Tag Archives: travel

Signing out in style – Craig Wilkinson

If you remember at the beginning of the year, we ran a mini-series on Goals and Ambitions, and every Apprentice blogger provided a breakdown of their goals for 2015, 2020 and 2025. If you don’t remember, then refresh your memory by looking at the goals I’ve set myself for those years here.

Since we are coming to the end of the year, I thought it would be a perfect time to reflect back on the year and give an update to the progress of my goals I’d set for 2015.

Just as a reminder I set the following goals:

By the end of 2015, I would like to have achieved the following goals:

Passing my driving test (hopefully at the third time of asking)

Completed all compulsory Apprentice education to a high grade

Be more confident in my abilities and self-belief

Achieved an industry-standard qualification in Testing and Infrastructure

Become more productive and less ‘leaving things to the last minute’

Being part of a high profile giveback project (this blog hopefully) and with that, meeting more IBM and Client senior management

Not giving up on my gym regime

Started travelling to different places in the world

So where am I at with these goals? Let’s start with the first one…

  • No, I have not yet passed my driving test but I still plan to pass before the year is up!
  • I have now completed all the mandatory Apprentice training, and to add to the cherry on top, I also recently received the news that I had completed my apprenticeship! More on this later.
  • I feel that as I have progressed through the apprenticeship, I learn more as the months pass by and become more experienced, and with experience you naturally become more confident at what you do and as a person.
  • As for achieving an industry-standard qualification in Testing and Infrastructure, these are currently still pending so these plans will likely take me into 2016. I’m in no rush, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been training; just last month I had completed my ITIL Foundation Certificate in Service management, and I am currently in the process of completing my CompTIA Security+ training.
  • I feel as I’ve moved roles and gone on to a role that’s kept me busy, I’ve naturally become more organised. And, if I’m honest, if I left things to the last minute in my role, I’d likely be in trouble.
  • My big giveback project for this year has been to focus on this Apprentice blog but I will cover this in detail later on in the post.
  • I most definitely have not given up on my gym routine. In fact, these days I generally feel a lot fitter, don’t get tired as easily and my family have noticed changes too. Not to mention going to the gym is a good release after a long day at work. (It’s not always fun and games)
  • I’ve definitely broadened my horizons in regards to holidays this year; in March I went to Tenerife and in September I ventured across the pond to spend my 22nd birthday in New York. Next year, I am heading off to Barcelona and Portugal and have plans to go to the Maldives.

So while I may not have definitively achieved all my goals, I’ve made great progress towards them, and for the ones I have achieved they are significant milestones for me in my life and my career.

One significant milestone is completing and passing my apprenticeship. This means that I have now been officially recognised for all the hard work I have done over the two years I’ve been on the apprenticeship.

What does this mean now?
Passing the apprenticeship now frees me up to start working on Career Framework, where I will begin to put together my promotion case so I can transition smoothly into the business. Passing my apprenticeship also coincided nicely with celebrating my second year at IBM which means that I have exactly one year left in Foundation to get promoted. It also means I have one year left to get qualified in as much as I can.

On top of achieving my goals, and passing my apprenticeship, I am also immensely proud with the progress of the IBM UK Apprentice blog. If you are an eagle-eyed follower of the blog, you’ll see that I’ve been around on the blog for a while and have made a number of good posts. I have also been working with a few of the authors behind the scenes as part of the IBM UK Apprentice Blog Administrator team.

At the tail end of last year, we set our agenda for 2015 to be the year we really start getting the momentum going and do what we can to increase our readership. I set myself the task to research into ways of improving the end-user experience for our readers as well as improve things behind the scenes for the other authors. You may have noticed some of these changes in the form of the search bar (we didn’t have one before), the tag cloud (the bigger the word, the more popular it is), author accounts and general Search Engine Optimisation as well as other minor cosmetic changes. I have also had the privilege of implementing a streamlined publishing process which allows us to get great content out faster and at the best times for our readers.

