Tag Archives: choices

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! What Is It Really Worth? – Gus Parkhouse

An opinion is a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. It could also be a statement of advice by an expert on a professional matter. The following is my opinion of the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, although I am not an expert on this matter.

I considered a lot of points when writing this blog, but the main one I kept coming back to was the stigma I thought would be attached to the title of apprentice. I was concerned about being at the lowest entry point in the company and being treated differently because of this. Therefore, I wanted to make a positive impression as quickly as I could after joining the company to help tackle this worry. I also thought the people in IBM would judge me for doing an apprenticeship instead of going to university, but working alongside and talking to graduates showed me that there are benefits to both paths.

After a few days into the scheme, and when all the admin work was completed, I was quickly shown that I was not seen in this negative light at all for being an apprentice. I was treated with respect from the moment I met with my peers and felt very welcomed. This was quickly reinforced when I was given a large amount of responsibility for work deliverables in a short amount of time. The perception was set that I was trusted and this gave me good expectations for my future as an IBM apprentice.

During the first days I also had a chance read through an online description of the scheme. It mentioned that I would be considered a permanent employee and the scheme would be flexible with the roles, work-life balance, exposure, experience and great benefits that are offered to all the staff. These are all true and, put simply, it does what it says on the tin. The apprenticeship scheme provides a more than adequate amount of training; helping me to develop my technical, business and personal skills. The two week intensive induction provides a good cushion of technical and business knowledge to fall back on if necessary. The induction also helped me to ask any questions about the scheme out in front of other apprentices who may have the same worries.

On the scheme I have developed a great social and work colleague network around me that consists of early professionals, distinguished engineers, managers and senior employees. This network helps me to develop in my role, which I see as being the most important aspect of the scheme for me and the business as a whole. Within this network I have an early professional’s manager (EPM) that helps me with queries that aren’t related to my account, no matter how small they may seem. This is incredibly supportive as apprentices can be quite young and in need of a mentor to be able to talk to whenever it is necessary. My EPM has also helped me to develop through routine reviews to gain feedback, work on a development program and see what is necessary to progress in my career.

To emphasise how strong my network as an apprentice at IBM is, I have been assigned two “buddies” who are more experienced apprentices. The two buddies I have been assigned have been able to help me with work, as they are both in the same role as me, and help me with any queries I have about the scheme, as they have experienced it themselves.

The time it took to get onto the scheme was lengthy. There were times when I wouldn’t hear from the IBM team for a while and the gap between the assessment centres was quite nerve wracking. However, my assessment results were sent out quickly. The HR team were very obliging during the application and on-boarding process, helping me to feel at ease with starting and creating a good first impression.

There are a lot of apprenticeship schemes available in this day and age, but my opinion is that this is the best suited for me as it caters to my need to grow and develop continuously.

My opinion of the IBM Degree Apprenticeship – Megan Murray

Hello!

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

What roles will I really be doing on my 3 years as an IBM Apprentice?

If you have read some of the other blogs on here you will know by now that the IBM apprenticeship does not consist of you making tea for your manager. After your induction training you get placed in a real role and deliver to a real client with the support around you to allow you to grow as an individual from the get go. When I was thinking of applying and when I had just started my apprenticeship, I had no idea what roles were available for me to gain experience in.  So, to prevent you having the same issue as me, I have listed some real examples of roles that are currently being fulfilled by graduates/ apprentices on my account, or roles that I have been involved in to give you a flavour of what you could get involved in.

Solution Analyst

Here you shall be required to work with the client to understand their business needs. You may have to represent your team by attending project inception meetings acting as a brief. Following this engagement you shall be required to put your investigation skills to the test and investigate their requirements via face to face Q & A meetings or interpreting Business and Technical documentation. This is just the start, as from this, you shall need to create a solution that meets their needs. The end result is that an estimate needs to be produced. So therefore you shall then need to associate this solution with a cost estimate and take them through various review cycles and then issue it to the project.

Who is this ideal for?

