Develop by doing
By Stephen Warwick
Vice President - Hybrid Cloud and Head of R&D UK, IBM
Lifelong learning is our approach to career development at IBM. That’s true whether you’re a new employee or an experienced professional.
It starts from the moment that we hire someone. My career in IT started as a youth trainee student, and today’s equivalents are our School Leavers schemes. An IBM Apprenticeship is the route for A Level students who want to get into industry rather than get into university. And students taking time out before uni can join us for a Futures year, in business and technical roles.
Undergraduates who want industrial experience during their degree can take up a 12-month placement working in our UK cloud and cognitive software teams. Our premier internship, Extreme Blue, gives business and technical students a unique opportunity to run a microbusiness right in our biggest UK software lab, when they design and build technology that solves IBM clients’ real-world problems with practical outcomes.
At every stage, they work alongside IBM role models and mentors at the heart of our worldwide business. It’s real-life experience that will inform their formal education. Universities tell us every year that students returning from placements are more motivated, get better degrees, and of course position themselves more strongly for a future career.
We don’t forget that academics themselves want to stay current, and to learn from business. That’s why we have knowledge partnerships, provide industry advisors and guest lecturers, and have the IBM Academic Initiative that supports PhD Fellowships, collaborative activity, and shared research. One of our UK software labs is even embedded within a university campus.
Getting “hands-on” is also a key part of our graduate hire scheme, JumpStart. On the day they arrive, new hires begin their training with IBM experts in our Developer Dojo working on current projects. It prepares them to be cloud-native software engineers who understand IBM Design Thinking, DevOps, code as craft, pair programming, and test-driven development. It’s where good theory becomes best practice.
So from the very start of their career in software, developers know that “learning by doing” is what they should expect from IBM, that IBM expects of them, and that our clients want too.
That means IBM professionals are always learning throughout our working lives, to understand the technologies, techniques, and industries that we touch. It’s a continuing journey, because we want the best people to join IBM and stay with us to develop their career, whether that’s deepening their expertise in a role, or picking up the skills to take on other roles in our company.
Every IBMer is therefore empowered to pursue at least 40 hours of personal and technical skills development relevant to our business and our clients. We call that Think40, and it’s supported by formal classes, self-paced learning, and online resources freely available through our Think Academy.
With a worldwide research and development organisation available to us, it’s no surprise that we can bring experts to share their experience. That might be job shadowing and seminars, for example. But the most effective learning for many of our people is, once again, to get hands-on experience of the technology: cloud computing, AI, quantum, internet of things, big data, machine learning and analytics.
What’s more, our clients tell us they need to infuse learning within their own systems and processes, and that they want to learn from how we do it. That includes modern development practices and game-changing technologies like our IBM Cloud, Watson IoT, blockchain, and the APIs that power our intelligent dev platform.
So we involve them in hackathons, collaborative problem-solving, prototyping, and more. It enables those clients, across industries and government, to learn-by-doing. That’s our approach to responsible stewardship of technology, with purpose and transparency: sharing the techniques and technologies that are changing business and society for the better.