Tag Archives: apprenticeship

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 https://www.linkedin.com/profile/preview?locale=en_US&trk=prof-0-sb-preview-primary-button

Gus Parkhouse.

Networking, Is It All It’s Cracked Up To Be? – Gus Parkhouse

In my first few days at IBM it seemed to be one in every five words was “Networking”, now that I’m a year in I can see why this was emphasised so much. I know working for a tech company you’re probably thinking why is computer networking so important to IBM and why does everyone keep talking about it? Although computer networking is important as connects components and nodes this blog is all about social and workplace networking. I’ve started to really see the benefits from good networking and constantly growing my network, these benefits are;

–     Opportunities

  • Connections, Knowing people in different places
  • Advice
  • Positive Influence
  • Confidence
  • Friendship
  • Add feedback

Through speaking to my line manager I have found many opportunities such as moving from an account in London to one closer to my home in Manchester, allowing me to spend more time with friends and also allowing me to be more sociable outside of work without having to stay in rented accommodation. Without knowing who to approach this would have been a lot more of a strenuous and time consuming task. It also helped me to know who to approach with certain aspects of work, for example Cognitive computing, as I found that just knowing one person in this area was positive  as it helped to open up doors to other members of that team and eventually help progress an extremely tricky task.

Since starting as an apprentice in IBM and building a great network of apprentice architects in one base location, I have now moved to the other side of the country and don’t have the pleasure of seeing apprenticeship colleagues on a daily basis anymore. But this hasn’t stopped me from networking with them, it just changed the ways in which I do it. Face to face turned into instant messaging, phone call, text messages and e-mails. I still ask this network the questions that I feel would defy the quote “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” and they’re happy to help. I went from working in an office with distinguished engineers to working from home for 3 weeks, during this time I had to call upon my network for the majority of information needed. I found working remotely from home a very big challenge as I was getting minimal human interaction which is the opposite of what I had the week before. I also created some new connections in this period with the Chief Architect of the new account I was heading on too. My new network connections into the architects team came in incredibly handy when joining IBM and learning what was vital to learn and what could wait.

When I had settled into my new account and had started to settle in, I was advised that a new Deputy Chief Architect was joining the account. When he arrived on the account I took the time to sit down and have a chat with him that eventually turned in to going to grab some lunch to get know more about what he had previously done and what he was expecting of me, but also a less work-related chat about what he was interested in that turned into him becoming a mentor for me and helping me with architecture and learning.

On the new account I have been able to expand my network further in a very short amount of time as I now work with such a vast team, this networking has helped me to expand my knowledge and get involved in a lot more tasks. This ever expanding networking has been great for helping my confidence in meetings with both the client and senior members of the team as they are there to reinforce the information I’m putting forward. Not forgetting to mention the social benefits of being involved in a mixed team, and all of the networking I have taken part in has helped me to develop my LinkedIn profile and help create a strong virtual network.

At the beginning, I won’t lie, I was very skeptical of what the hype around “Networking” was but now after just a year I can see that this is and will always be a massively important tool throughout my career. I would now say I agree with the old proverb “It’s not what you know but who you know” and can see where it possibly came from.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, feel free to message me on LinkedIn for any questions. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gus-parkhouse-288855101)

Gus Parkhouse.

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.

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

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

My opinion of the IBM apprenticeship scheme – Richard Cure

It’s time for another reflective yet hopefully informative piece on my opinion of the apprenticeship scheme! There are a multitude of things to consider and talk about for just an “opinion” so I’ll keep it down to the main points I think are most important.

The first thing I would say is the people that make up the scheme have been great – from my project team, to the whole team at IBM UK Foundation to interesting and talented apprentices – they’ve all made it a great place to work at. The network of support we get from Foundation, including the buddy or two you are assigned, is absolutely crucial to help you settle in for the first few months.

The scheme is great for giving apprentices opportunities. I’ve had the opportunity to attend many different events across IBM UK, for example I’ve attended skills workshops, technical networking events and industry days to name a few. Most of these involved some sort of travel which meant I’ve gained important knowledge of the UK’s roads and motorways too!

I’ve had opportunities in my job role to move between various areas on the project and learn about a range of different technologies. I’m not even halfway through the duration of my apprenticeship and I’ve already been asked to lead a team on my project which was unexpected but made me realise how far I have come since I joined.

One thing that attracted me to the scheme before applying was the fact that apprentices are permanent from day 1, unlike other apprenticeships available, meaning you can’t really go wrong (unless you ask to leave yourself or you do something very stupid which causes IBM to question why they should employ you further!) So it’s a career for life if you want it!

Even though we are apprentices we are not treated any differently to employees on the other Foundation schemes like the Graduate and Futures schemes. My project has welcomed me and treated me with respect which as part of IBM’s culture and company values is to be expected and it’s rather humbling that I am trusted with responsibility to deliver real work to real clients on real projects. Of course there is pressure on this and it can be overwhelming sometimes but I would say you only truly grow when you jump into the unknown.

Another good thing about the scheme is that the training IBM provide is excellent. There’s a mandatory training programme for apprentices in which you learn all about IBM, get taught some key models and frameworks for use in everyday business and get to apply it in practice sessions. Throughout these sessions you are getting vital feedback from the trainers, peers and managers and opportunities to do things which you perhaps wouldn’t do in your main role e.g. presenting and selling. I’ve really enjoyed learning these skills from the excellent trainers IBM provide and applying them in a safe environment with some of the other apprentices on the scheme.

Things IBM could improve about the scheme – the onboarding processes could have been better and quicker but now I’m in IBM I understand why. The nature of the work IBM is involved in means that the role needs to be a good fit for the candidate and the candidate also needs to fit the role, so it’s vital that the decision to take on an apprentice works for both parties which can take time. Due to IBM’s size, it is possible that your Foundation Manager will be based elsewhere in the UK from you which means you might find it difficult to be face to face – but this isn’t always necessary and IBM has all the tools and technology available to facilitate communication at any time.

Overall I would say the scheme is a fantastic first step into employment and a scheme which offers many opportunities to shine, progress, grow and learn.

 

Thanks for reading,

Richard Cure