Tag Archives: professional

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


Year 1 Reflections – Richard Cure

Hi! I’m Richard and I’d like to share with you in my first blog post on how I got to IBM, my current role right now, and what I have learnt so far from my experiences with IBM.

My journey so far:

Having finished A-Levels with grades in Computing, Maths and Spanish in summer 2014 I knew I wanted to pursue a career in IT or Spanish. I ended up applying to Bristol University to study Computer Science with a year abroad and was lucky enough to receive an offer.

I also looked at apprenticeships as I knew they were viable alternatives to university. So in addition to my university application I applied to a handful of IT companies for their apprenticeship schemes, IBM being one of them.

After passing some online tests I was sent to Reading, for an assessment centre for another company’s apprenticeship scheme and naturally I was rather nervous. I did my best in the group activities and received an offer, but first I wanted to see what IBM could offer me. After a phone interview with an IBM employee and more online tests I travelled to Portsmouth for my second assessment centre. The day went well and a presentation from existing IBM apprentices affirmed what I already knew about the benefits of the scheme and what would happen for the duration of the apprenticeship.

A few months later I was contacted again to set up a final interview for the role I am doing now. This time however I felt relaxed and confident going into it because I knew what to expect having experienced interviews in my previous assessment centres. I think this showed in the interview and I was ecstatic to receive confirmation that I would start at IBM shortly after, so long as onboarding checks and associated paperwork etc. went well, which they did.

So overall it was a long process, but well worth it in the end.

Before joining IBM I had to make the difficult decision to defer my university offer but half a year later, I ultimately rejected my offer – this wasn’t too difficult after having worked as an apprentice for a while.

Now I’ve spent the last year and a bit on an IBM Programme mainly made up of application development projects aiming to develop, support and maintain a number of applications for an interesting customer and it’s been great!

What I’m doing now:

To explain a bit more about my main role – I’m working as a Build Specialist in the Server Build team, which entails looking after 200+ servers being used by my colleagues for project work (for those reading who aren’t sure what a “server” is, think of a server being like a powerful desktop computer without a monitor which performs a specific task). Our main responsibilities in the Build team are to make sure the servers are up to date software-wise and fixing any issues related to the computer environment which come our way before we hand over the servers to the test team. If testing is successful then whatever we have installed on our systems ends up in the hands of the customer to install on their systems, so it’s important we get it right first time and don’t miss anything! All these servers perform different roles and have different hardware and software requirements and specifications, so there’s been a lot learnt over the last year and for sure more to come.

In this role I’ve applied a variety of different skills, ranging from technical skills – understanding and operating the systems running on the servers (we’ve got at least 3: Windows, Linux and AIX – IBM’s own version of Linux) to personal skills – dealing with the customer, and speaking to them to arrange hardware fixes as the physical side of the servers are managed by the customer, to practical hands on skills – looking after the hardware devices physically in the office such as printers and taking responsibility for them.

The project likes to test us in different areas too, so in addition to my primary job role I’m also doing a Measurements Analyst role. It’s a natural fit for me because in this role I have free reign to look at the all data produced from the Programme which is held from a wide range of sources – databases, project logs, etc. and collate it to make sense of it, which I really enjoy. This means I get to build on my programming skills acquired from A-Level study and create informative graphs and charts which I present regularly to management. Recently I’ve been challenged with developing the estimation tool for faults used by the Project Managers to create estimates which feed in to the scheduling of their projects. This meant researching, understanding, and implementing linear regression and other statistical concepts such as Cook’s Distance into the existing tool, so I had to dig out my old statistics revision notes to help me out – who says you’ll never use Maths in your day job!

Thirdly, another role I’ve been assigned is Software Quality Analyst where I get to learn about the different software projects by interviewing the Project Managers and personnel involved and at the end of it, produce a report on whether they’ve been following best practices and procedures to ensure the quality of the project and its deliverables (by deliverables I mean work produced like software packages and project documentation to be given to the customer).

Overall it’s a lot of work, and really tests me as an early professional day in day out, but as a consequence I’ve grown in confidence, widened my knowledge and gained vital experience which you could argue university students and graduates lack to a degree (excuse the pun).

The main things I’ve learnt:

Qualifications aren’t everything. Sure they help to set a bench mark for knowledge, but it really is about the skills you can offer, and how you perform within a team to a) get things done b) add value to the business c) grow yourself, skills and career.

What things I was strong at, and what things I thought I was good at but actually wasn’t and need to work on more.