You don’t have to be technical but you have to be willing to learn technical aspects because technical knowledge will be required in this role. It is an ideal role for people who want to learn about technical aspects, but not into the depths of coding or detailed designing. You will gain an understanding of multiple roles within the project lifecycle via engaging with various stakeholders from both business and technical backgrounds. You can gain good exposure to key members of your centre. You are one of the first members of the centre projects who is engaged with,  so keeping up the centres reputation is everything in this role.

Release Manager

Different to Project Managing but building on the Solution Analysts initial solution, in this role you will face out directly to the client and be accountable for the safe delivery of your centres components that contribute to the client’s overall project.  You shall have to make sure delivery is on time and of high quality whilst managing internal and external communication via accurate and timely updates. This is achieved from management of Design, Development and testing teams within your centre. Not forgetting managing scope of your project as well as client expectations. After initial delivery is achieved you shall then be required to guide your team through support of the project until they have gone live with their whole solution, for which you shall co-ordinate the implementation of your components. After all of this you will have been expected to deliver on your commitments to the timeline and costs that you initially quoted.

Who is this ideal for?

Individuals who want exposure to multiple teams and can execute strong communication to multiple audiences. Technical understanding would help but is not vital. You need to make sure you can plan well and be both proactive and reactive to challenges that may arise. Someone who wants to understand about the majority of a project life cycle could have interest in this role.  Want something to build up to this role?…Why not try “project management office”.

Development Centre Designers

In this role you will have to take a Projects technical documentation to define the changes needed to existing components or scope out new components within your centre. The Projects are expected to be in a good enough position to provide your team with documentation that allows you to provide a sound, detailed design to fulfill their needs.  You shall be responsible for designing how a new component operates or how a changed component needs to now operate to fulfill the business/ technical requirement. Your team shall be led by a release manager but the release manager is very much reliant on you to deliver good quality deliverables required for later stages of the release. You shall be vital in maintaining the integrity of solutions built by your centre. You shall have to take your designs through review boards and then hand them off to other teams. You shall have to deal with multiple release managers and projects so you shall get a broad knowledge of the inflight changes being requested for your account.

Who is this ideal for?

This role is a step up from a Solution Analyst but within a different aspect of the project lifecycle.  It does require specialist knowledge to understand the design changes needed, but do not be put off by this as there are design roles that you can start up in. A good logical approach needed, along with problem solving abilities. Good quality delivery that is on time is key to maintain overall schedule.

Development Centre Developers

You are moving through the project life cycle now with a Developer role. Here you take the inputs provided by the design team and write code to actually create / amend the in scope component. This is where you get to really see your product come alive. You are responsible for the build and unit test of your component and supporting this through various testing phases to deal with any queries that may arise. Technical documentation production/ maintenance  is also a key aspect to this role to ensure your centre has a living asset that can be referenced for any further changes that need to be made to that component.   You shall also be required to support the centres testing team to set up their testing environment. Similar to the design team, your teams delivery shall be managed by the release manager, but again they are very much dependent on your specialist knowledge.

Who is this ideal for?

Development skills in certain languages are favourable, but again there are some roles which shall enable you to learn this. You need to deliver to your committed timescales and provide code that is structured in a logical and maintainable way, adhering to standards/ best practices.  This role can lead to other specialty areas and an experienced developer is definitely looked upon as key asset to any team.

Testing

You are the frontier to ensuring only quality products are released into projects or the live environment. There are many aspects and pathways in testing so this is a great area to explore. You take the solution the designers have designed, the developers have developed, and then prove that it’s everything they say it is. You have to take requirements and create your own testing scripts that make sure that you cover your testing scope. You shall have to work with environment services to set up the testing environments in preparation for your script execution. Design and Build teams may need to be consulted in setting up your tests or in the event of issues being found with their delivery. You need to accurately and clearly document your testing evidence and also if any issues are found within the code you are testing.

Who is this ideal for?

Someone who likes to try and find flaws with things no matter how many attempts or methods are required. It requires inquisitive individuals that are willing to understand the solutions to ensure it does exactly what it is supposed to by investigation.

