Tag Archives: career

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 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

My opinion of the IBM Degree Apprenticeship – Megan Murray


For my blog this quarter I decided to cover my opinion of the Degree Apprenticeship Scheme… and as a painfully honest person it’s always a little bit scary to voice your opinion on anything; let alone when your employer and people responsible for your future career will be reading what you have to say!

A summary for those of you reading who may not be aware of the scheme – the IBM Degree Apprenticeship is a part time degree over 4 years in Digital & Technology Solutions (Computer Science and Business essentially), and we attend Queen Mary University of London twice a week during term time and work at IBM for the rest of the time as normal employees. This year was the first year of the scheme and after a couple of weeks of exams the first year of uni will be complete!

The first opinion I guess I’d have to give is that it is hard work… you get plenty of uni students who struggle and they’re often not even having to balance going to work for one of the biggest tech/business companies alongside it all! It can be stressful and difficult to keep up with everything you’ve got going on, plus depending on your background, the content can be tough to get your head around, especially if you’re trying to learn stuff for work at the same time! Thankfully though IBM really are very flexible with it all and if you’re struggling, there is always something that can be done or someone who can help, but resilience definitely goes a long way.

The second thing is the number of opportunities to do something else in addition to your ‘everyday’ apprenticeship, it’s astounding! For me I wanted to fully focus on university and getting through first year until I really got involved in anything else, but I can’t wait to start to get stuck in to some other events and opportunities that are open to apprentices.

Thirdly, it’s massively rewarding… even more so because it is difficult. Whether it’s passing a mid-term or handing in a piece of coursework, or doing something to really help your team, or taking part in some Giveback. You are praised for what you do achieve, and supported in what is more difficult. The apprenticeship scheme at IBM is recognised and you are appreciated. It’s difficult not to be proud of yourself when everyone is telling you how much you should be when taking on a degree and work at the same time!

Finally, because it is a central reason why many people take apprenticeships, it’s undeniably a huge attraction not having to pay your uni fees and get in all that debt. They’re covered by the Government and IBM, plus you get a salary so technically you almost get paid to go to university, plus you get tons of real world experience and knowledge too… and that’s pretty sweet whichever way you look at it.

In summary, I guess my opinion is that if you’re willing to put in the hard work and dedication then this scheme is a really good option. It’s rewarding, comes with plenty of opportunities, gives you the chance to learn loads of new stuff and kick starts your career… I don’t think anybody could say that isn’t a good choice.

IBM Apprenticeship vs Uni (in the view of an Apprentice) – John Longworth

Firstly, a very brief recap of myself for anyone that may not have read my ‘Introductory’ post. I’m now in my 3rd and final year of the IBM apprenticeship programme (started WAY back in February 2014) and have worked on 2 very different client accounts in multiple varied roles. I came out of sixth form with a qualification in Game Design and decided University just wasn’t for me. So naturally (and after MUCH research), I decided an Apprenticeship would be the way I would go. Funnily enough – that’s what this post will be focused around, Apprenticeships vs Uni and my opinion on the whole debate, so let’s get into it.

So, from my experience, back in 2014, the cost of going to Uni had just risen and Apprenticeships were *starting* to become a choice for young people leaving education. This meant I had to decide whether I had enough passion for a specific subject to take the financial hit (we’re talking tens of thousands) and pursue it in Uni or to choose a route where I would gain actual experience in a sector I had interest in. Now, I had always had an interest in technology and sport, so if I was going to leave sixth-form and go into a sector, it would have been one of those two. I had the grades to go to Uni, don’t get me wrong, but after looking into Apprenticeships as an option, for me personally, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Paying so much money to go and earn a degree in something that I had no idea whether it would pay off in the end or not (or even if I’d still have the passion for anymore!) VS choosing an industry I had some interest in and spending 2/3 years gaining actual experience AND being paid for it. So either a Full Time job or an Apprenticeship where my options.

