Career profile: what my technical consultant job at IBM involves
I had always nurtured an interest in science and maths-based subjects at school. Initially, I flirted with the idea of going into medicine, but I eventually realised that I wanted a more direct technology-based role. I studied chemistry, physics, maths and IT at A level; after this a career in technical consultancy presented itself as an appealing prospect. I did a consulting module as part of my degree at the University of Kent, which involved working with local businesses in and around Kent on their websites and databases, and we had weekly careers events where employers came in to give talks on a rotation basis. It’s great to hear what the job is like first-hand. This prompted my application for a placement year at IBM: all the IBMers were really inspiring.
Deciding a path
I did a placement year in my third year at university; I was attracted to IBM because of its ethos and its prestige. I wanted to get the best experience and an understanding about the industry. I think being bubbly and passionate at interview helped me to secure the job. After university I started a two-year graduate scheme, which I’m now just about to finish. I started in an area of consulting that wasn’t right for me, but IBM allowed me to switch roles and the transition was smooth: the support of managers and peers was second to none. It made me feel very comfortable and happy.
I’m a technical consultant in the IBM services team. I specialise in a product called API connect, which stands for ‘application programming interface’. This basically means that I help businesses create and run the software they use. I liaise with clients to design the architecture of their software. I work on services such as portals, which are essentially the online shop windows for organisations, and I manage the deployment of such software.
My day-to-day tasks involve building and coding APIs. Outside my core role, I deliver education talks and workshops where I offer my knowledge to colleagues and clients.
What I love about this job is that it’s bursting with variety. There is so much scope to do different things and I’ve had articles and patents published. I think that one of the most important skills for this role is flexibility: being able to navigate between technical and non-technical people, explaining concepts to clients and managing the service at all stages, from conception to maintenance.
One really wonderful thing I’ve worked on is the tennis at Wimbledon: IBM is a technology partner for the Championships. I act as a ‘technical Trojan’, supporting the IT equipment that is used by commentators, press, players and visitors. This could include managing the website, the apps and the scoring facilities.
On the move
I’ve travelled a fair bit with the job and there can certainly be challenges with this element. Sometimes I’ll leave on a Monday morning and I won’t get back until Friday. There can be long hours and a lot of living out of a suitcase but that’s the consultant life! It’s balanced by the amazing destinations I get to go to. For example, I’ve been to Dublin and New York for training and I’ve visited Norway for a client. I’ve also attended IBM’s annual conference in Las Vegas twice. I gave a talk entitled ‘101 tips and tricks on API connect’ and there were approximately 150 clients in the room. This kind of public speaking can be nerveracking to start with but it soon becomes quite exhilarating.
Moving up the ranks
I’ve been given the chance to lead things so early on. This kind of exposure is something that I never expected to have. I’d like to move further with this in the future; I’d like to be a technical leader, which would involve liaising with CTOs (chief technology officers) and COOs (chief operating officers) – people at the top of the hierarchy. This would involve more solutions management than I do at the moment: I would be discussing how the company incorporates technology and opening that up into talks about possibilities for tailoring and distributing new technology.
Tips for success
If you do decide to join IBM, my advice would be to always ask for help if you are unsure. There are support networks with great mentors and I think having a strong relationship with them is the key to success. If you don’t feel that a particular role or area is right for you, be open to speaking to your line manager and mentors about the possible areas that would suit you better. But whatever your role, I’d say if you see an opportunity that interests you, go for it – I put my hand up for learning about API connect after I got an email about it. The crucial thing is being an active and contributing part of the organisation.