So this is a bit of a strange blog post for me. Having recently graduated from the IBM Apprenticeship scheme, I have decided to take a step back from running and contributing to the blog. For me, it was an important element of my Apprenticeship, allowing me to both extol the virtues of the Apprenticeship, and also to learn from my colleague what they are doing and how the Apprenticeship has helped them.
Now though, I feel like anything else I have to say has relevance in a different way, to a different set of people (though by all means if you’re still an Apprentice, please feel free to read/listen to me whenever I open my big mouth – there’s always room for inflation of the ego!). The community, and indeed prospective students, will be better served by a new set of authors publishing content relevant to the Apprenticeship as it is today, and the trends affecting them (and everyone else) in the tech industry.
So what does that mean for me? Well I am diving head on into my full time professional role. I am an Infrastructure Architect – meaning that I ‘design’ and document technical solutions at a high level to resolve business problems. It is a fascinating role, and one that I think I will pursue for some considerable time. I feel a bit like I lucked into my dream job, but when I look at things critically, I know that unashamed ambition and active personal development certainly moved the scales in my favour (I helped to make my own luck as it were).
Therefore, I think as we come close to the end of the year (and the end of my tenure on the IBM Apprenticeship blog), I’ll look at the top 5 things I did (or didn’t!) do that I believe helped me get to where I am. So, in no particular order:
- Social Media – a blessing and a curse
We live in a social age. Those of you that saw our recent series on CAMSS know that corporations like IBM believe ‘social’ to be one of the defining trends in the IT industry for the next few years. So use it! Get on Twitter, get on LinkedIn, reach out to the people you work with and start building your network. Share things that are genuinely interesting (no, your breakfast doesn’t count – unless you actually have Heston Blumenthal over for breakfast – in which case stop tweeting and start eating!) and become that person that everyone looks for updates from.
But remember … double edged sword and all that … once it’s out there, it’s out there. I’m not saying don’t have a personal social media presence, I’m just saying make sure your ‘work’ profile isn’t full of expletives and selfies of you at the bar at 2AM – remember, your prospective partner, boss or client might well Google you prior to meeting you!
- Networking – truth in the cliché
Leading on from the above, Build. Your. Network. I know it’s clichéd, everyone says it, but no-one says how to do it. Sorry, but the harsh reality is that if you can’t be bothered to put the effort in to work out how, you’re never going to get as far as you could do. There’s so much out there on the art of networking (including other people you work with!) that there really isn’t an excuse nowadays.
And to give you a bit of motivation, through my network I have been to formal dinners/awards ceremonies, worked on *massive* global projects and been to a 5* hotel in Barcelona (expenses paid of course!). It’s tough, and a little awkward sometimes, but the payback is huge (and if you aren’t doing it, you can be sure your colleagues are!)
- Work really, really hard
There is no magic bullet. You don’t start as an Apprentice one day, and then lead a global project the next. No executive was actually just ‘given’ their position (and if they were, they’d be pretty quickly out of a job!). You need to get into work every day and grind. Become known for being the hardest worker. You don’t need to know everything and you certainly don’t need to be the best at everything. But if you can work harder than everyone else … again, the rewards will come falling into your lap. Like Sir Branson says:
Also, and I truly wish this wasn’t the case, there are some people who are still going to think you aren’t as good as your colleagues because you are an Apprentice. It’s wrong (demonstrably wrong in fact), but that’s what some people are going to say or think. I don’t know about you, but I love proving people wrong … and as Apprentices we always do!
- But not too hard!
Don’t go overboard. Don’t take on the world and prove you are right to every last person you meet. There isn’t enough time in the day and frankly, most of the time it isn’t worth it.
So long as you aren’t training to be a surgeon, or a firefighter, or something like that, take comfort in the fact that if you stop working for an evening, or if you make a mistake, no-one is going to die. I know it sounds slightly sacrilegious, and everyone likes to think that they are truly vital to their organisation (and in some ways it is very true), but having a weekend with your friends and family (or Netflix – no judging here!) and ignoring work is normal, healthy and actually benefits your working life. You need to stop, recharge, and come in Monday morning fresh and ready to take on the world. That’s when it’s time to game on!
- Education, Education, Education
Most employers taking on Apprentices view you as a blank sheet of paper. You know nothing, you have no experience and right now, you aren’t too useful to them in making money.
OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it proves my point. It benefits your employer for them to facilitate your education. You have chosen to start your working life in the work place instead of building skills and experience through University. That means you have no degree showing your skills yes, but it also means you have no preconceptions about ‘how it should be done’. You don’t have any bad habits. And you’re hungry to learn (if you weren’t, you wouldn’t have applied for an Apprenticeship). IBM is particularly good in facilitating world class education on it’s employees (every employee has a target of 40 hours of education a year). For Apprentices, IBM understands it’s even more important.
Take the opportunities. Learn as much as you can. It’s never going to be easier, and you’re never going to have the chance to start your career again. Get in there, get all the education you can and, you guessed it, go far!
So there it is. Certainly not a magic bullet, and maybe you’re screaming at your screen the number of things that I have omitted, tortured or just plain don’t agree with … doesn’t matter, I can’t hear you!
But that’s what has worked for me, and I’m pretty sure that if you take the dive into being an Apprentice, this will serve you well too.
I look forward to meeting you, feel free to reach out (networking, remember!):
And I hope you’ll join me in following the blog authors as they take things to even higher levels next year!