I found working at IBM for my placement year to be thoroughly worthwhile. The design studio I worked in was very welcoming and the work I have been involved in while on placement has been really interesting. I never thought I would actually look forward to going into work on a Monday morning!
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From the very beginning I felt valued by my immediate and wider teams. Not only were we working together on a daily basis in a friendly and collaborative environment, but there were lots of socials to get involved with - from days out, to just going for breakfast together some mornings as a team.
I was made to feel like the work I was doing was genuinely valued by the team. I was working on real projects with real users from my first week - which I imagine is quite rare for a placement.
My team was always really supportive of the work I was doing. We had daily meetings to find out what everyone was working on and everyone was always willing to help each other. I also wasn't made to feel like I couldn't be trusted with work - so although they did offer me the support I needed, they also let me work independently which I really appreciated.
It completely varied day to day - although I definitely preferred the busier days. The quieter days were often when I was waiting on feedback from others on a piece of work, so those were a bit slow; but it soon picked up again. I was also trusted to ask for more work if I needed it and rather than just assigning me work, my manager would always ask if I wanted more work to be doing which made me feel like I had control over my work load.
The great thing about the team I was on, was that you got given as much responsibility as you wanted. I was left to organise and manage the pieces of work I worked on; but my team would always be there to offer advice on what I should be doing if I reached a hurdle. I genuinely felt like I was a normal member of the team from the first month.
The skills I gained here were incredibly valuable. I feel the job role is not that similar to my degree, but the skills I've gained around working with people and users, good design practices and using design software will definitely help me in my degree and beyond. I would also like to return as a graduate so the skills i've learned this year will definitely help me to become a UX designer as a career.
Our office had the right balance of fun and working. When you wanted to put your head down and get on with work, it was easy to get on with it and concentrate. But if you needed to get up and walk around for a bit - there was always someone willing to go get a coffee with you or even just to chat to!
We also had office socials so everyone was really comfortable with one another so there was never any awkwardness.
I feel like one of the big advantages of a big company is that everything is really well organised. The first week was very structured - you did your induction, got to know the other interns and was then allowed to join your team. There were then regular check ins with your EPDM (early professional development manager), making sure you were happy and comfortable in your job.
One notable challenge was Covid-19. We had to adapt to working from home within the space of about 1 week. My team was super supportive and made this transition easy - I feel like this was very well handled.
There is a range of courses you can do that are provided by IBM. We have dedicated time on a Friday afternoon to pursue personal development - for example, if you wanted to explore a new technology through online courses and badges, you had Friday afternoon to do this. Along with doing courses during this time, I also used this time to complete uni admin like my placement dissertation.
Very, I have already sent off my grad application! I feel like IBM is a fantastic place to start your career in tech because of the broad range of opportunities available. The great thing there, is that just because you start in a certain role, doesn't mean you can't change - there is a lot of flexibility with exploring new roles to find the right one for you.
There were both socials with other interns and the 2 different departments I was in (the Design Studio and the technology I worked on). This meant there were 3 Christmas socials on offer! unfortunately the intern one clashed with one of our team ones so I couldn't make that one; but the opportunities are there! That and there are breakfasts and dinners out, days out and sports events.
Thankfully I got to live at home during placement so rent wasn't an issue - but I heard from other interns that renting in Winchester was very expensive, although Southampton was slightly cheaper - so be prepared to pay a lot for the cost of living, but the salary at IBM covers it.
For me it was excellent. Winchester is great for a range of traditional and quirky pubs and bars (again, they're not cheap) and Southampton is good if you're into going to clubs. Hursley is central to a lot of different cities which offer a range of different social venues - whether you want to drink or not.
Along with the work socials outside of work hours, there was always stuff to do with colleagues and other interns. There is a sports club and gym at work which is open evenings and weekends offering badminton courts, a club house with food and drinks and outdoor tennis courts. Then in Southampton and Winchester, there are lots of activities to be doing from the Winchester markets, to bowling in Southampton.