couple of managers in Hursley. By April I had found a test role that fitted all my criteria however I needed some specific skills in order to be most effective at the role.

Therefore, I needed to make an effort to learn new skills that would help me perform in my ideal role.

The problem I faced was that I have only ever worked with client systems. I was not versed in IBM software or hardware. In this situation to have all the educational tools IBM provides was extremely beneficial. I spoke to the test manager and found out all the skills needed and found most of them on Think foundation and Code Academy online courses.

Finally, I was ready to fill my new role but was informed that I was no longer needed. The role had already been filled by someone else. This was because the end date on my previous role was too late and the test manager needed someone ASAP. I was still wanted for a test role but in the meantime my test manager used her network to find me a PMO role in Hursley.

I was relieved that I was able to carry on working in Hursley but wasn’t too sure about filling a PMO role, within the first day I realised it was the perfect position to determine my next career steps.

The PMO works with the Business and Project Managers to deal with contractor admin tasks. This ranges from on-boarding to access requests to contractor agency queries. As PMO I can use my connections with Project Managers and Technical contractors to figure out what I want to do and how I can do it. To gain a better insight to the project management role I attended an IT Infrastructure Library course that covers all types of management from service to operations and many others. I loved the course and wished I’d done it earlier. I have a new-found appreciation for how the business works and how many mover parts are in play to drive value to customers. I had already done a lot of technical courses but I enjoyed seeing them work in real life and what a Software Developer does day to day.

From my experiences both in technical and management I am currently finding a technical role that I would be happy with. I have the foundation in place to do so and other options available if I change my mind.

Thanks to IBM, I was given a lot of role options that would help improve my work life balance. IBM’s Think academy meant I was able to gather the skills to fill any role I desire. I can now see the bigger picture when it comes to business and a view of day to day tasks of technical professions all of which has helped me craft a destination for my career.

Joe Barry.


It’s all about the Goals! – Gus Parkhouse

Is anybody really 100% sure about their exact goals? I know I wasn’t – during 2016 a new goals measuring system was introduced at IBM. This new system showed the five areas we’d be measured against and it was up to me to decide what targets I would set. This was a new and more efficient way of having ever-evolving goals that are continually relevant to the work or tasks I’m doing.

My goals needed to be evaluated against 5 key pillars, and I used them as self-set targets or milestones which, in order to attain these goals, I had to meet. When setting any of these goals it gave the option to set a status message. The status options were closed, completed, on-going and on-track. These options helped to track the status of each target, and whether I needed to set new goals or develop the older ones to be relevant.

I wanted to have challenging goals that would stretch my knowledge and ability, and would put me out of my comfort zone. I will be using this method to set my goals for 2017 and in order to help me develop further. It also helped dramatically with my educational needs as it allowed me to forecast what education I might need to meet a set goal. For example “Complete ITIL foundation by the end of Q2”. This pushed me to complete the course and also had a specific time deadline. Once this goal was completed, I added a small explanation of what I had achieved as well as a copy of the certificate, and then updated the status to show my manager what I had achieved and to keep him up to date with my progress.

As it was a new system, my goals were very specific in the areas I was comfortable in but slightly more ambiguous in other areas. The new system did allow me to update my targets so that if they started off vague but then became more and more specific I could change them which helped me to tailor my targets in order to get the most out of my development and continue to push myself.

For 2017, I’ll be setting goals that range between my apprenticeship work and account work, as this will help me to track both of these, but will also provide my managers with an up to date view of my current progress. I’m sure you will all be happy to know that my targets will also be in the SMART format as I find this to be the most effective method.

I have found that having goals that are always evolving is a lot more beneficial compared to static targets that do not change over the course of the year. In the future I will be using this method as I feel that at times it has been challenging due to time constraints, but I have also reaped the benefits of this such as education, personal development and also helping me track my progress along the year with a visible trail to measure it against.

If you have any questions then please contact me on LinkedIn

Gus Parkhouse.

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.

Goals – What are they worth? – Will Spiers

Within IBM – and probably almost all organisation for that matter – you’re driven to create goals. They create focus, allow you to measure progress, they are motivating and help drive overall direction. They come in many variations, from global organisation wide goals, to ones at an individual level. Now personally, I’ve always been an awful goal setter, and I’d be the first to admit I always saw them as more of a tick box exercise than something to actually work against and track the progress of. However, IBM introduced a specific tool recently for setting and tracking goals, I’d never of assumed it would genuinely the change the way I see and set my goals – but it certainly has. I’d be dramatic if I called it an epiphany, but it’s something loosely along those lines; when I had some spare time at the beginning of this year, I began to invest more time in updating my goals in the tool and plotting my progress consistently each week. Getting this into my routine and creating some discipline around doing it means I now rarely forget, often updating nothing and other times adding lengthy editions – it’s all valuable as it draws you back to that focal point. The tool enables this style of regular updates very well, much better in fact than the previous system of setting goals at the beginning of the year, and then generally waiting till the end to evaluate them in any depth – it’s certainly a testament to the tool that I’ve changed my ways! Now because of my new and improved drive to set and stick to goals, I thought it would be interesting to write a blog post exploring the different types of goals, what I feel I’ve learnt over the past year or so and my plans for 2017.

