Photograph of IBM employee Ash West

From Apprentice to Application Developer with IBM

Meet Ash West, who is currently an Application Developer. Ash started an apprenticeship with IBM when she was 17 years old. We asked Ash:

What Early Professional scheme have you been part of?

Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship

What made you decide to apply to that scheme?

I wanted a degree and to study further, but I also felt stagnated and trapped when I was at college. I didn’t want to feel the same at university and not be able to make progress with my career, so I started looking for alternative options. 

I found this Degree Apprenticeship and thought it was the best of both worlds, a no-brainer for what I wanted! You get a degree, an apprenticeship qualification, a salary, benefits, and 4 years worth of actual work experience and networking – it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

If you joined as a Futures or Apprentice student, how did you make the decision to go straight to work after your studies?

After college I knew I wanted real-life experience and an opportunity to apply my skills; starting work would give me the head start on my career that I wanted! 

I also had a Career Ready mentor who advised me on the benefits and drawbacks of going straight into working – so it was a decision I made based on my desire to start getting experience and the advice & preparation of my mentor!

What hints and tips would you pass on to a student who is also looking to go straight to work after their studies?

Draw up a list of the pros and cons and weigh them against what you know about yourself and what you will enjoy. Going straight into working is a lot of pressure and comes with stresses that can have a big impact on your mental health, especially for young people. 

You will also have less time for socialising so consider whether that is a big part of your life; in IBM we have a brilliant culture of support and there are always social events, so working and socialising are not mutually exclusive – but you will have a 40hrs of work to do a week. It would also be good to figure out what industry you want to be in – if you’re unsure, continuing your education and doing internships or small jobs may be a better first move to find what you’re passionate about before fully diving into the world of work and careers! 

If you’re sure you want to go straight into work, the next thing to do is ask as many questions as you can! When I started I was afraid to bother people and it made the learning/adjustment period far more difficult. People really don’t mind when you have questions so ask as many as you need and don’t be shy!

What has your career journey at IBM looked like so far?

I started off as a Tester on a Public Sector account and then moved into a Software Development role! I am currently still working as a Software Developer, programming in C++ and enjoying it thoroughly. I also manage the Apprentice Community we have in IBM UKI as a side role – to create social and progression events with a small group of motivated and friendly apprentices!

What hints and tips would you pass on to a student about to start the IBM Recruitment Process (online application form/CV, Online numerical test, video interview, assessment centre, matching interview)?

Firstly, the tests are not as scary as you think! Everyone I first met in IBM thought they failed the numerical/logic test but clearly they didn’t! Try not to get overwhelmed or too stressed out if you can (easier said than done, I know) – take a deep breath, stay calm, and manage your time and you should be fine.

On your application forms you want good examples of different qualities that IBM will be looking for – think about the extra curricular things you’ve done and what they show. For example, if you did Duke of Edinburgh, you can talk about leadership, team work, maybe getting into a sticky situation, staying calm, and problem solving to get out of it. There are likely lots of examples of skills you’ve shown, you just need to pick them out and make them obvious to the assessor.

For the interviews and assessment centre, you should know that IBM care less about qualifications and more about your personality and enthusiasm. They are looking at whether you can learn and adapt, be part of a team, voice your ideas, and show passion for the company and what we do. Make sure you do your research beforehand and engage with your peers and the interviewers!

What’s the best thing about your job?

There are too many things! I like my team and that they were very welcoming when I started, and that my manager supports their team and also pushes us to do our best. I like the role because it’s interesting and it’s like nothing I’ve done before. I have an opportunity to make real contributions to a real-life client, which is pretty cool. 

Also, in my part of the business, I have the opportunity to change up my role and try different things to learn new skills and experience different technologies. My favourite thing about my current role though is probably that I get to code all day – it’s creative, it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s what I enjoy doing!

What’s the best thing about being at IBM?

Definitely the people / the culture. I think that’s almost every IBMer’s answer to that question but it’s because it’s true. We have so many Communities and support groups set up; loads of different events and initiatives to get involved with; and a good system of reward and recognition which makes IBMers feel appreciated! Almost everyone you meet in IBM is supportive and friendly, which makes it a pretty great place to work.

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