Tag Archives: women in technology

A day in zSeries – Nicole Covey

Another day in the life of a zSeries software support specialist… Wake up… bowl of cereal…. Depending on your mood and how hungry you are you possibly have another… if you’re really struggling you may even consider one more but you talk yourself out of it because that’s just greedy. Then comes the drive to work… sometimes you get to the office and feel lucky to be alive because you’ve had a close encounter with someone who is just way too keen to get to work. That, however, is about the only part of my day that is predictable. In my role you never know what is around the corner, it’s the thing I like most about my job, every day is different.

I am currently a zSeries Software Support Specialist here at IBM. zSeries are our big mainframe servers and It’s my job to help keep our mainframe customers up and running. This involves helping them with any queries they have with their mainframe software and also investigating any issues they experience to help get them back up and running as soon as possible. You can probably guess from the last half of that sentence that sometimes the job is very high pressured and stressful! Headache tablets are kept in the top drawer for those days that you wish you hadn’t got out of bed. (Let’s be honest it doesn’t matter how much you like your job we all have those days!)

We use PMR’s which are Problem Management Records to manage client queries/issues, these hold all the data on the client contact and the reason the PMR was raised, including product and release levels, any diagnostic data and times and dates of the incident. PMR’s also contain all the communication between us and the customer as well as all our findings during our investigations.

When talking about a day in my role, typical is probably not the best word to use. The process is the same, I look at PMR’s, talk to customers and look through diagnostic data such as system memory dumps and trace data, but each PMR is unique and different. Z is such as massive product, I’m constantly coming across new things and sometimes things that I’ve never heard of! Even my colleagues, some of whom have been working on Z for longer than I have been alive (which they love me reminding them of) are coming across new things every day.

Looking through system memory dumps is where all the fun lies, we use a tool called IPCS and it looks like the Matrix, just a mass of green HEX code on a black screen. The feeling of satisfaction you get when you solve a problem has got to be one of the perks of the job. You get a great sense of achievement when you see a problem all the way through from gathering the problem description, investigating (the fun part) and providing the customer with a solution.

Z has a bit of a reputation for being a ‘Dinosaur’ product, it’s been around for a very long time – I kind of like that though, dinosaurs are awesome. This does mean however that a large number of our z people are retiring which means it has become challenging with there being only three of us in Front Office UK support, but it is also a great opportunity for me to continue to grow my skills and become more competent. It’s like how my mum taught me to swim; chuck me in the deep end and I’ll learn quickly. Personally I think she’s lucky I’m not now terrified of water and will never trust her again (it took a while).

The funny thing is I never planned for a career in technology. In fact, before I came to IBM I had very limited technical knowledge (OK – I’ll be honest, I had absolutely none!). Five years on, I wake up every morning and drive into the office knowing that I have a challenge ahead, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me developing. As an added bonus I don’t hate Mondays. Well, I don’t love them, I wouldn’t even say I like them because no one likes Mondays, but I enjoy what I do and that’s all you can ask for.

My opinion of the IBM Degree Apprenticeship – Megan Murray


For my blog this quarter I decided to cover my opinion of the Degree Apprenticeship Scheme… and as a painfully honest person it’s always a little bit scary to voice your opinion on anything; let alone when your employer and people responsible for your future career will be reading what you have to say!

A summary for those of you reading who may not be aware of the scheme – the IBM Degree Apprenticeship is a part time degree over 4 years in Digital & Technology Solutions (Computer Science and Business essentially), and we attend Queen Mary University of London twice a week during term time and work at IBM for the rest of the time as normal employees. This year was the first year of the scheme and after a couple of weeks of exams the first year of uni will be complete!

The first opinion I guess I’d have to give is that it is hard work… you get plenty of uni students who struggle and they’re often not even having to balance going to work for one of the biggest tech/business companies alongside it all! It can be stressful and difficult to keep up with everything you’ve got going on, plus depending on your background, the content can be tough to get your head around, especially if you’re trying to learn stuff for work at the same time! Thankfully though IBM really are very flexible with it all and if you’re struggling, there is always something that can be done or someone who can help, but resilience definitely goes a long way.

The second thing is the number of opportunities to do something else in addition to your ‘everyday’ apprenticeship, it’s astounding! For me I wanted to fully focus on university and getting through first year until I really got involved in anything else, but I can’t wait to start to get stuck in to some other events and opportunities that are open to apprentices.

Thirdly, it’s massively rewarding… even more so because it is difficult. Whether it’s passing a mid-term or handing in a piece of coursework, or doing something to really help your team, or taking part in some Giveback. You are praised for what you do achieve, and supported in what is more difficult. The apprenticeship scheme at IBM is recognised and you are appreciated. It’s difficult not to be proud of yourself when everyone is telling you how much you should be when taking on a degree and work at the same time!

Finally, because it is a central reason why many people take apprenticeships, it’s undeniably a huge attraction not having to pay your uni fees and get in all that debt. They’re covered by the Government and IBM, plus you get a salary so technically you almost get paid to go to university, plus you get tons of real world experience and knowledge too… and that’s pretty sweet whichever way you look at it.

In summary, I guess my opinion is that if you’re willing to put in the hard work and dedication then this scheme is a really good option. It’s rewarding, comes with plenty of opportunities, gives you the chance to learn loads of new stuff and kick starts your career… I don’t think anybody could say that isn’t a good choice.

6 months! Feels more like 6 weeks! – Megan Murray

It’s official, next week will mark 6 months to the day that I joined IBM. I’m still so new, but now, already in that time, so many more new starters have joined and are even newer than me! I’m Megan, new to IBM and new to this blog, so … Hi!

