Tag Archives: dayinthelife

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

What do Apprentices do? Tea and Coffee? – Josh Abrahams

Even now, with the Government putting more and more into backing Apprenticeships, many young people are still afraid that they will be condemned to a life of making tea and coffee. Whilst this may be true for some older Apprenticeships, but any one from a modern Apprenticeship scheme, such as ours here at IBM, will be more than happy to let you know this is simply not the case. I learnt this very early on in my career, my first day after induction in fact. Fifteen minutes had gone by since I had met my new colleagues; I was already in “trouble” for offering a drink to the Technical lead of the team when I went to go get one. I was just being polite, but they wanted to make it clear, Apprentices are not tea boys/girls.

Here at IBM, as with most, the Apprentice is given real responsibilities from the get go. During my brief two and a half years here I have been in three different roles which I’ll talk a little bit about now. Each had their ups and downs however in all of my roles, I have felt I have been delivering meaningful and valuable work.

For my first role in the company, I was placed as part team which supports Rational products, (Rational is brand of software IBM own,) I worked in three different locations during this time, supporting both internal and external customers. I worked on data migrations, configuration management, software upgrades and installs, user administration & general errors from users. I helped to develop bespoke changes to tools used by the customer, developing, testing & working through error codes and finally implementing. I held demonstration sessions for customers & fellow IBMers alike, this list goes on – but all of these pieces of work left me feeling like I had added value to IBM and to our customers.

The second role I took on was a progression of the first. After being in the support team for just over a year, I was promoted to Support Team Lead, taking on managerial responsibilities over our team of six, four offshore guys and two onshore. It was my responsibility to ensure the level of service we were delivering did not slip. I would hold service review meetings with the team, looking at sets of reports I created, organise shift rotas & holidays and train the team in weak areas (Which is surprisingly harder than it seems.) I was the first point of call for customer issues & quereies, I would help to work out solutions & price up any new work. I would talk through the customers first days & train them in correct tool usage. Whenever the team were going through upgrades, I would coordinate the process, design testing and be the face of the team in international calls with hosting providers and customers. All on top of my previous responsibilities – two roles down and still no tea or coffee.

My most recent and current role saw me move from being based in the South to being based in the even sunnier haven of Manchester City Centre! After my brief stint of experience management/service delivery, I decided to move away from Technical and learn other aspects of the business, with the end goal of becoming a Service Delivery Manager or work in Project Management. I am currently PMO (Programme Management Office) on one of our Financial Sector accounts. The PMO works closely with the Project Manager and Programme Governance teams and maintains various aspects of the account, such as onboarding, leavers & training. I work with the Commercial team & aid in ensuring accurate forecasting and billing and writing Statements of Work and contracts. It is my job to create a set of reports for the account which show IBM’s current status, our issues, risks, progress. I’m also aiding in ensuring our release is on track, attending meetings discussing progress, making schedules etc. Of course I haven’t left my Rational skills completely behind, I’m also Rational Administrator for the account.

These are just the three roles I have done in my time here at IBM as an Apprentice so far. Although each Apprentice will be doing different jobs and no two Apprentice experience at IBM are the same, as you find the role you want to be doing. None the less the work you will be doing will be beneficial to your career & be meaningful. I hear of so many people in office jobs complain that their life has no meaning, the work that they do has no meaning and that must be the worst, especially if that were to come from an Apprentice. At IBM I have meaning, I have purpose and I do not make tea or coffee for anyone. *

*  (Except myself)

Josh Abrahams

A day in zSeries – Nicole Covey

Another day in the life of a zSeries software support specialist… Wake up… bowl of cereal…. Depending on your mood and how hungry you are you possibly have another… if you’re really struggling you may even consider one more but you talk yourself out of it because that’s just greedy. Then comes the drive to work… sometimes you get to the office and feel lucky to be alive because you’ve had a close encounter with someone who is just way too keen to get to work. That, however, is about the only part of my day that is predictable. In my role you never know what is around the corner, it’s the thing I like most about my job, every day is different.

I am currently a zSeries Software Support Specialist here at IBM. zSeries are our big mainframe servers and It’s my job to help keep our mainframe customers up and running. This involves helping them with any queries they have with their mainframe software and also investigating any issues they experience to help get them back up and running as soon as possible. You can probably guess from the last half of that sentence that sometimes the job is very high pressured and stressful! Headache tablets are kept in the top drawer for those days that you wish you hadn’t got out of bed. (Let’s be honest it doesn’t matter how much you like your job we all have those days!)

