Tag Archives: IBM Apprenticeship

You wouldn’t believe what these IBM Apprentices have been up to this month…

We asked some of our apprentices to share some of their highlights from the last month. Here are there responses:

Being part of a team that successfully completed a complex 9 month long project where I had to rewrite 2 entire applications in the Java programming language and make them do the same thing as before with a few new features – quite a challenge! I also presented two “Lunch and Learn” sessions about “Agile” to my colleagues – Please see my blog post on agile here: A Point of View on Agile Vs Waterfall – Richard Cure

~ Richard Cure

The past month for me has been a roller-coaster of workloads. The workload in my current role goes through peaks and troughs and funnily enough, the past month has certainly been a peak. I feel that I’ve handled it well and been able to manage 2 team-mates and teach them the things they need to know, without drowning in work or doing silly amounts of hours. Which I believe is an achievement in itself!

~ John Longworth

My highlight of the past month is being a part of the 2017 Brathay Apprentice Team (If you want to know more, read my blog I posted earlier this year Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2017 – Sarah Naylor) and being given the opportunity to take ownership of approving increases/promotions for many business units across IBM and working with managers to ensure they give their employees meaningful increases.

~ Sarah Naylor

Over the past few months, I completed a project I had been working on for over a year. It was a great feeling to move off this project knowing that I’d taken ownership of everything I was required to do across this time, and finished it all within the defined time frame. Furthermore, it was great to see how my input contributed to the overall success of the wider account – in general, a very rewarding month! In addition to this, I also moved roles (given my previous project was finishing), which is a great opportunity to find something new and start a fresh challenge.

~ William Spiers

Over the past month I have had the opportunity to start infrastructure design work on two new projects. Although this doesn’t sound like much it’s helping them to develop massively and showing me the trust I have gained from the architecture team on the account. I have also just worked at the University of Manchester ‘Big Careers Fair’ promoting IBM, it was great to pass on my experiences of working at IBM and what can be achieved whilst working here.

~ Gus Parkhouse

In the past month I have had one big highlight where I dealt with issue of high importance for the client. The details of which are sensitive but my actions resulted in many of our contractors being able to stay on site and continue working. My manager and the client recognised that downtime was likely to become an issue if the Contractors were not able to work so I received great pieces of feedback from them that will help me out massively when I look to progress out of foundation. I appreciate the responsibility I have been given at IBM and the pride I feel when I work hard and become successful.

~ Joe Barry

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Why I chose an apprenticeship with IBM – Sarah Naylor

My name is Sarah Naylor and I have just recently embarked on my career path with IBM upon the completion of my A-Levels in July 2016 as 1 in 3 of the first HR apprentices in the company.

I first heard about the IBM apprenticeship when my school took a visit to the Hursley site in Winchester to shadow some of the apprentices. Before this visit, I had every intention of going to university as most people seemed to think this is the only option for those who have just completed A-Levels. For me, I had no idea what I wanted to do and was very open to exploring the different options available to me after I had finished school. After having a great few days visiting IBM I was set that the apprenticeship route was right for me and the following February when applications for a Business Specialist Apprenticeship opened I was quick to apply.

The application process happened quite quickly for me. I was still in shock that I had passed the IPAT test (maths is not my forte) when I heard my assessment centre was soon to follow. The assessment centre experience itself was one I will never forget. It was both nerve-racking and exciting as early one morning in June I travelled up to the Southbank site in London where I found myself sat in a silent waiting room amongst many other young but ambitious individuals like myself. I felt as though any minute we were getting called into the boardroom of ‘The Apprentice’ with the tense atmosphere and nervousness that surrounded the room. Little did I know a few hours later we would all be chatting away and sharing stories as though that morning had never happened.

I am currently in my first of three rotations working as the UK Compensation Specialist Support which has really thrown me into the deep end as I started just as the yearly salary cycle was due to begin. My team has been incredibly supportive and I always look forward to the challenges each new day brings.

Although I am starting to notice my friends at home slowly disappear to University I do not feel I am missing out on any experiences. I believe there are pro’s and con’s to both and it really does depend on the individual and what is best for them. I would recommend the IBM apprenticeship to anyone who is not sure university is for them, is ready to leave full-time education, wants to earn whilst they learn, be in a business environment where they can gain valuable work experience and most importantly those looking for an excellent support network as they start to embark on their first major career journey.

 

Sarah Naylor.

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

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

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.