Tag Archives: learning

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

It’s all about the Goals! – Gus Parkhouse

Is anybody really 100% sure about their exact goals? I know I wasn’t – during 2016 a new goals measuring system was introduced at IBM. This new system showed the five areas we’d be measured against and it was up to me to decide what targets I would set. This was a new and more efficient way of having ever-evolving goals that are continually relevant to the work or tasks I’m doing.

My goals needed to be evaluated against 5 key pillars, and I used them as self-set targets or milestones which, in order to attain these goals, I had to meet. When setting any of these goals it gave the option to set a status message. The status options were closed, completed, on-going and on-track. These options helped to track the status of each target, and whether I needed to set new goals or develop the older ones to be relevant.

I wanted to have challenging goals that would stretch my knowledge and ability, and would put me out of my comfort zone. I will be using this method to set my goals for 2017 and in order to help me develop further. It also helped dramatically with my educational needs as it allowed me to forecast what education I might need to meet a set goal. For example “Complete ITIL foundation by the end of Q2”. This pushed me to complete the course and also had a specific time deadline. Once this goal was completed, I added a small explanation of what I had achieved as well as a copy of the certificate, and then updated the status to show my manager what I had achieved and to keep him up to date with my progress.

As it was a new system, my goals were very specific in the areas I was comfortable in but slightly more ambiguous in other areas. The new system did allow me to update my targets so that if they started off vague but then became more and more specific I could change them which helped me to tailor my targets in order to get the most out of my development and continue to push myself.

For 2017, I’ll be setting goals that range between my apprenticeship work and account work, as this will help me to track both of these, but will also provide my managers with an up to date view of my current progress. I’m sure you will all be happy to know that my targets will also be in the SMART format as I find this to be the most effective method.

I have found that having goals that are always evolving is a lot more beneficial compared to static targets that do not change over the course of the year. In the future I will be using this method as I feel that at times it has been challenging due to time constraints, but I have also reaped the benefits of this such as education, personal development and also helping me track my progress along the year with a visible trail to measure it against.

If you have any questions then please contact me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/profile/preview?locale=en_US&trk=prof-0-sb-preview-primary-button

Gus Parkhouse.

Training: the core part of any Apprenticeship – Megan Murray

One of the most common questions asked about apprenticeships is about the quality of training available. Is it actually worthwhile? Do you actually get taught anything or do you just do the rubbish jobs nobody else wants? Does the employer really care about you and your learning or is it purely to fill a quota?

Well, I thought for my blog this quarter I’d give some insight into some IBM training I’ve received, because let’s face it, before you start work it’s impossible to know what to expect from ‘training days/weeks’.

I receive training throughout my apprenticeship of course, with various formal education days around various subjects, I recently attended a Digital Marketing Workshop day for instance; then I have university learning; there’s online learning, with IBM’s ‘Think 40’ initiative which promotes IBMers completing at least 40 hours of learning a year and which provides lots of online videos, reading and even games to learn more about various topics; and finally there’s informal learning that happens every day, in the form of guidance from those around me.

Last week I went on a 1 week long formal education course, and I thought I’d make this the focus of today’s blog post as an example of one of these training methods.

I’d been looking forward to this course for a while (yep, looking forward to training, I said it!) I’d heard good feedback about it from those who had been on it previously and I knew it was centred around talking to and presenting to clients, which is something I was beginning to dip my feet in to with work and needed a real confidence boost with. Whilst those I’d spoke to had said that the course did have a bit of a tough ‘practice interview’ that they hadn’t been too fond of, I was still eager to go and see what I could learn. I knew I’d be going with new IBMers I hadn’t met before either which I always look forward to and it was based at a conference venue/hotel down near Southampton, so provided a change of scenery for a week too which is always refreshing.

The training itself was intense, and at times quite stressful, especially when you were put under the spotlight having to question a purposefully awkward customer, but it had fun aspects too and it really did teach me a lot. There were so many things that had been brushed over in conversations I’d had with others about how to talk to clients but that hadn’t quite clicked with me in the way they did through this training course. It gave me the opportunity to learn and practice, get feedback, and learn and practice some more, before actually going through this process with a real customer and gave me plenty more confidence for when this does happen. I feel more prepared now, more able to guide the conversation and with a clearer idea of how to get what I want from it, whilst ensuring the customer does too.

In a year’s time I’ll be invited on a follow up course to this one, even more intensive, with even more difficult practice customers, and even worse, I’ll be graded (always scary!) But, in that time I’ll have had a year of real life practice, a chance to read up more on what I’ve learnt and more chances to learn from others too. Plus, I’ll have learnt tonnes of other things in the meantime too!