About independent living – I’ve had to move away from home and orientate myself in a new city, which has been really exciting but daunting at the same time.

How to navigate IBM. IBM is huge and have offices across the world, therefore you can’t avoid the news about what the company is doing. When I started I did find it difficult to work out which parts to pay attention to and which parts to filter out because everything was exciting and new to me. The structure and organisation side of IBM such as the employee’s homepage has improved a lot recently so it’s easier to find your way around and also now I have a feeling of the topics which interest me more than others, so I can channel my efforts and energy into what’s most important at the time. Also there’s a whole network of people you can ask to point you in the right direction.

Make the most of your time off – when you compare a full time job to studying the difference in free time is light years – so I’ve learnt to appreciate how valuable your spare time is. IBM supports you with this in the fact you can buy or sell holiday days in addition to the 25 days each year plus bank holidays. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to go on holiday to see Australia and New Zealand a few weeks ago which was amazing. I certainly would not have had been able to do this had I been at University!

Hard work pays off – I was recognised by the Programme Manager in the form of a Project Award only a few months after I joined. This really surprised me but definitely made me feel valued as part of the team even though I was only there for a short period of time.


Thanks for taking the time to read my first post, and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead – summer, training courses, the eventual completion of my apprenticeship qualification, and more posts of course!


A cup of T – Joe B

Welcome to my final blog of the year, and what a journey this year has been! From Madonna taking to the sky to the Hotline bling and Drakes….err…Dancing??

But the journey I am most interested in is my own. From a new starter at a massive IT company to an IBMer. This apprenticeship has definitely given me a big push in my career development and although I have encountered some growing pains, it has all been worth it. Join me in listening to my story, it’s no blockbuster, if it was the climax of the story would be ‘Will Joe survive this brutal paper cut’ or ‘How could Joe save the day now with his crippling finger cramp’. Instead we can look at the professional and mental obstacles I had to over come and also the obstacles that I didn’t need to face whilst on the apprenticeship.

September 2014 I arrived for my two week induction with 24 others also in my position. We were all given basic  knowledge of what we could be doing going in the company; from binary to testing. We all had opportunities to work in teams which really allowed me to meet new people, most of whom I still speak to now. One of the things that stuck at that time was creating your own brand, i.e what will your name mean to other people, how will you be perceived. Near the end of the two weeks they emphasised what you could get out of the apprenticeship. They spoke about a T system which always comes back to me when I look back. I had not heard of it before and it means when you start you career you build knowledge and get more capable, this is represented by the vertical line of the letter T. Once you have accumulated enough knowledge you can branch off to learn a wider scope of whatever field you are interested in, completing the T.

I left the induction with this firmly in mind.

My first role as a Test Analyst in the financial sector started off really well for me. I had good teachers to learn from that where also on the Apprenticeship. I was able to grow my network along with my technical knowledge. I was seeing the development of my T shape very early. I believe I was able to progress quickly because of my network and using it to widen my knowledge base.

Whilst most people were following the yellow brick road, I was taking the networking escalator.

Although everything was on the rise it wasn’t without problems. This was highlighted in my 6 month review. Balancing IBM and Client work was something that was mentioned and this affected my business hygiene. Hour plans late, receipts not claimed, stuff that was as important as the knowledge I was gathering whist with the client. It is important to keep a healthy balance. After the review I was motivated to be a more well rounded professional. Education out of the office from lessons set up by IBM from my client site as well as online courses was just a couple of the things I did to improve.

The Agile courses really interested me as it was relevant to the job I was doing.

It’s been 8 months and I have gathered a large amount of knowledge in my current role, I was the only person in my team that understood most of the systems we dealt with. I believe I am at the top of the T shape ready to branch off. Now I was looking for what my next role could be using my network and people from my starting group. One role that came along was a Change Management role which really put a spanner in the works. There I was gathering knowledge, doing online courses in testing only to find myself wanting a role I had little knowledge off.

But me being me I went head first for it.

And it turns out I could have done the role, My status as an apprentice was not a factor. The role has even been filled by an apprentice before. IBM foundation really do give you the opportunity to try anything. I sent them my CV, had a call with the role owner and everything was going well. Unfortunately this time I didn’t get the role. It was filled by someone with more experience. I was gutted, I really wanted to make that jump, making my Tshape career into an ishape. Instead I felt like it was more like a S or Z swaying from one ideal role to another.

Whilst my brain was dealing with all this algebra I carried on working hard on my work.