We use PMR’s which are Problem Management Records to manage client queries/issues, these hold all the data on the client contact and the reason the PMR was raised, including product and release levels, any diagnostic data and times and dates of the incident. PMR’s also contain all the communication between us and the customer as well as all our findings during our investigations.

When talking about a day in my role, typical is probably not the best word to use. The process is the same, I look at PMR’s, talk to customers and look through diagnostic data such as system memory dumps and trace data, but each PMR is unique and different. Z is such as massive product, I’m constantly coming across new things and sometimes things that I’ve never heard of! Even my colleagues, some of whom have been working on Z for longer than I have been alive (which they love me reminding them of) are coming across new things every day.

Looking through system memory dumps is where all the fun lies, we use a tool called IPCS and it looks like the Matrix, just a mass of green HEX code on a black screen. The feeling of satisfaction you get when you solve a problem has got to be one of the perks of the job. You get a great sense of achievement when you see a problem all the way through from gathering the problem description, investigating (the fun part) and providing the customer with a solution.

Z has a bit of a reputation for being a ‘Dinosaur’ product, it’s been around for a very long time – I kind of like that though, dinosaurs are awesome. This does mean however that a large number of our z people are retiring which means it has become challenging with there being only three of us in Front Office UK support, but it is also a great opportunity for me to continue to grow my skills and become more competent. It’s like how my mum taught me to swim; chuck me in the deep end and I’ll learn quickly. Personally I think she’s lucky I’m not now terrified of water and will never trust her again (it took a while).

The funny thing is I never planned for a career in technology. In fact, before I came to IBM I had very limited technical knowledge (OK – I’ll be honest, I had absolutely none!). Five years on, I wake up every morning and drive into the office knowing that I have a challenge ahead, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me developing. As an added bonus I don’t hate Mondays. Well, I don’t love them, I wouldn’t even say I like them because no one likes Mondays, but I enjoy what I do and that’s all you can ask for.

A Day In The Life – William Spiers

Since my fist blog in February I’ve been mulling over creating my second, considering various different topics I could write about. I came to the conclusion to open the doors to my actual day job by creating a ‘Day in the life of’ post. Let me explain the rationale behind this decision – IBM’s a great company, and one of the things I think makes it great are the endless job roles and career paths available. Highlighting this is the fact that ever since I started at IBM, I’ve spoken to so many people (be it Apprentices, Graduates or regular employees) and I’ve never met two people who do exactly the same job. Ok, so that may sound like an exaggeration but, even if people have been doing the same role, it’s always been for a different client, in a different location or had some other variation making it unique. Now whether this is actually the case, or merely my experience being relatively new, we shall see, but one thing for sure: IBM’s got opportunities. Now I’ve digressed slightly, but I thought it was an important point to make. So back to why this influenced me to describe my daily role. This uniqueness, often for me at least, causes a slight haze over what people do; what does Technical Consultant or Test Analyst actually equate to on a day-to-day basis? As such, I thought it interesting to explore my first role in “Application Support and Configuration”.

So my role… since I joined IBM in February 2015 I have been part of a small 3rd line team who support and develop a business critical work flow application. Now I feel the key point in my description there is “small”, the reason I highlight this factor is because this is what has made my role so varied – with few resources available everyone pitches into most different aspects. First though let’s go through what I would consider my “core responsibilities”. My days generally start the same, checking access requests and doing proactive maintenance of the application and its surrounding infrastructure. This sounds mundane and don’t get me wrong it often can be, however it’s the “bread and butter” of the service my team offers, and by working in a proactive manner it ensures a good experience for the client. I then move on to dealing with incidents. When the client raises an issue with the application it gets assigned to our team for investigation. Resolving these issues entails contacting users, carrying out Route Cause Analysis of issues and occasionally creating problem and change records. Truthfully this is what takes up most of my time, as well as being the part of the role that can be challenging and by the same token incredibly rewarding. These incidents vary from single user problems to large scale high priority issues – single user problems are unsurprisingly what we deal with mostly and again can be very interesting. However for me where it really gets interesting is in high priority issues. The Service Level Agreements on these can be tight, and upon one arriving it’s a drop everything kind of scenario. Although these can be stressful, I’ve found I learn incredible amounts in very small spaces of time by just getting involved – I also always seem to come out of these with a genuine enthusiasm to find out even more, and the day flies by!

