IBM UK Apprenticeship Series: Meet Rory

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This first week of February 2020, we celebrate two back to back milestones — the 10th anniversary of IBM UK’s Apprenticeship Program, and the National Apprenticeship Week 2020. To tell us more about the program and the experience, Julia Game, head of IBM’s Apprenticeship Program in the UK, interviews five amazing apprentices currently working at IBM.

In this installment, we meet Rory, a current technical sales apprenticeship at IBM.

So, Rory, what attracted you to do an apprenticeship in the first place rather than any other pathway??

At school, I was always a hands-on learner and I never really got into the academic side. I was always intrigued in lessons, but I always wanted to be a hands-on man. So, studying for another three years at university full time I didn’t think was the right decision for me at the time. I looked into other options of what I could do in an apprenticeship and that pathway instead.

Did you have to get any support for that decision? Did you have to influence anybody like your parents or teachers?

Well, I went to a grammar school and obviously they were very pushy towards the university line and they obviously want people to go to the red brick universities, Oxford, Cambridge that kind of thing. So there wasn’t a great amount of support at school. The careers office was there to help you with interviews but it was very much off my own back so I did a lot of research and just kind of applied to as many as I could at the time.

So, how did you find out about apprenticeships? You said you researched. So what did you research?

I think I just started looking at the other options other than university. And I think being on the degree pathway, I think it was a great combination of both so I could get my work experience and in a full-time role and at the same time work towards a degree and a real qualification without missing out on any kind of education. And it really worked well.

What made you decide to join IBM’s apprenticeship program? You must have lots of options.

Yeah, I think in the end I probably applied to between five and ten roles, but IBM just seemed a really nice culture. It was the first assessment centre I went to and it was just a really good experience. I came away feeling really confident and it was a really enjoyable day. So, I think it made a really good impression from the start and I was confident I was going to enjoy it once I started.

Everybody does get a bit scared about the assessment centre and find it very intimidating. What was your experience?

It was obviously a whole new experience for me I had never done one before. So at the start, it was kind of quite scary but once you get in and you’re with people the same as myself, all leaving school. It was a really good day.

So which apprenticeship did you choose to do? You said a degree apprenticeship, which one?

So I’m on the business management degree apprenticeship, and I’ve got a role within marketing at IBM. So it works really well, I can use my day to day job in my assessments at Pearsons College London.

So tell me a little bit about your role at IBM.

So I sit in the digital marketing and social media marketing team. I get a bit of experience over two different teams, which is great. It’s not always the same, one day I might be doing social, one day I’ll be doing digital. I get a lot of experience around events and I’m kind of doing lots of lots of different stuff, which is really good because it keeps me interested. I’m not doing the monotonous, same job. I think the real thing with apprenticeships is you go in and you don’t really think you’ll be given the responsibility, but you really are. I was six months in and I was doing things myself, so I think that’s the real difference.

Good. And obviously, all that work experience counts towards your apprenticeship. So what do you value most about your apprenticeship?

I think it’s the learning I get. My first impression within the first three months was that I was learning a lot more at work than I was at university. I think although the university is a great time and keeps your education rolling, I think the majority of my development over the last kind of year or so has been in my role. So, I think that’s kind of a real benefit.

?Any advice to anybody who’s considering an apprenticeship?

Just apply to as many as possible. I think you need to get used to rejection not everyone will want you, but someone will. And you just have to keep hiding your skills for interviews and building your CV. If it’s something you really want to do, then go for it.

Fantastic. Rory, thank you.

Watch the full interview here.

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