So, in answer to those common apprenticeship questions: At IBM, yes, the training is high quality; yes it’s worthwhile, it’s relevant; yes, you get taught lots and it’s not just ‘rubbish’ jobs, there’s lots of exciting things to do; and IBM take plenty of care to provide plenty of training and development opportunities, you won’t come out not having learnt anything.

Megan Murray.

Year One (and a bit) Reflection – William Spiers

Given I’ve been with IBM for over a year now – one year and four months to be exact – I thought it would be the perfect time to do a year one (and a bit) reflection. I hope to give a broader view of my experiences at IBM, rather than focusing on a specific element, as I have in my previous two blogs. There have been many different aspects to my time at IBM, my job role being just one piece of this puzzle, with an abundance of opportunities and experiences outside of this – something I hope is portrayed clearly across this post!

My first role back in 2015: Application Support within a small team on a client site. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know lots about it already, so I won’t go into too much depth again. To summarise, I learnt such a variety of things and it was constantly challenging, but one thing it lacked for me was real depth on any specific topics. This – especially for a first role – was a major benefit, since it gave me a small amount of experience across so many different topics; it provided breadth, but not depth. Consequently, when moving on I wanted to drill down into a more specific area. As such, this was my focus and priority when looking for new roles. The process of finding the right role for me took some time, as it relied upon multiple things all falling into place. However, a month or two after starting the move process, it all began to click…

So, come April I moved onto another account, and into another very different role. This time my job title is Service Management Consultancy (although this is very loose and I’m beginning to feel often doesn’t represent my actual day job accurately!) My primary focus is on the service management tooling, and by this I mean a service desk/help desk tool that’s used to log incidents, changes and problems amongst many, many other things. Within this I am currently working on setting up the various Metrics for the client, such as Service Level Agreements. These are essentially measurements that record how quickly various things are done, from responding to an incident, to calculating the down-time of specific applications for each month. This has already proved to be very challenging, but in turn it’s certainly rewarding when you get it! The role has begun to develop, even at this early stage, and I have now started to build the results of these metrics into an analytics tool, which will mostly be used for reporting purposes, as well as giving live feedback on performance. I’ve found this aspect particularly interesting, as it holds the ability to chop data up in different ways to get genuinely meaningful statistics. I may have studied statistics at A Level – and enjoyed it! – but this work has provided a whole new aspect to the discipline, helping me to appreciate its real-world applicability first hand. Additionally, despite the obvious differences between my roles, I’ve found so many skills have been transferable – be it dealing with the client, or having an understanding of service management in general.

As promised, enough of job roles – I want to cover some other aspects, starting with Foundation courses. When you join IBM as an apprentice, you are housed under Foundation, which essentially gives you more flexibility in terms of learning, and more opportunities to develop yourself. Throughout the 3 years you spend within Foundation as an apprentice, there are many compulsory courses to attend, and although I’ve only attended around half of these so far, I’ve already taken so much away. To date the topics have tended to be relatively general, so everyone can take something away. For example, they’ve involved a lot of learning around how you present yourself, and dealing with client conversations. This is invaluable learning, which you’re guaranteed to use both immediately and throughout a career, regardless of the path you end up following.

This takes me onto the other types of courses and learning I have utilized in my time so far – compulsory foundations courses are just a small slice of what’s available. For me, particularly initially, the online training resources within IBM proved to be very beneficial, as well as flexible. For example in my first 6 months, whenever I got any spare time I would do a short online course, which enabled me to gain an introductory understanding to many different topics. This also helped me to distinguish between what I did and, more importantly, did not find interesting. Alongside this there are an abundance of reading resources available, from services that offer thousands of titles, to IBM published Red Books. Again, these are generally my go-to when I hear something I want to find out more about, and something I’ve used frequently.

In terms of learning, that brings me finally to external courses. You’re probably getting the general gist by now, but again there are (at least in my experience) many opportunities to do courses and certifications from other providers. When joining my current role, I was given the opportunity to travel abroad to take a course on a specific tool we’d be using. This was not only a fantastic experience, but I was able to come away with knowledge on specific areas, which I was then easily able to utilise on a daily basis in my role. Furthermore, I’ve also signed up for a course in ITIL – this is a Service Management certification that’s recognised widely throughout the industry, and not only is it great to have on your CV, but it is also applicable in so many different scenarios.

The final aspect of my time I want to touch on is the giveback opportunities. These are essentially opportunities for you to take some time out of your daily routine to – as the name suggests – give something back. For example, I’ve been involved in multiple outreach style courses, where students from local areas have been invited into IBM locations to spend a day understanding what IBM can offer, and the various different student programs. I think this kind of thing is particularly important, I personally stumbled upon the IBM scheme to a certain extent, and although awareness for this sort of program seems to be growing, any encouragement and education around what they can offer is still hugely valuable. I know I would have snapped up opportunities at college to hear about my wider career options!

