Tag Archives: tips

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 has IBM done to me?? – Avtar Marway

Before joining IBM in September 2014, I had only knowledge that I gained from school and from the places that I had worked at. The experience that I had was in IT, but more in a hardware, or the design field. I worked as an IT Technical Support, and had a YouTube channel where my twin brother and I uploaded various videos that we edited. The YouTube channel is called “FranticViperz” if you want to check out some of our old stuff. FYI, some of our videos are deleted as my twin brother cringed at some of the content we made! Anyway, back to the topic… I had barely any experience in the corporate world and working as a consultant.

I’ve been in IBM for almost a year and a half now, and I want to reflect on what I’ve learnt so that you are able to understand what IBM has done to me, and what it can do to you if you work for IBM, whether it’s through an apprenticeship, graduate scheme or other.

I have worked in 3 different fields, with 3 different clients. I was in a Performance Test role at a large building society, then a Technical Support on TADDM role at one of the largest Scottish banks, and now a SAP Performance Analyst Role at a large utility firm. These are 3 different roles that I have been in since joining IBM. A testing role, a technical support role and now a SAP role. I have gained knowledge in these areas that I have worked in. For example, I am able to explain testing, and have knowledge of Performance Testing as well as other testing, such as UAT Testing and Functional Testing. The benefits of being in IBM, is that you are able to change your role if you feel that your role isn’t best suited for you, or if you would like to try something new. IBM has allowed me to experience these areas and gain more knowledge in this way.

IBM have provided me with training and learning which have helped to develop my skills. Although some training that I have completed is specific to Apprentices and assists with our development, there is other training that can be done online, at IBM locations, at client sites etc. For example, when I was a performance tester at a large building society, there were often training and learning sessions held after work, and during lunchtime. Often, I am sent emails about learning offers at IBM bases, and online learning that can help assist me, such as lunch and learn. Now what have these training and learning sessions done? These learning sessions have helped to develop my interpersonal skills, consulting skills, learn more about the client and their area of work.

IBM have spoiled me! It’s the perk of working for a consultancy company. You get sent out to client sites away from your home, and often away from your base location. I’ve worked in 3 different cities. Swindon, London and now Leeds. As these are away from my home, IBM accommodate me and make sure that I am comfortable when I am away from my base location. For those wondering, a base location is your closest IBM location, where you travel to and work without getting expense. IBM Warwick is my base location.

IBM spoiling me is not a bad thing at all. It’s a great thing because it shows how IBM are making sure that you are comfortable in the location that you are working. If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, and would rather commute, you can apply for a company car, providing you are eligible for the scheme that IBM offer. You can also apply for a company car if it is cost effective for IBM. So IBM haven’t really spoiled me, they’ve just made me comfortable in the location that I am working.

So overall, what are the major things that IBM have done to me? They’ve increased my confidence, presentation skills, time management and client interaction skills. They’ve allowed me to get experience in multiple areas, and have allowed me to work in various locations without incurring large expenses. They’ve allowed me to go on internal and external training courses and have provided me with learning that allows me to develop further. They’ve given me a great salary and a great benefits package. I’ve got a great manager who cares about my wellbeing, career and development. They’ve given me all of the support that I need and that’s what IBM have done to me.

IBM are a great company, and I’m glad that I work for this company. Hope you enjoyed reading my blog. If you have any questions regarding The IBM Apprenticeship, Gap Year (Futures) Scheme, Graduate scheme or anything else, feel free to comment asking, tweet me, or message me on LinkedIn.

Avtar Marway



10 Tips to get that technical role – Simon Ainslie

Before I get started with the tips I thought it would be best to give a little introduction to myself. So my name is Simon and I began the IBM apprenticeship scheme over 2 and a half years ago now. When I joined I had the goal of becoming a Software Developer. Unlike a lot of other apprentices, I knew that’s what I wanted to do and I was very keen to achieve it. After 2 and a half years in the scheme I am now sat in a Web Developer role and am looking onto how best I can maintain and progress my technical career. However getting this role and working effectively within it, was and is the hardest things I have done at IBM. It challenged a lot of my expectations and there was an incredible amount of work that went into giving myself the opportunity and maintaining my role. After just over a year in this role (and soon to be progressing out of the apprenticeship scheme), I feel I am in a good position to now advise other apprentices joining the scheme who are keen to progress a career as a developer. I felt the easiest way to do this would be through top 10 tips, which I have integrated with personal experience…

Top 10 tips to get the technical role you want


First and foremost you need to be committed to this as a career, there is no point just expecting it to work out it. If you want to do a specific technical role you need to show your commitment, not just through IBM courses or the giveback you did the other year. You need to show a personal commitment – time. There are so many resources online that are not necessarily IBM related that can teach you skills to help you sell yourself to that person when they think about giving you a chance. For example within software development, you should be teaching yourself the basics. There are a lot of different programming languages and technologies out there. Learn about them. Learn how to build small applications in a programming language. A good first goal is building yourself a website CV or a simple mobile application. Something you can tell and show people you have done. The reason for this is simple – most people in developer roles (and other skilled technical roles) will have a degree, that’s the long and short of it. So give yourself the best chance at competing with them. Make sure you have invested personal time in your future, it will pay off in the long run, trust me.