Moving on to my other responsibilities – this is where the “configuration” aspect of my job role comes in. Within the team we not only support but also develop the application and, as such, I frequently get involved with different aspects of this. Generally it starts with the client raising requirements for changes they would like. As a team we then analyse these and pass back a solution. From here the build begins, starting with development work in most cases, and this is the one aspect of the team I have not got involved in due to having specific people dedicated to the role. As such my input begins with the configuration of the front end of the application, by creating flows and inputting information to support the build etc. Onwards from here, I then get involved with raising the necessary change requests to progress the builds through from Development environments into Production. Whilst this is not the most stimulating job, for me it really cements my understanding of the changes when I have to explain and document them. As well as this, it really imprints the importance of change processes and procedures – a bit of a necessary evil shall we say.

So in a nutshell that’s my role, although there are other bits and pieces I do, there’s certainly not enough space to list them all out! I’ve enjoyed this role immensely, as it has brought me on in virtually every aspect – from presenting to problem solving, it’s had snippets of everything. I’ve developed a small amount of understanding in all these different areas, and it’s this attribute that I feel has made it the perfect first position. In turn, this has allowed me to understand what I like and what I’m not so keen on, which is invaluable considering I came into IBM with very little specific direction. Despite enjoying this role, I have now come to a point where for personal development, I want to move on to something new, and with my new-found understanding for my likes and dislikes, this decision has been made much easier! As such, I am now moving into a “Service Management Consultancy” role – a more hazy job description than “Application Support and Configuration” that’s for sure, but let’s save that explanation for another day, when I’ve explored it more myself perhaps!

A Weeks Worth of Opportunities – Joe Barry

As I have been blogging about all the things I have experienced and learnt during my time in IBM and how it could benefit you guys looking into apprenticeships I decided to instead for my first blog of 2016 to talk about one of the things I haven’t experienced or taken advantage of. IBM optional opportunities once you have joined.

My email from the minute I joined in September 2014 has been full of information regarding courses, events, giveback, charity work, up and coming technology that IBM is involved with and is giving me an opportunity to be a part of. With IBM being involved with numerous industries there are a very wide variety of events to be a part of. Recently I have been focusing all my attention on my day job for the client, which is great, but an apprenticeship should allow you to explore, find an interest and make a impact.

So to show you all what I mean I saved a weeks worth of mail from IBM on up and coming opportunities so I could share how much there is to gain and how much people like me have missed out on in the past.

First of all the 14th to the 18th of March is National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) which IBM has always been a part of. IBM volunteers from all accounts can help to promote apprenticeships in new and creative ways. You are always encouraged to join the NAW team and your work will get noticed by other IBMers as well as different business owners. My biggest motivation for doing NAW is getting to help students with there careers choices and giving them as much information on what is out there for them. I wish I had that when I was still in school.

Not surprisingly when I get into the office on Monday the first email I get is about NAW and all the events they are doing on that day. One of which was the ‘Rise to the Top’ event at The Shard in London. There Apprentices, Employers, Ambassadors and a variety of guest speakers share there experiences and talked about what they see for the future of there industries and how apprentices can help. In the interest of keeping you attention I wont talk about everything the IBM team have done for NAW but on Twitter #IBMNAW16 has all the details.

Tuesday I get an invitation for an IBM Senior Leadership Open Forum. These sessions create a relaxed environment where you get to talk to Senior IBMers about there career path and ask questions about your personal development. This is particularly helpful for understanding the process to achieve your goals here at IBM both within Foundation and after graduation. If you are like me and as not 100% sure on where you want to be after the apprenticeship I would recommend taking full advantage of the forum.

Foundation send me an email on Wednesday about ‘Hackademy’. Hackademy is a four day event based in IBM Hursly focused on Front-End Development. It is particularly helpful to designers, engineers and architects so if you join the apprenticeship in those roles you will be encouraged to go and learn more about the up and coming software you will most likely be using. My role as an Industry Test Analyst doesn’t use Front End Development but I am very keen on learning more about coding languages so I will keep an eye out for emails about this in the future.

One of the many emails I got on Thursday was from UKI Service Leaders mailbox. Senior IBMers regularly us this to spread information on changes to the industry whether that be via a blog they have done or a forwarded email from Some of IBMs UK leaders. This Thursday I was sent a blog by Paul Farrell the UKI IMT Leader for Global Business Services.

At the end of the week I was informed that IBM had acquired Optevia. Optevia is a leading Microsoft Dynamic and Cloud company based here in the UK. Notifications like this keeps IBMers in touch with where the company is heading and could be useful to someone who is interested in the technology. The email had links to a press conference that goes into more detail about the negotiations and how this acquisition came to be.

And there you have it, a weeks worth of opportunities provided by IBM. This list was not hard to create as in total I received 18 emails from the 14th to the 18th of March from IBM or IBMers. When you have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, grab it with both hands.