Life as an IBM apprentice

Behind the scenes: Life as an IBM apprentice

 Written by: Jade Carino (Software Developer Apprentice)

This summer students across the UK are receiving GCSE and A Levels exam results and considering post school options. To help make the decision process easier and explore the range of options available we are sharing ‘behind the scenes’ blogs from apprentices at IBM.

IBM offers a range of apprenticeships spanning business and technical roles, helping to prepare the next generation workforce with the skills needed to thrive in a rapidly changing workplace.

Hear from Jade Carino, a Software Developer, about her experiences as an IBM apprentice in the Q&A below:

Why did you choose an apprenticeship route?

I chose an apprenticeship route because I wanted to start working towards and progressing in my career as early as I could. I believe the industry experience you gain in an apprenticeship is invaluable and that level of skill and understanding is gained because you are contributing to real projects, being given responsibility and being able to make decisions, all while learning about the environment of the company you work for, being financially independent and becoming qualified in your pathway.

What apprenticeship are you doing and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am doing a Level 4 Software Developer apprenticeship which is provided through an external training provider, Firebrand, which I’ll complete while working for IBM.

The 80% work part is spent doing my day job, which is as a Software Developer in a team in IBM’s Systems department. In my role, I spend most of my time designing, writing and testing code, and this can be in a range of languages depending on what I’m working on. Currently I am developing a website with some colleagues, so I am coding predominately in JavaScript, but in my last project I was coding daily in Java. As I work in an Agile team, I get to contribute to all parts of the Software Development Lifecycle, not just write code.

I get to work with designers and analyse requirements, deploy my code and sometimes help with maintenance. The other 20% of my time is spent on education, as an apprentice this is required so that I am always learning and developing my knowledge.

Person coding on computer

How are the subjects that you studied at school relevant for your apprenticeship? How are you using them on a day-to-day basis?

Programming involves a lot of logical thinking and problem solving, so Maths has been very relevant for the apprenticeship and I’ve been able to use mathematical skills learned on a daily basis. Coding is in some ways similar to algebra, so this is an area of knowledge I constantly use. I also frequently use writing skills I’ve learned in English as the apprenticeship entails writing up my portfolio, communicating with others and creating timesheet entries about my education time. I took both Maths and English at A-Level.

At GCSE level, I took subjects such as Art and Drama, which aren’t directly relevant to this apprenticeship but it’s useful to have a creative eye when collaborating with Designers and performing in Drama allowed me to develop confidence in presenting and public speaking, which I’ve done a bit of during my apprenticeship.

What skills does it require you to use, and what skills have you learned through doing the apprenticeship?

This apprenticeship requires a lot of initiative, self-motivation and independence. I think a common misconception about apprenticeships in general is that you’ll be given easy and meaningless tasks to do, but you will be given real and important work to do so that you are learning how to be a Software Developer, so you need to be able to be independently work through a set of work items, prioritise tasks within these and drive yourself to be productive.

Prior to starting my apprenticeship, I had no experience whatsoever in a technical role, so all the technical skills I’ve gained have been through learning them on the job: the technical skills I’ve learned include coding in Java, JavaScript and COBOL, using tools such as VSCode, Eclipse, Github, Jenkins and Maven and using methodologies such as Scrum. I’ve also developed a lot of personal skills around presenting, leadership, negotiation, creative problem solving and collaboration.

How has it been taking part in a virtual apprenticeship? Has it matched your expectations?

Taking the apprenticeship virtually has been great and surpassed my expectations. Things such as onboarding, setting up my laptop and getting to know my team and colleagues were difficult at the start but luckily there are so many great communication tools that allowed me to get that support when I had first started. IBM also have lots of social activities and communities, so I was able to get involved in those and get to know my colleagues well despite not actually meeting. I feel that being in a virtual setting has allowed me to learn more as I’ve had to be more independent and use my initiative as I’m not surrounded by a team of people to help me all the time.

The best part for me has been the flexibility and ability to plan my work schedule to what suits me, especially being an apprentice and having to allocate time to revising for my exams and writing up my portfolio. I’ve also been able to save time and money by not having to commute into an office which is great!

What is your advice to others considering an apprenticeship?

Be open and eager to learn new things, be passionate about your work and welcome any opportunities that come your way. The apprenticeship is a journey and as well as giving you the skills to become a skilled Software Developer, it’s also about finding out what career path you want to follow when you finish the apprenticeship programme, so be open to trying new things so you learn what you enjoy, and what you don’t enjoy so much. An apprenticeship is a real full-time job, so make sure you are ready to enter the world of work.

For more information about apprenticeships at IBM, or to register your interest for available roles, please visit –

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