I have now been at IBM for 14 months and will be starting my new role in December, what role you say? Well its not as a Change Manager but instead as an Inter-System Test Analyst on a large project. Although it sounds similar to my last role Inter-Systems Analysts have a wider scope of testing to perform as well as more considerations and workarounds to consider. I am mostly excited about the project I will be working on, unlike before where I was doing small amounts of testing for dozens of project this would allow me to get behind a product and learn all about it. Online courses and networking still allows me to start branching out my T shape but with this role I can develop more by adding personal experience and team work to my base knowledge.

Therefore I am taking that Networking escalator once again but not aiming for the T shape career I wanted rather the F shape that my career needs.

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t come together and you have to adapt to your situation. Embrace it, use it, make the best out of it. As long as you stay motivated, have at least a rough idea of where you want to go and keep on gathering knowledge you will never go back on yourself. You will continue to climb.

How will your career shape up?

So Long … and thanks for all the fish – Oliver P-M

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:

  1. 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!

  1. 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!)

  1. 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:

branson quote

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!

  1. 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!

  1. 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!):

Email: oliver.pope-mostowicz@uk.ibm.com

Twitter: @oliverjpope_

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/oliver-pope-mostowicz-90554358

And I hope you’ll join me in following the blog authors as they take things to even higher levels next year!


What changes after you graduate? – Avtar Marway

Hi all, it’s Avtar Marway here, back with another blog!
As you may be aware, the theme for recent blogs have been about IBM Apprentices who have graduated out of the apprenticeship scheme and today my blog will be about what changes when you graduate.

When you start your apprenticeship with IBM, you are already considered a permanent IBM employee. You are given a duration of 3 years to complete your apprenticeship, and once these 3 years are complete, your title as an apprentice is taken away, and you are just known as an ‘IBMer’.
When you graduate, you are still considered a permanent IBM employee so there is no change in your status as an IBM employee.

Another thing that doesn’t change when you graduate out of the apprenticeship scheme is your role and service line. Unless you decide to change roles, or request to change your service line, you will still be in the same role that you were in before. This means, you can continue to work in the profession that you would like to after you finish your apprenticeship.

Now, what does change? In IBM, there are different bands, and different levels that you can be. The higher these levels are, the more dependent your role becomes. For example, a higher band role could be a Test Manager role, whereas a lower band role could be a Test Analyst role. When you are an apprentice, you start in an educational band, and progress to the first professional band. Once you have graduated out of the apprenticeship scheme, you can progress up through the bands. However, being in a lower band does not mean you can’t do higher band roles. It just means you will not be in the band that most manager roles etc are already in. You are not limited to specific roles based on your band type.

Another thing that changes is that you’re no longer part of Foundation! As an apprentice, you have an Early Professionals Manager (EPM), who is there to help develop your skills, as well as be your manager at IBM. An EPM is only there for you during your Apprenticeship and while you are in Foundation. Once you have progressed out of the apprenticeship world, you also progress out of Foundation, which means you no longer have an EPM. Instead, you have a PeM which is a People Manager.

Is that all that changes? Nope! There are a few more things… such as not having to complete specific documents like IBM journals which lead toward completing your OCR mapping document. The OCR mapping document is used in the apprenticeship scheme in order to help you complete your Apprenticeship qualification. As you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you will no longer be required to complete these.

I’m sure I’ve given you a few points of what changes and what stays the same when you graduate out of the apprenticeship scheme. And I’m sure, if you’re interested, you’ll want to find out more.
So as usual… feel free to tweet me @AvtarMarway, message me on LinkedIn “Avtar Marway” or email me “AvtarMar@uk.ibm.com, if you have any questions, queries about the IBM Apprenticeship scheme or IBM in general!

Where are they now? – Ryan McManus

Well I’m still in IBM and no I’m not the CEO …just yet! I have now progressed into “the business” and like Oli and Lewis, I have completed the Apprenticeship after an amazing 3 years! I have not got a new job title or changed my job – So what is the difference?

The difference is my knowledge and my view on the world of work.

Looking back at my apprenticeship I have had 7 different job types on 4 different accounts/locations. Some roles I learned more on than others, some clients were more structured than others, but every single one of them was different and unique in their own right. Every single one of them taught me new skills and made me think differently to solve complex challenges.

I have now gained a breadth of knowledge in multiple areas of IBM. I am more than confident that the knowledge base I have gained shall serve me well no matter what career path I go down. It’s not just the role knowledge I have gained, I have also gained people skills and learned how to interact with different clients, IBM’ers and work with different cultures. I have developed new and different ways of thinking / working to help me perform to my best ability.