I’m from the midlands, went to school, sixth form, had a couple of part time jobs whilst there, and had some idea around going into a design/marketing job after I had finished studying. I applied to study a foundation degree in art & design to see if it was what I really wanted to do before committing to university, and I didn’t even make it to enrollment. I thought travelling Europe would be a far better way to spend that time (and I wasn’t wrong!) The other important revelation though was that I didn’t want another year in school to see if a design-y job was for me, I wanted to see if I could cut it in the real world. My Dad was the one who suggested I look at internships with the likes of IBM, suggesting I could use my love of design in a more practical way, for a job in consulting maybe, or in marketing to aid communication. As soon as I started my research I realised this would be the perfect company to gain a year’s work experience with and I applied.

I completed the application form, agonising over whether I’d have a chance in a million; I completed the horrible IPAT, feeling certain that I had failed. Each stage had such a long wait for the email to say I was through to the next filter, but I made it to London for the assessment centre, completed the group tasks and I sat down in front of my interviewer ready with my presentation about myself and IBM. The question that threw me in that interview: ‘Why didn’t you apply for an apprenticeship?’. Honestly, it was because when I had first applied I had only wanted work experience, to see if it was for me, to help decide what to do next, but this no longer applied, I knew I wanted to work here, I like learning and I wanted to gain qualifications as well as skills… so, I was moved from Futures onto the apprenticeship application track.

It got to the time I was leaving to go travelling and I still hadn’t heard much, I thought my chances would be ruined because I was away and wouldn’t be able to go to London for interviews. However, IBM understood, I had phone calls on the roof of a hostel in Munich, in Vienna, a failed phone call in Rome thanks to building works, then more calls on a beach in northern Italy, then France. My application process was by no means a normal one, but everyone is different. I was in the south of France when it was confirmed I was being hired by IBM as an apprentice; it wasn’t till all the admin came through a week later on iffy WIFI on an old computer in a hostel in Barcelona that I actually allowed myself to believe I had it.

A month or two later and I had moved to London, started and completed the 2 week induction and got started in to my role supporting a software sales team.

6 months after starting and my role has evolved and expanded as I’ve settled in. It feels like it’s been no more than 6 weeks, but when I look at how much I have done, how much I have learnt and the opportunities I have had, well, no art & design foundation degree could of taught me all of that.

Yasmin Stageman – A Guest Post introduction …


My name is Yasmin, but preferred to be called Yas. I am an IBM Apprentice that started in the September 2012 intake , so I am classed as one of the ‘older’ apprentices as I have nearly been at IBM 2 years, (but I still feel like a newbie!) I am based in Farnborough and have been working on a Public Sector account in Farnborough for the duration of my time as an apprentice here at IBM.

I first heard about IBM’s apprenticeship scheme on the television one evening – which my parents then encouraged me to apply to in March 2012. I had also already applied and been given a conditional place at Canterbury Christ Church University to study Computer Science. April/May I had been selected and chosen for the next steps of the application process (for the IBM Apprencticeship) after completing an online test. I had received an email days before letting me know that I had been invited to attend a final assessment centre in Southbank. Having only been driving a few months I drove up to London in my little Clio, suffering from a cold and in my formal business attire feeling very anxious.

A week passed and I was notified that I had been successful in gaining a place in the IBM apprenticeship scheme! I was then able tell my school sixth form that I had taken an alternative to the university route and that I was going to complete an apprenticeship for IBM. It was a difficult decision to make at the age of 18 as to whether I would go to university to study a subject I was really passionate about, or whether I would move over 100 miles away from home, move to a town called Farnborough (that I had to look up on Google maps), leave all my friends and family behind to start a job in the corporate world without knowing anybody. I was determined to pursue a career in the IT industry and to work for such a prestigious company and global market leader such as IBM was such an achievement that I couldn’t wait to start!

I always knew that from a young age that I had a passion for technology, I remember my dad owning a mobile phone back in 1998 when I was 5 years old and I had already learnt how to change his ringtone, change the settings for predictive text, add contacts and lots of other aspects (in 1998 changing a mobile phone’s ring tone was a top feature!). By the age of 10 my parents had bought me a second hand laptop, which ironically was an IBM ThinkPad.

Continuing on from then I started to learn web development in HTML coding from the age of 14. I would go on internet sites and self taught myself how to create a web page with text, images, navigation links and how to add colour to specific elements. When I was 16 I had to complete work experience as part of my studies at school. I got in contact with a local web design company which I then worked for, attending client business meetings and would go back to the office and then produce a design specification with other employees.

When I first started at IBM I knew that I wanted to go into a technical role and that I would enjoy this type of role. We had interviews with our project managers who then suggested that I would like to go into the Configuration Management team. When starting the team, I had lots of team meetings and shadowing other teams members so that I was able to understand what the team did, learning more about the project itself and getting to know more about IBM and their services.


After 18 months I then found my next role which is now as an application developer. For the last 6 months I have been learning and implementing a web application for a client. I have been able to put my web development skills (which I have previously learnt from a young age prior to IBM) to use, enhance these skills and produce a professional looking application which the client loves. I have now developed the majority of the User Interface for our application and I am now referred to on our project as the ‘UI web developer SME’ – subject matter expert!

That’s a little introduction to me, my background, how I got into IBM and an insight as to what I do in my job role. My future blog posts will be from a perspective of our community Connecting Women in IBM. I am currently the Connecting Women in Foundation Technical Team Leader and have also applied to become Connecting Women in Foundation Team Leader. I will be reporting more on our community and the roles within it and what we do as a community.

I look forward to sharing these experiences with you – keep an eye out for my future posts!