William Spiers

My IBM Apprenticeship Opinion – John Longworth

Thinking back to when I began my time here on the IBM Apprenticeship, I’ve had a lot of amazing encounters and things happen. So I thought, now would be a great time to go back and give you all a small insight into all the good things that go on in an IBM Apprentice’s time.

So probably the best place to start is with the people. You meet so many of them sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but that’s one of the best things. There are so many other Apprentices you meet, with such a variety of experiences, expertise and sense of welcoming, it’s never seemingly difficult to get yourself unstuck with any issue or queries you have. It’s not difficult to find yourself a group of people either, wherever you end up, who make your whole work life feel like you’re involved in some sort of community. There are so many Apprentices scattered around the country, you’ll bump into them more often than you think!

The next thing surely has to be the experiences and activities you get to participate in. Just recently, for example, I was part of a IBM @ Wimbledon event for a select few Foundation members in which there where prizes up for grabs, plus the chance to go ahead and implement your own idea with the actual IBM Wimbledon team! (Unfortunately, my team didn’t win. Can’t win everything I guess!!). But that’s just an example of the types of events you could expect to take part in and have a chance to put yourself forward for, definitely something I would suggest doing and I’m going to continue to look for myself in the future! If anything, it’s an opportunity to meet and work with people that you wouldn’t usually on a day-to-day basis and you might even pick some new skills or tips along the way.

The number of work opportunities/roles and chances to pick up some expertise, in a technology area you couldn’t ever imagine yourself being a part of, is something that should, for sure, get a mention in this post. It’s actually, in it’s own way, something you have to take into your stride. Having that many opportunities available to you, in areas you don’t even know, but having the chance to learn, can become quite overwhelming at times. But from what I’ve seen and from my own experience, you’ve just got to go for it, put your best foot forward and just jump into the unknown, you often end up enjoying what you’ve done, picked up a new skill and become more prepared for the next role or opportunity that comes your way!

So, that’s just a brief few of the amazing encounters I’ve come across during my time as an IBM Apprentice. I didn’t really think all or many of these opportunities or encounters would actually happen, but they have, and I feel like I’ve tried to make the most of them whenever I can!

John Longworth

IBM Apprenticeship : yay or nay? – Joe Barry

When forming an opinion of the apprenticeship I often look back at what I knew at the start of the programme and what I know now. Two years ago all I knew about IBM was this first paragraph that is on the IBM website describing the apprenticeship scheme;

University isn’t for everyone and here at IBM we have a fantastic alternative. Apprenticeships at IBM are all about picking up new skills and lots of them. It’s three years of brilliant training, lots of exposure and an experience you simply couldn’t get anywhere else. If you’ve decided to dive straight into the world of work after college we believe our apprenticeship is one of the best learning experience out there.

This paragraph ticked every box for me. I had been on apprenticeship schemes before and I was happy that this was the best way for me to learn compared to university as the only other alternative. IBM was not wrong when they spoke about new skills, skills from employment and from courses available for all of Foundation. During my first role I was given as many opportunities to learn new techniques and master new skills as I could handle (clients have no problem teaching you new skills if it means you can become more useful to them). The responsibility that I was given allowed me to develop my organisational, technical and personal skills to a point that I could be a valid contributor to real world problems. New skills are not just learning a new coding language or programme; you learn to be a more skilful person.

Now, when I read that it was a three year scheme I was a bit concerned. My last apprenticeships was only for 1 year which I though was ideal as a big deciding factor in my argument towards apprenticeships was the fact that I was not committed to a specific subject matter that half way through I could lose interest in as could be the case when you are enrolled in Uni. If you share this concern then let me help you out, if you join IBM for the next three years you initially have a choice between Business and Technical programmes. This choice does not affect the education throughout the 3 years nor does it limits your opportunities. Switching from the two after you joined however is hard to do, possible but not guaranteed. I myself have never been 100% convinced that I preferred the technical side to the business, in fact since joining I have preferred the business related tasks I have had the opportunity to do over the technical. This scheme is set up so even if you join the technical programme, as I did, you still get a taste for the other sides of the business. Three years I believe is the minimum amount of time I want to be with a company that offers so much variety as IBM does.

You are not typecast to one area of expertise, if you have a change of heart you have courses and job roles out there that will build up your skills, knowledge and hopefully interest in what you love doing.

IBM Apprenticeship, Yay or Nay? In my opinion the scheme is the best opportunity for young people to pick up new skills, experience a role/specialisation that you love and connect with a massive community of IBMers that all want to push the business and one another to new heights. Only if you push for every opportunity and get involved with your own development will you reap the full benefit of the programme and understand why IBM have moulded the next generation of innovation.

IBM was and still is the best opportunity for myself and everyone who shares my views, dreams and concerns so it’s a YAY from me.

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.