I think it’s important to set apart two different types of goals – those driven for personal development reasons and those related to a project. I think these are both of equal importance, but generally project related goals (for me at least) are more clear cut – you hit that deadline or you don’t, you successfully implement that release or you don’t. Now this is undoubtedly simplifying it somewhat, but I think the point stands – project goals are less around creating your own direction and more about pulling out what you’re required to do in your day job, and placing some kind of measurement around it to ensure you’re accountable and your performance is measurable. In comparison, personal development goals need to be driven largely from within, which is something I’ve personally found tricky – if you don’t know definitively what you want to do in 10 years’ time, how can you know where to aim? The last point brings me to something else I want to elaborate on; you should have goals set with different timescales, for example it’s not practical to work against a 10 year goal on a daily basis, it would be simply overwhelming, you have to break this down into smaller goals.

So what have I done to improve? Well, throughout 2016 I’ve taken a few steps to try and improve my goal setting. Firstly, I sit and I think about what I actually want to achieve and where I want to be in a years’ time. I then try to break this down and look at how I can build to that point, these different steps are what make up the basis of my goals. After which I try to ensure that each different aspect has an element that makes me accountable, for instance if I put a specific time against achieving something it’s then clear cut if I’ve failed – this is what helps constantly drive me to succeed.

What do I want to achieve in 2017? Despite us still being within the bounds of 2016, I’ve already begun to think about what personal development goals I’m going to set myself for the coming year. Now one thing that really hit me this year, was the benefit of certifications, having some kind of formal recognition of a skill or attribute can be incredibly valuable for IBM, our clients and at a personal level. Being within Foundation, we apprentices are incredibly lucky that there is a whole host of certifications on offer, as such, over the past few months I’ve been looking into which of these would benefit me the most, and have now begun to plan them in for next year – currently it’s Agile and Prince, the former being a forward thinking methodology that’s becoming increasingly popular across IBM and the wider industry, and the latter being a well-established and widely used project management framework. Both of these are easily made into goals that are specific, measurable and achievable. Some of my goals are also spanning wider than just a year, and I shall be taking them across to 2017 with me to continue working against – this has been the case for many of my project related goals, given that the majority of my deadlines are not this time year.

So that’s my whistle stop tour of my goals, I hope all have a good Christmas and I shall likely be back in 2017 with more blogs – let’s see what the new year brings, perhaps an update on the progress of my goals at some stage?

Will Spiers.

2016 Year in Review – John Longworth

So, the year’s coming to an end and it’s time for my final blog post of 2016. I thought the best thing would be for me to do a recap and short summary of how things have gone. Firstly and most importantly, I’ve officially had my Career Framework signed off, which means I will eventually move out of Foundation (and essentially complete the Apprenticeship) at some point in the New Year. Putting 3+ years into something and to finally be told you’ve completed it is definitely an achievement worth mentioning. So I am!

Second small win of the year would have to be moving accounts to Hursley. Which is surprisingly much bigger than I was expecting, moving from the relatively small Preston account!. This also involved getting onto TAP (Temporary accommodation) and therefore getting the keys for and moving into my shiny new flat in Southampton. Top Tip – Prepare before moving into somewhere new if you do get TAP, having no WiFi and TV for 2 weeks is no fun at all. Also, Amazon is your friend. Moving in and gaining the independence which you don’t get while at home was something I didn’t know what to expect out of. But I reckon I’ve took to it like a fish in water, some may disagree, but I’m still alive (essential) and my Christmas decorations, including tree are already up (even more essential), so I reckon I’ve not done too bad for a newbie.

Back to the moving part, moving accounts has definitely been a challenge. The Change Management role which I moved to has potentially made it more confusing than I initially anticipated. Change Management is a team of 2 and we look after all the changes for the multitudes (probably an understatement) of projects ran on the account. Sounds easy right? So having to learn literally every project on the account and what fits in where certainly isn’t easy, but I’ve given it my best shot and I can’t say it’s gone too badly. There’s a lot to take in when you move to a new project, as I’m sure most are aware. But for any that don’t know the pain yet (firstly, you will), expect to leave work, a lot of days, not knowing what even went on in the past 8 hours. It does eventually click, just got to keep trying!

Trying to keep this short, so probably (definitely)  missing out things which should be included. E.g Attending the Think Foundation event in September, learning a lot about Cognitive in IBM, listening to some rather interesting speakers (Including Olympic Gold Medallist James Cracknell!) and having an overall brilliant day. So, speaking on behalf of most people who attended I’m sure, big thanks to Foundation, for putting on that event, and keep them coming in the future!. After saying I’m keeping it short then going on that tangent, I should probably just summarise before I end up writing even more and literally staying in work forever (It’s already 6:30pm!)

So overall, the years had it’s ups and down, as years tend to do, but it’s been a mostly positive year for sure. Huge thanks to all the people I’ve met along the way and the people who’ve given me opportunities I’d otherwise not have had (Including this blog, so thanks to Craig and Avtar for having me on here) and I look forward to seeing or working with most of you again in the coming year.

Thanks for anyone who’s read whatever I’ve written in the past 12 months and I’m sure our paths will end up crossing at some point, they do seem to in IBM! Hopefully it’s been enjoyable and as it’s now December, should wish you all a Happy Holidays and overall just look forward to see what madness 2017 brings!

John Longworth.

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. (

Joe Barry.