So the process of searching through the National Apprenticeships website and going to see career advisers for ANY opportunities which sounded like an opportunity began. This threw up a plethora of Apprenticeships in the IT industry (IBM, HP, Capgemini etc…), all of which were applied for. One  competency test and a trip to Portsmouth for an Assessment Centre later and I’d accepted the IBM offer before anyone else had even got back to me!

Now, let’s not make this ‘my story’, the point of this post is to give my positives and negatives of an Apprenticeship scheme compared to Uni. Let’s start with the negatives; not because it’s the first thing that comes to mind, but because I’m a believer of ending on a high note, so we’ll save the best for last!

Funnily enough, even hyper-critical me is finding it hard to pick any huge holes in the IBM Apprenticeship or why it would be beneficial to go to Uni instead. Maybe there’s a *little* bias in there I admit, but honestly, nothing is so glaring that it needs a specific mention of the IBM scheme. However, in a much broader sense there are cons to an Apprenticeship – nothings ever perfect. Firstly, not having the ‘moving out and going to Uni’ experience, which I imagine is what attracts a lot of people to go to Uni, because they get to live away from home full time, but that doesn’t mean that in IBM you don’t have that opportunity, you just have to find the right project far enough away! Or the fact it’s a steep learning curve to going from education where you’re just taught what you need to know, to go into situations where you might have to meet real life client deadlines and take on a lot of responsibilities which could impact more than just yourself. For some people, that could become a little overwhelming but if this is something you feel okay with missing out on or dealing with, then yet again, most things seem to be in an Apprenticeships favour.

Now for the easy part, the pros to the Apprenticeship. Let’s start at the point which sways most peoples opinions, one way or the other. The cost. I think this somewhat speaks for itself, you can go on from the Apprenticeship debt free and without the worry of having to pay off tuition fees, student loans and the like. Coupled with this is the fact that you ‘earn while you learn’. Earning money while gaining a qualification is definitely a positive thing and if you’re the type of person who wants to start earning as soon as you can, then this should be the biggest incentive you could ask for. Not only this but Apprentices learn on the job, all the while you’re building up your skills which can be taken forward into you’re career. For example I’ve gained a qualification in ITIL (Service Management) and can now prefix myself with AMBCS. Which is something I’m personally quite proud of, but also something that being in an Apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to do. The amount of learning I could do within IBM internally itself I feel like probably rivals the amount you could learn in a specific subject while in Uni!

Overall, even after going over all the pros and cons in preparation for this post (a lot of which I’ve not included, as to not drag this on too long), I feel like I’ve not only just made the correct decision now, but in terms of my future, whether that be within IBM or in my career in general, I think being an Apprentice is going to help me, no end. I mean, just take a look at the rest of the posts on this blog if you don’t believe me! 🙂

John Longworth

Graduation and the road to Promotion – Craig Wilkinson


It’s me again! I know it’s been a while since I last posted but I thought I’d use some downtime productively and fill you in on some exciting milestones I’m currently experiencing in my time as an IBM Apprentice.

If you’re an avid and regular reader of our Blog, I’m sure you have a general gist of how the Apprentice scheme at IBM works. You join as a permanent IBM employee from day one, have two weeks of essential induction being taught how to work the IBM way safely and professionally, start in real roles, doing real work with real Clients, attend tailored IBM education courses to improve professional effectiveness, teamwork and communication, as well as learn how to handle relationships with the Client and during all this you are looked after by the Foundation team for three years.

You will also know that by the time you come to the end of the three years, the essential part of proving your education to earn the qualification, graduation and progression into the business as a regular IBMer await you.

As you may have read from my previous posts, I am now in that crucial, final stretch of the Apprenticeship and have achieved my Apprentice qualification. What has happened since then? I officially graduated!

On 14th March 2016, coinciding with the start of National Apprenticeship Week (read what IBM Apprentices did here), we celebrated the graduation of 28 Apprentices (including myself) who had worked hard over roughly two to three years and achieved their Apprentice Qualifications.

14th March 2016 Apprentice Graduation

The Graduation day was held in IBM Southbank, London, and celebrated the success of the Apprentices over the two-to-three years as well as continually blowing the trumpet for the opportunities and success for Apprentices in general.