IBM Courses –

The IBM apprenticeship scheme gives you some freedom to choose personal targets for the year, use this to tell your manager what it is you want to do. For example set yourself the target, I want to get a basic understanding in C#. Then make sure you go online, research and speak to others in the area and find yourself a good course. It’s a great opportunity to commit time to improving your skillset. However there is a big mistake made by people who do this, not using it. You come back from your course and you feel like you know C# (or whatever you pick), good for you, and it is a great step in the right direction. What happens when your great opportunity comes along a year later, you tell people you know it because you did a course on it and when it comes to it you have forgotten everything? Once you come back from the course, set yourself personal projects and targets. Don’t just go on a course but use it, use it as a platform to build off of, Make sure you maintain and build on those skills.

Share knowledge gained

This may sound like you are sharing your skills and therefore putting everyone at the same level as you right? Why would you want to do that? Wrong. Presenting, documenting and sharing technical skills just improves you knowledge and as a bonus people tend to notice that you have done it. Knowing how to do something and having enough knowledge to teach others are very different. Therefore share, and show others how to do it, it will both improve your understanding and make you more confident in your skills. It’s also another thing to show the person you haven’t met yet who will give you an opportunity at some point. Building that portfolio of skill sand what you have done with them is important. They will ask you what you can do, and as with everything in IBM, they will ask you to prove it. The more ways you can do that the better.

Get involved in things inside and outside of IBM

This tip is aimed at communities and therefore ties into the networking side of things a little. It’s a little more than that though, join technical communities both inside and outside of IBM. There are countless communities of people sharing ideas, problems and advice. It makes sense to be part of this on the bigger scale, however not just to be a name on a list. That’s a wasted chance, be active, ask questions, respond to questions if you can but above all show your interest. We have already covered how there is a lot to know, but you can access good communities of professionals sharing tips and tricks both inside and outside of IBM.

Get a mentor

One of the best tips I was given was to get a mentor, it is by far one of the most important things on this list. As a guide look for a mentor who is further on in there technical career than you however in a position to provide you with guidance and insight that will help you progress. Personally I now have a few mentors, each from different areas of the business who help me in different ways. It is easier said than done to find a mentor and to ask someone you want to be a mentor and to do it. It involves a little bit of jumping in the deep end. Personally the best thing I can suggest is if you go to an event, or are part of a team or even go to a dinner with someone who really knows a lot about the path you want to get on. Just ask, it’s as simple as that. You can ask them, face to face, via e-mail or however you feel comfortable, just make sure you do it. A good point to remember if you are nervous or unsure is that in the higher bands of IBM people are encouraged to be mentors so chances are they will want to help.

Pick the right giveback

There are giveback projects that ask people to create an application and use technical skills (See share knowledge gained). If you can’t find any there is also always scope to come up with your own giveback project. But make sure the giveback you are doing can help you progress. As I have already mentioned investing your own time in the right way is important, and this is the same for how you invest downtime into giveback. As an apprentice the giveback you do will separate you from the rest, however (contrary to popular belief) it is more about quality than it is quantity. If you have been into 50 schools this year and done a talk about the apprenticeships that’s good. However if you have invested time into building or changing something that it now benefiting the client, the team, you or anyone then from personal experience I think that’s a more worthwhile.


Innovative thinking is important and respected in IBM, it’s worth investing a little time each month (normally as part of a team of 4) into seeing if you can come up a patent worthy idea. Also knowing and going through the process can be worth as much as the patent. Knowing the process and having made a few submissions (regardless of the result) enables you to provide help, support and communication with others who participate in this side of IBM. Manny of whom will be technical people. It’s a good example of an activity and community that can get you talking to those people who can help you build your career. It’s also worth mentioning that Master and Senior Inventors are encouraged to help and mentor younger teams, so there is a lot of support out there if you are keen on getting a patent to your name. This is more of a suggestion that can help if you are interested and less of an essential part of beginning your technical career.

Tactical networking

This one is less about improving your skills and knowledge and a little more about actually getting the role. Firstly if you are going to events and joining communities, make sure you network. Introduce yourself and have a chat with anyone and everyone. People will bang on at you about networking, and you will be bored of the word. But there is a reason they bang on about it, it’s really useful. You are expanding the number of people you can ping and ask about roles, opportunities and advice. You are expanding the number of people who will message you, that will increase your eminence (another buzzword so sorry for that) as a technical person if you do it right and that’s always a good thing. Secondly when you do meet these people through all the stuff you are doing make sure why you are doing it is in your personal introduction. Most new interactions start with your name and what you do. I suggest you add a ‘But I am looking to move into a **Insert role you want here** when I get the opportunity’. The more people that you tell what you want to do, the more people there are who might ping you the name offering something in that area or forward an e-mail that might lead to what you want. I guess the overall point here is that someone somewhere has the ability to give you the opportunity, and the more people helping you find that, the better.

