My placement year at IBM
BSc Computer Science with Industrial Experience graduate Laura shares how she got on during the first six months of her work placement at IBM:
“So, I’m half way through my industrial placement year at IBM. Where do I start?!
My welcome/introduction consisted of two days of talks about IBM, group activities, setup etc. They introduced us to our managers (who I had met earlier in the year on a visit to Winchester) and to any previous year IT’s (“industrial trainees”) who help you to settle in.
After that it was only a few days before we were assigned to projects. I work in the PTC (Platform Technology Centre) which deals with companies that IBM has acquired. Tasks involve porting software/data into the equivalent IBM products and making sure all the code is valid and legal (e.g. correct licenses are in place etc).
Although the PTC isn’t primarily a software development department, there is opportunity for it. At first I was involved with an internal project making graphs using an external Java library. More recently I have been one of three developers on a project porting source code from an acquired company into IBM’s source code management system. Again, this was in Java (IBM’s main language from what I’ve seen) but I really extended my knowledge – threads, timers, logging, shutdown handlers… It has given me the opportunity to take what I learnt in university and put it into practice. It’s one thing following John Latham’s exercises and another to structure all the code by yourself! I also use an IDE here (Eclipse) instead of a text editor because it has so many useful features such as keeping track of your methods, auto complete method names etc. As you know, in university we use text editors like gedit and I’m so thankful that I learnt that way. I think writing your classes from scratch teaches you such good programming practices. I feel like the CS course prepared me extremely well for my industrial placement year and this year has prepared me well for my future career.
Here’s a list of the technical things I’ve learnt since arriving:
- extended my Java knowledge
- Portlets and Widgets
- OpenLayers and OpenStreetMap (like GoogleMaps API)
- More practice with Linux
- A bit about servers
- SQL on command line with DB2 database
- IBM specific products (quite a few!)
I’m sure there’s more, but that’s just off the top of my head. You also gain transferable skills like presentation, communication, networking etc.
My industrial year has shown me what it’s like to develop software in the real world. Sometimes at university you can’t understand where something fits in and when anyone would use it! I remember thinking, “does anyone actually bother with this agile software development schedule thing?” – they do! In fact, they have programs to help keep track of it all.
As well as the working side of things, there’s plenty of social activities. There are about 50 IT’s in Hursley who have made their own social club. Activities such as Nando’s, the cinema, ice skating, other generally social things and even a ski trip! There’s also the pub quiz in Winchester (we willwin one day!). IBM Hursley is lovely location – the grounds are amazing – and sometimes people gather at the club house after work.
IBM also have a big initiative called “giveback” where you do volunteering during your working hours. I have painted at a school playground, tidied up a cycle track at an activity centre and am involved with an ongoing event going into a primary school. Obviously these kind of things should not take up much of your time and must be agreed to by your boss.
And that’s all for now!”