Tag Archives: opportunities

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.

Is Networking All It’s Cracked Up To Be? – Gus Parkhouse.

In my first few days at IBM it seemed that one in every five words was “Networking”, now I’m a year in I can see why this was emphasised so much. I know working for a tech company you’re probably thinking why is computer networking so important to IBM and why does everyone keep talking about it? Although computer networking is important as connects components and nodes this blog is all about social and workplace networking. I’ve started to really see the benefits from good networking and constantly growing my network, these benefits are;

  • Opportunities
  • Connections – knowing people in different places
  • Advice
  • Positive Influence
  • Confidence
  • Friendship
  • Feedback

Through speaking to my line manager I have found many opportunities such as moving from an account in London to one closer to my home in Manchester, allowing me to spend more time with friends and also allowing me to be more sociable outside of work without having to stay in rented accommodation. Without knowing who to approach this would have been a lot more of a strenuous and time consuming task. It also helped me to know who to approach with certain aspects of work, for example Cognitive computing, as I found that just knowing one person in this area was positive as it helped to open up doors to other members of that team and eventually help progress an extremely tricky task.

Since starting as an apprentice in IBM and building a great network of apprentice architects in one base location, I have now moved to the other side of the country and don’t have the pleasure of seeing apprenticeship colleagues on a daily basis anymore. But this hasn’t stopped me from networking with them, it just changed the ways in which I do it. Face to face turned into instant messaging, phone call, text messages and e-mails. I still ask this network the questions that I feel would defy the quote “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” and they’re happy to help. I went from working in an office with distinguished engineers to working from home for 3 weeks, during this time I had to call upon my network for the majority of information needed. I found working remotely from home a very big challenge as I was getting minimal human interaction which is the opposite of what I had the week before. I also created some new connections in this period with the Chief Architect of the new account I was heading on too. My new network connections into the architects team came in incredibly handy when on-boarding and learning what was vital to learn and what could wait.

When I had settled in my new account, I was advised that a new Deputy Chief Architect was joining the account. When he arrived on the account I took the time to sit down and have a chat with him that eventually turned in to going to grab some lunch to get know more about what he had previously done and what he was expecting of me, but also a less work related chat about what he was interested in that turned into him becoming a mentor for me and helping me with architecture and learning.

On the new account I have been able to expand my network further in a very short amount of time as I now work with such a vast team, this networking has helped me to expand my knowledge and get involved in a lot more tasks. This ever expanding networking has been great for helping my confidence in meetings with both the client and senior members of the team as they are there to reinforce the information I’m putting forward. Not forgetting to mention the social benefits of being involved in a mixed team, and all of the networking I have taken part in has helped me to develop my LinkedIn profile and help create a strong virtual network.

At the beginning, I won’t lie, I was very skeptical about the hype around “Networking” but now after just a year I can see that this is and will always be a massively important tool throughout my career. I would now say I agree with the old proverb “It’s not what you know but who you know” and can see where it possibly came from.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, feel free to message me on LinkedIn for any questions. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gus-parkhouse-288855101)

Gus Parkhouse.