Service Management

Here you get to see the final product of a project in action. A project can be set up to produce something and deliver it, but service management is there to make sure that what is produced is behaving how it should. If there are any requests or issues/ faults within this product once it is implemented, you have to make sure these are dealt with in an appropriate manner.  Whether this is managing communications with the client in which you delivered this product or coordinating with application maintenance teams to investigate / fix issues. Your aim is to allow the product that has been delivered to cause as minimum disruption as possible to its users.  You may have to work with multiple project managers to allow safe and timely handovers of projects into your control once they are delivered. You need to understand your systems function and have a defined and documented process to deal with situations that could arise once this becomes your responsibility to maintain.

Who is this ideal for?

It needs someone with good co-coordination/ communication skills and is not afraid to face out to key stakeholders/ clients.  Anyone that wants to understand applications that are built and fully functioning this may be of interest.  This role does still give you the opportunity to work with the teams that investigate / fix any issues so therefore you do get some high level technical understanding. Something to note is Service Management has roles within it to give you the opportunity to grow your understanding, before you step into a Service Manager role.

 

Other roles I could provide information about are: Project Management Office, Finance, Defect Management, Business Analysts, System Architects and Configuration managers.

Have you ever heard the phrase “a drop in the ocean”? Well bear that in mind as there are lots more accounts within the UK and lot more role types within IBM on offer!

Thinking of applying or thinking of changing roles within the apprenticeship?  If you want any more information about any of these roles then please do not hesitate to get in contact with me… (RYANMACM@UK.IBM.COM)

It’s Never Too Late – College Is Tough! – Josh Abraham

For many of our Apprentices, looking at Timehop over the next few weeks will certainly bring a few throwbacks of the last few days of School or College. It was five years ago that I was leaving school. If someone were to tell me then that in five years’ time I would be finishing my apprenticeship at IBM, I would probably just laugh, something along the lines of ”Everyone just goes to Uni I don’t think apprenticeships are for me… what’s IBM?”

I left school with some very good GCSEs ready to move on to the next big thing, College. Right from the get go at College everyone around seemed to have a plan, something I hadn’t quite yet figured out. Turns out “I’ll just do some courses and go to Uni” was not the best approach when it came to choosing courses. I ended up doing some A-levels that really weren’t for me, but by the time I had realised this, it was already too late to change. As a result my first year at College wasn’t great, so when second year came around I had some serious thinking to do.

I had only passed two out of the four AS levels I had taken, meaning as it stood, I wasn’t going to get into Uni & I wasn’t going to be in the best position once I left College looking for work. I thought I had messed up my life. I was invited in to College for a meeting with the Careers Service and my tutor where I was told that I would need to do a whole A-level (or a level three equivalent) in one year in order to continue. I didn’t have much to pick from, I decided to take IT.

This was a massive turning point for me. Although I had to do double the work, I consistently churned out top marks in my assignments, made even better by the fact I was really enjoying what I was doing. This was something I could do as a career! I began looking for Uni courses.

Prior to this moment, I hadn’t really had much exposure to the world of technology and IT, so thought it would be a good idea to find work in the industry for a year before Uni. I spoke to careers & they suggested I look for a short term Apprenticeship. I began my search & started to apply.

I was mostly applying for year apprenticeships at schools, where the wages weren’t great but it was the experience I was after. This was true for all except one in particular. IBM. The Apprenticeship was longer than I was looking for and I’d never heard of them but I was intrigued to see why they were paying so much. After visiting the website and reading up on what the IBM Apprenticeship could offer, the experience, education & high starting and finishing salary, I realised this was a viable alternative to University and so I applied.

I began receiving invites to interviews for a few schools and accepted a place as a technician, due to start in July as soon as I finished my A-Levels. IBM invited me in for an interview assessment day in Hursley during this time frame.

It was the day before I was due to start at the school IBM gave me the call offering me a place on their Apprenticeship scheme. I’m now two and a half years in, completed my qualifications & looking to move to become a fully pledged IBMer. I haven’t looked back since.

Leaving school can be tough and College even tougher, especially if you don’t know what your plan is or not doing as well as you would like to be. But don’t panic, it doesn’t mean you’re going to end up with nothing. Just know that it’s never too late, be open to new things, be willing to work and you’ll get there.

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.