IBM UK General Manager David Stokes was also in attendance of the event and explained his passion for Apprenticeships and the impact Apprentices have had for IBM in the UK. Along with David, we also had a talk from Foundation leader Jenny Taylor and the Apprenticeship leader Jez Brooks. Also, a special  mention to the many parents, siblings, partners and friends that came along to celebrate!

Once the Graduation day ended and all the handshakes and certificates had been given out, many Apprentices disbanded from their family and friends and joined other Apprentices in various drinking establishments to celebrate the proper way.

Once the fun of Graduation and the celebration of being Apprentice went away and the normality of work returned, what did I do? I begun working on my promotion case.

The criteria for an Apprentice to progress from Foundation into the business as a ‘normal’ IBMer is to create a promotion package in an IBM tool called Career Framework and provide the relevant evidence so, once approved, you would be proposed for the next promotion level. The promotion package pretty much sums up the work you have done as an Apprentice and allows you to progress and obtain higher levels if that is where your ambitions lie.

I recently had my promotion approved which means that any day I will receive communication that I have been promoted which is a very important milestone in anyone’s career and especially important when you’re an IBM Apprentice as it would mean that you are now being progressed into business and will be considered just like any other IBM.

I’ve been told by a few ex-Apprentices that the journey really begins once you’re promoted!

– Craig Wilkinson



6 months! Feels more like 6 weeks! – Megan Murray

It’s official, next week will mark 6 months to the day that I joined IBM. I’m still so new, but now, already in that time, so many more new starters have joined and are even newer than me! I’m Megan, new to IBM and new to this blog, so … Hi!

I’m from the midlands, went to school, sixth form, had a couple of part time jobs whilst there, and had some idea around going into a design/marketing job after I had finished studying. I applied to study a foundation degree in art & design to see if it was what I really wanted to do before committing to university, and I didn’t even make it to enrollment. I thought travelling Europe would be a far better way to spend that time (and I wasn’t wrong!) The other important revelation though was that I didn’t want another year in school to see if a design-y job was for me, I wanted to see if I could cut it in the real world. My Dad was the one who suggested I look at internships with the likes of IBM, suggesting I could use my love of design in a more practical way, for a job in consulting maybe, or in marketing to aid communication. As soon as I started my research I realised this would be the perfect company to gain a year’s work experience with and I applied.

I completed the application form, agonising over whether I’d have a chance in a million; I completed the horrible IPAT, feeling certain that I had failed. Each stage had such a long wait for the email to say I was through to the next filter, but I made it to London for the assessment centre, completed the group tasks and I sat down in front of my interviewer ready with my presentation about myself and IBM. The question that threw me in that interview: ‘Why didn’t you apply for an apprenticeship?’. Honestly, it was because when I had first applied I had only wanted work experience, to see if it was for me, to help decide what to do next, but this no longer applied, I knew I wanted to work here, I like learning and I wanted to gain qualifications as well as skills… so, I was moved from Futures onto the apprenticeship application track.

It got to the time I was leaving to go travelling and I still hadn’t heard much, I thought my chances would be ruined because I was away and wouldn’t be able to go to London for interviews. However, IBM understood, I had phone calls on the roof of a hostel in Munich, in Vienna, a failed phone call in Rome thanks to building works, then more calls on a beach in northern Italy, then France. My application process was by no means a normal one, but everyone is different. I was in the south of France when it was confirmed I was being hired by IBM as an apprentice; it wasn’t till all the admin came through a week later on iffy WIFI on an old computer in a hostel in Barcelona that I actually allowed myself to believe I had it.

A month or two later and I had moved to London, started and completed the 2 week induction and got started in to my role supporting a software sales team.

6 months after starting and my role has evolved and expanded as I’ve settled in. It feels like it’s been no more than 6 weeks, but when I look at how much I have done, how much I have learnt and the opportunities I have had, well, no art & design foundation degree could of taught me all of that.