by Daniel He
IBM technology is all around us. From ATMs to Playstations, we cannot escape the fact that one of the largest companies in the world has had an impact on our lives. But what is it like to work for such a company? This year, I applied for a placement as part of my sandwich course and was invited to work here for one year. Whether you’re thinking of applying for a placement, or you’re thinking of getting a job right after graduating, let me tell you why IBM should be your first choice.
Working at a large organisation such as IBM provides many benefits and rewards. With its placement scheme, not only do you get a lot of skills and experience from your day job, but you also have a lot of fantastic opportunities to broaden your skills and really make your CV shine. As an IBM employee, you are given tasks that carry real responsibility, and there are people who will rely on you to get them done. You are able to push yourself, and the more you push, the more you will achieve.
But enough about me rambling on, I’m sure you want to know what I get up to on a typical day. First thing’s first, I pack my bag, which has the most crucial piece of equipment: my laptop. IBM has a wonderful scheme that means that desktops are no longer the norm within the workplace, and that you are as portable as you want to be. You are assigned a desk, but from that point on, you are able to work outside, during a meeting, or even work from home. Once I arrive on site, I plug my laptop into my docking station, and get stuck in, reading and replying to emails, loading up the applications I will be using throughout the day. I also take out my trusty notebook and pen. Call me old-fashioned, but I am a sucker for writing things by hand; it’s extremely convenient when you need a line number from a piece of code, or the name of a method that you are certain will slip your mind sooner or later.
My current role is developing a piece of tooling software called APT. APT is a tool used by various members of the department and plays a crucial role in mirroring information between 2 (now 3) different systems. Unfortunately it has a wonderful habit of breaking (this is a result of many years of different placement students developing the same tool and the end result being spaghetti code), so my job is to fix any coding errors, as well as add any functionality that the department needs. You will be happy to know that it is developed in Java, and I’m also using the very familiar Eclipse IDE, so for those of you who are worried that your skill-set is not suitable for IBM, have no fear! Throughout the morning, I usually continue on a bug I started working on yesterday, as well as making notes as I go along. I also have an occasional chat with my supervisor, Jason, who sits right behind me, to get a quick idea of how I’m progressing with a specific task. Like the student who worked on APT before me says, “It’s usually a good day if Jason hasn’t said to you ‘What have you broken this time!?’”.
By lunchtime, I am satisfied with my current work and I make my code live, but before this, I also submit a copy for Jason to review, who can check to ensure I haven’t made any mistakes. He also makes suggestions on how I can improve the code further, which is a big bonus. For lunch, me and some other placement students head to the canteen, or if it’s a nice day, sit outside Hursley House and take in the fresh air.
After lunch, it’s a quick rest, then straight to see my professional development manager, Cathy, for a half-hour meeting. As a placement student, I am assigned someone who oversees my work, and makes sure that I am happy with what I am tasked with doing. Cathy is also there to help me develop my personal and professional skills, and we try to work out my career paths for the future. These meetings are extremely helpful and give me an insight into what I want to do in the future after graduating.
As you may or may not know, IBM recently turned 100, and as part of their centennial celebrations, they have asked all employees to pledge 8 hours of community work, also known as GiveBack. For my GiveBack, I volunteered to educate non-technical placement students basic Java for around 2 hours each week. Although our class is rather small with just 4 students, I get a strong sense of satisfaction from teaching, and always try my best to make sure lessons are informative, as well as interesting, as we all know that learning any programming language isn’t a walk in the park! You may have also seen me at a recent talk with the computing students where I gave a presentation to encourage current level 2 students to apply for IBM for their placement year. That’s right, it also counts as GiveBack, but more importantly, builds on your communication and presentation skills, which future employers always love to see.
By late afternoon, I’m working on multiple bugs, creating new versions of APT, getting them checked and making them live. I also have a short meeting with Jason at my desk, and I present to him what I’ve been working on. These meetings are usually the most beneficial to myself, as I can see the progress I am making, as well as being able to get feedback, which in turn allows me to better myself at coding.
By 5.00, I’m feeling the urge to put APT behind me for another day. An email pops up telling me APT has failed trying to process something, but I’ll let the me of tomorrow worry about that.
So why tasty working? Well, I’ve learnt it’s customary within IBM to bring in cakes to celebrate whatever event happens to be on, whether it’s someone’s birthday, or even when you’ve broken something and you need to befriend your colleagues again after all the grief you’ve caused them. I’m sure I’m overdue for bringing in a cake, but no one has noticed yet! Nevertheless, the joys cake and doughnuts bring ensure everyone is kept happy, hard working, and full of sugar.