Taking the opportunity

When someone does mention to you that there might be scope for the role you want chances are they will need to be won round, I mean, why would they give the role to you over a grad who has more experience in that area? That is the question you need to be able to answer. And if you give the right answer they may still consider you. It’s not easy taking a maybe and making it into a yes. For me I had to go to the account partners a couple of times and work with them on a business case to put me in the role. I worked with them and gave them every reason to give me a chance and thankfully it paid off. You will need to do the leg work, you should chase people, show them how much you want it.

Commit to succeeding

Finally being a skilled technical person is not an easy role to get. But don’t give up. It took me a year of being in IBM before I got lucky and met someone, who knew someone, who managed a development team. Some people will get lucky quicker and for some it will take longer. But stick to it, keep working and keep investing in yourself, it will pay off. It’s just a matter of time. Getting and maintaining the role I am now in has been one of the biggest challenges for me and it has not been easy at all, but it has been worth every bit of effort. If you are interested I encourage you to continue on working for that role.

To conclude, the last year and a half has been incredibly hard for me, however it’s been worth it. The tips above are things that I found out along the way and I hope that they help you to achieve your technical role. If you are reading this to see how my top tips compare with your experiences please share them in the comments. If you have any questions again please use the comments. I look forward to hearing other opinions and responses.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!


How to ace that all important interview by Ryan McManus

Many people get worried when it comes to thinking about interviews and how well they will cope. I am hoping to share a few top tips for preparing for them and how to cope when you are finally in the interviews…..because after all, it could be make or break!

Before the Interview

Before the interview it is always good to memorise as many of your key qualities and traits as you can. This gives you lots of flexibility to link them to your responses to the questions the interviewer will ask. Same goes with real life examples. What have you done better than others? Get them listed down and memorised, as you will need them to impress the interviewer!

If you’re asked to prepare a presentation or speech for an interview, think of it as a positive. It gives you a chance to steer the interview. The best thing to reduce your nerves is to practice until you feel comfortable that you cannot do it better (If you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail.) Notes will not be frowned upon as long as you focus on your audience and don’t read in to your notes! Make sure you rehearse the presentation; get someone to watch and make notes and comment back to you. It’s amazing how many errors you pick up by reading it over yourself. Time your presentation as running too much over is not good and you may be cut short, but also running too much under can also portray a lack of planning. Giving the interviewer hand-outs it demonstrates your organisation.

Dress suitably for the job you have applied for. If it is a well-respected company and all of the workers dress in suits, don’t turn up in your joggers/jeans and expect to be offered the job. It’s better to over dress than under dress. If it’s your first time in a suit and tie and you feel stupid …don’t worry, everyone else probably feels the same way too! Clean and polished shoes are always a must and a belt always helps to smarten things up.

Neat hair – Both on your head and on your face. The first thing the interviewer will look at is you so look presentable. (You have 7 Seconds to make a first impression)

Don’t use too much aftershave/perfume. It’s always good to smell nice but if you’re wearing that much that the interviewer eyes are watering, it’s probably not given the best first impression.

Sweaty palms – There is not much you can do about it and don’t let it put you off one bit, but if you can maybe run your hands under the cold tap before the interview to try and suppress it, it may help.

Bad breath is something that can be helped – Maybe take mints instead of chewing gum as you want your breath to smell nice but don’t want to be chewing when you are being interviewed.

Make sure you try to get lots of sleep the night before. Although the nerves might be kicking in and every sentence and question is running through your head, try and go to the interview with a fresh, rested mind.

Take a pen with you – It’s not always needed but if you do need it, it gives off a sign that you have come prepared.

If you’re asked to provide references make sure they are reliable and ensure they have good written and language skills.

In the Interview (What to expect)

Different interviews can take different forms so read though the below and just apply the tips that you think are most relevant for the type of interview you have been asked to do.

Always ensure that you act confident. Interviewers will understand that you are nervous as everyone is, but don’t mumble or be shy when answering them. They are not there to catch you out, they want a genuine conversation with you and are not there to make you worry or shy. If you are standing for a while, whether presenting or waiting etc don’t slouch or lean against the wall, put yourself though the pain of standing normally for those few minutes.

Have good eye contact with the interviewer, don’t stare at them but on the other hand don’t stare at the floor constantly (or out of the window!) – get the balance right.

If there is a large interview audience don’t be fazed by it. Try and speak to them all when responding and not just focus on one person. Think of it as more people to impress.

Don’t fidget. Whether sitting down or standing up, there is nothing more off putting for an interviewer than to watch someone rocking their chair or tapping their leg.

If you get a “personal interview”:they just want to know about you, and genuinely just about you as a person.

Don’t give up if you get stuck on a question. A short pause might seem like 2 minutes to you at the time, but in reality its only 2 seconds and the interviewer hasn’t even noticed.

Don’t give up on rejection. If you don’t succeed in the first interview, don’t get disheartened. Learn from the mistakes and build upon it to move you onto bigger and better things.

Some things you just can’t prepare for. If you can’t change or affect something …don’t worry about it!

Hope it helps!

My other blog “Tips for applying for an apprenticeship” is also on here, which covers points for the initial stage of the application process and some of the points covered there will also help you out for interviews so why not check that out.