I dared to challenge myself and if I’m being honest, not all of my decisions turned out how I expected, but I sure did learn and develop from every single one of them. By challenging myself I proved myself to others which led to more responsibility and in turn gave me knowledge at a faster pace! When I think back, I have seen myself go from role to role gaining more responsibility or challenge in each one of them which really defines the term “development”!

At the start of my apprenticeship I only really knew of (and wanted to be) the job role that was abbreviated PM (Project Manager). Over the 3 years I have experienced roles that I never really knew existed and ones that at the beginning I thought “it’s just not for me”. But the apprenticeship has given me an insight into roles that I now want to explore further and are a huge interest to me! IBM is a massive company and you could set up a 20 year apprenticeship and not get through the all the areas, so I had to pick roles wisely and be realistic in the paths I wanted to explore.

Gained the contacts – At the end of my 3 years one of my biggest assets is my contacts list. I have built an extensive network that can open new doors and can link me back to some of the career paths that I explored earlier on in my apprenticeship.

I have developed my understanding of the market and business I am actually in. Sure I had an understanding of what IBM did before (they did computer stuff right…?) Now I actually know how IBM operates, the processes and models within a business and the markets they are involved in. But more importantly I know why they are in those markets. I can use this to understand how to deliver real benefit to our clients and understand the challenges our clients face and what can be done to solve them.

It’s not all work work work. You have to have a social life too right? I have met some amazing people and made some great friends all of which have led to some great experiences throughout the apprenticeship!

Do I now have a firm and confirmed career path I want to follow? No…but I’m not far away. I know what I enjoyed and I know what I was good and not so good at. I shall now look to explore the areas I have enjoyed the most, but also where I know my skill set lies, to hopefully lead to great achievements and a prosperous future within IBM!

So it’s not really where am I now as I’m just setting off on my journey…its more about                           “what have I done to prepare myself for my journey”.

Ryan McManus

IBM Foundation: where are they now? – Oliver Pope-Mostowicz

So here’s an interesting turn up.

I started this blog, along with a number of my Apprentice colleagues for National Apprenticeship Week … wait for it … 1.5 years ago!  Since then, we’ve pretty consistently posted a blog a week on a huge array of subjects – all from the view point of IBM Apprentices.  I’m really proud of what has been done here.

What makes this even more interesting, for me at least, is that the start of this blog marked the half way point in my career as an IBM Apprentice.  Which, as you have guessed, means that (by the time this blog is published – so long as everything goes according to plan *touch wood, throw salt over shoulder, buy a horse shoe etc*) I am no longer an IBM Apprentice.  I have ‘graduated’ from the Apprenticeship scheme and have joined my colleagues as an IBM professional.

It’s quite strange; I look back on that first blog post and I can see an element of defensiveness – I was proving to the world around me that I had made the right decision, that I was an IBM Apprentice and proud and here are all the reasons why ‘I was right and you were wrong’.  Part of me has stayed the same – I’m still immensely proud that I am/was an IBM Apprentice, I know I made the right decision and I still occasionally like to take on the world. But I like to think that part of me has also changed.

In the time since I joined IBM in September 2012, I have been all across England, to Vienna and Barcelona, I have worked 15+ hour days, worked on holidays and been woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call from work.  I have sat in client offices as the sole IBM technical representative and I have created architectures for client systems that are now in place and support their critical services that allow them to run their business.  I have made friends, I have been coached by excellent mentors, and I have been absolutely awestruck by human beings and technology more than once.  I’m a qualified TSM administrator, an Infrastructure Architect and a Registered IT Technician (see Paul Martynenko’s post from last week).  That sounds like I’m boasting – and maybe I am a little, I told you, I’m proud of my achievements – but mostly it’s just incredible to me to sit back sometimes and just list what I’ve done, where I’ve been and who I’ve met.

On that last point, I’ve met ex-Foundation members who are now IBM Distinguished Engineers (the highest technical banding within IBM), who are running *massive* global accounts and who are involved in continuing the support of the Foundation scheme seeking out new talent and new opportunities amongst young people.

Now I’m not saying I’m going to reach those lofty heights (though I certainly intend to), but it does give me pause for thought …

Foundation: Where are they now?  Probably the question is more where aren’t they?  And more importantly, why aren’t you here as well?

Oliver Pope-Mostowicz