As I am responsible for the Blog site, I also see all the stats. And it’s looking at the stats that makes me proud of the work that the whole of the Apprentice Blog team have done this year. Compared to the same period last year, we more than doubled unique views (people reading our articles) and we are on track to double unique visitors (new people reading our articles), not to mention our content reaching over 60 countries around the world. This is an impressive achievement and exceeded the expectations we set ourselves at the end of last year. You see why it’s good to set S.M.A.R.T goals?

With all these achievements over 2015, it got me thinking about my goals and what I wanted to do over 2016. The next year, being my promotion year, looks to be my busiest yet and I look to focus and prioritise training and education as well as my day to day role.

It is these goals I have set myself that made me decide it best that I take a step back from blogging duties, so I can really focus on performing to the best of my ability.

From this moment on, I will taking a backseat role on the blog and look to drive our gathering momentum from behind the scenes. While I wont be blogging, I will, however, be taking over from Oliver as co-owner of the blog with Avtar, and we have some great ideas lined up for the team in 2016.

On that note, I feel it’s high time I wrapped this show up. It’s been an absolute pleasure writing for the blog and I’ve received some fantastic feedback as a result so I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to you for staying awake throughout my ramblings! I will now leave you in the hands of our great authors who I am confident will continue their great work.

Signing out…

Craig Wilkinson


Belfast and beyond … – Tom Cope

Hello it’s me, Tom. C… with another blog post! Full of thrills, spills and punctuation.

*punctuation sold separately.

Anyway, now I’ve got that terrible starter sentence out of the way I can start typing. The hardest part of anything is getting started and that applies to blogs too. So time for an update!

The project I am working on has a more “Agile” structure so the client requested two weeks of “Hyper Care”. In most projects, after the “Go Live” (the point where the solution is fully delivered to the client) there is some sort of support to make sure everything works correctly and to rectify any small issues that may appear.

“Hyper Care” is this same sort of support but more intense. Usually of a longer period – in my projects case two weeks and over a longer set of operating hours. This means each team; DB2, Linux, WebSphere, Security, etc. have to be on hand or on call to help if any issues arise.

In order to help with the “Hyper Care” period project management asked if I could spend a week with the client, to help feedback any issues and act as a bridge between IBM and the client. I was very excited to get started and was surprised to find that the client was in Belfast! But how was I going to get there?

IBM has a tool where you can book your flights and hotels all in one place. So I booked a flight to Belfast, booked a hotel and went home to pack.

After touching down, checking in and walking to the clients offices I was reminded of the Foundation PSC (Professional Skills Class) which is a course that teaches you how to work with the client, what terminology to use and how to “Handle Objections” which is very useful.

Upon arriving I met with the project Architect whose job it is to design how the system is put together and how it integrates with all the different technologies. He wrote the design document which covers all the aspects of the project and how they link up which is invaluable for working out which section is producing an error and how to resolve the issue.

As mentioned, my role was to act as a bridge between the client and the project team, converting the client’s requirements into technical actions to be undertaken. I also had to handle any errors and suggest the root cause along with a remedy plan; this worked particular well as I know how the system worked and could work with the staff to debug on-site issues.

Finally I produced two tracking spreadsheets; one for the performance of the system, gathering stats from the team and correlating the data with the actions the client was taking on the application so see if any particular server was under stress. The second spreadsheet was to keep track of the different errors both on the client and project side and link them together.

Working with the client was interesting, very different to how things are back on the project and I enjoyed it.

Within the weeks leading up to “Go Live” work really starts to pick up, to the point where you have 72 different entries on your to-do list and not a lot of time to complete them. Now you generally have two options; the first – Panic! And the second: time management. Below are some of the commonly used techniques to help process that to-do list:

  • Target it = If you have one massive item that needs completing, just dedicate the day to getting it done and once the day is over you can move on to something else.
  • Lunch = This is good if you have two separate pieces of work. Set yourself the goal of completing one before lunch and one after. This way you can clear your head over lunch and prepare for the final sprint.
  • The ‘pomodoro’ technique = In a nutshell this means splitting tasks into 25 minute blocks. Quite handy when your have lots of small tasks.
  • Deadlines = Set yourself an imaginary deadline to complete a piece of work. e.g. I need to finish that report by 10:00.

So yeah, that was my blog post update and a little insight into working with the client. Thank you for reading and have a smashing day!

–That was me Tom. C.