Why did you decide to undertake a professional placement year?
I wanted to do a placement year because I thought it would provide me with extensive experience in the business industry which would help me with my future career prospects. I knew that I wanted to work in the business sphere so by undertaking a placement year it would help me understand what it is like to work in the corporate world and give me an edge as opposed to just graduating with my degree.
Why did you decide to apply to IBM?
I decided to apply to IBM because it is a large organisation with endless amount of opportunities and it would give me a great insight into the business world. The role was displayed as a ‘business role’ so the broadness of this title made me really interested to find out more about what the role involved so I applied!
Do you have any top tips for succeeding in the application process?
Top tips for applying for a placement:
- Stay organised and plan who you want to apply for before the roles even open to get ahead of the game!
- Believe in yourself and put 100% effort into each application
- Get help and advice from Loughborough’s career service, alumni or Loughborough careers fair
What kind of duties and responsibilities did you have in your placement role?
I had a complete range of responsibilities in my placement year which ranged from small to large tasks as my experience and confidence developed. I was involved in tasks that were to do with finance, HR, technology and consultancy. My main job role was to assist the UKI Integration Team in its diverse efforts to transition all acquired employees into IBM. I had to ensure they were set up and engaged with the essential IBM platforms and technology. I also had to lead efforts to show the value of using IBM services which are essential for business success and encouraging a proactive work lifestyle. My job focus was providing clear and concise help and guidance to acquired employees so that they can solve any problems, ensuring that they are not too overly reliant on my team. I was also responsible for maintaining records of all acquired employees so that these are consistently up to date and reliable if they are needed. As the acquisition team are the front line of contact, I acted as a representative of IBM at the acquisition offices.
What did you expect from a placement before you started and what actually happened?
I thought placement year would be a chance to work within a team in the corporate world but the tasks would remain small and minor. It was completely different, I was put in the deep end as soon as I started ,by working across 3 different acquisitions from the get go. I really embraced this challenge and I developed the most when I was put in these unfamiliar new situations.
What was your biggest achievement during your placement?
My key achievement this year at IBM has been playing an active role in ensuring the successful integration of the Promontory Financial Group into IBM. As a result, this has led to increased business results and improved client satisfaction. Promontory is a leading strategy, risk management, and regulatory-compliance consulting firm focusing on the financial services industry. The company is made up of senior professionals who have served as leaders at the highest ranks of regulatory agencies, financial institutions, and Fortune 100 corporationsaround the world. Therefore, the company’s work and cultures are very different to IBM’s which could lead to challenges in cultural integration. My support for the Integration includes Promontory’s 9 European offices, which including the UK, has meant supporting 166 employees. There has been the additional challenge of some Promontory employees also being resistant to the change. As a result, I was determined to positively adapt to Promontory’s culture and enhance our collaboration, increase productivity and decrease the risk that key talent will depart. Adopting to the culture is so important to address because it permeates across the organisation, spanning levels of different European geographies and employee levels. My on-site presence at Promontory was critical for IBM to create an effective integration plan because I could understand how the existing business works in practice, not just in paper. This achievement is transformational for the business as it is an integral part of the change management process. Key skills that supported my adoption of Promontory’s culture was developing my confidence and adaptability. I worked in the client offices independently by remaining resilient and taking ownership of my role.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on your placement?
It takes a while to get to grips with the job role, it took me about 3 months to feel completely comfortable with my role, but once I did I was ready to take on more challenges! I also kept wanting to complete every task that I got given as soon as possible, but I slowly learnt that it was better to take longer and ensure the quality was higher.
Where there any key projects that you worked on during the placement year? If so, what did they involve and what was the outcome?
I was able to be involved with extra projects on my placement that were additional to my core job role.
For example: I supported multiple diversity campaigns throughout my placement year from attending the diversity and inclusion annual IBM UK – “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See” event, Connecting Women – GBS Diversity Q&A Panel and International Women’s Day events at IBM and Promontory. This is in addition to completing my ‘BeEqual’ foundation learning. Therefore, I was keen to support the Diversity campaigns at IBM and help create a supportive and inclusive society.
Another example :
I was selected to work on a team for a Watson Marketing Project. This involved working in teams with an experienced seller to produce a Customer Journey Video for a client. Our team comprised of 5 placement interns and we focused on the Watson Marketing sub department. We had to create a storyboard for our client that highlighted the ideal customer journey. This needed to be transformed into a video and presented in front of a professional panel. The overall purpose of this task was for us to engage us with the Watson products and solutions as well as having the opportunity to deliver a task to a real client. As well as showcasing our detailed video we had to plan, pitch and present a presentation to support our video creation. In result of this task, I developed new skills and learnt new processes that have significantly improved my presentation and design skills. It grew my network by talking to a wide range of IBMers and clients, as well as experiencing another area of the business.
What new skills did you learn on placement?
I gained a great range of skills on my placement. I will discuss two examples of the skills that I developed.
By commuting to different acquired companies across London, I have quickly adapted to different
corporate environments; it has therefore been essential to be flexible across my whole placement year to
be on site for clients, and my team. Crucial to my success this year was demonstrating my ability to
quickly adapt to the office that I am working in while remaining sensitive to the company’s culture and
remaining professional at all times.
Webex was introduced at Promontory and I took the responsibility to implement this new technology to all
81 employees. Even though I was still using AT&T for my calls I had to quickly become the subject matter
experts on Webex to ensure I could deliver high level 1-1 or group education sessions. This highlights my
willingness to learn new technology solutions quickly and effectively which will make me an effective
business consultant when delivering solutions to clients.
2) Client Focus
The acquisition employees are my clients. Although the relationship with acquired employees is different
to that of a typical IBM client, there are many similarities in the approach and my focus is always to
provide an excellent reliable service to achieve a seamless integration.
I have spent a lot of time with all 9 Promontory Managing Directors by providing personalised support to
ensure that they are up to date with the implementation of new IBM technologies. In addition, I proactively
spend time at both Promontory offices to ensure all 81 employees and contractors have set up all their
IBM processes. This is beneficial because I can build relationships to encourage the acquired employees
to use my support in the future. This also has immense business value since they can understand the new
processes more efficiently by having 1-1 support so their time working on clients can be maximised.
How will doing a placement benefit you in your final year/ the future?
From doing a placement it has significantly helped me in my final year at university, I feel more determined and motivated to succeed this year because I have had a year out. Additionally, the skills that I have refined on my placement year such as time management, prioritisation and written communication is improving my final year organisation and progress.
How do you feel the organisation has benefitted from employing a placement student?
The organisation has significantly benefitted from employing a placement student because they get to have new ideas from a fresh perspective such as young placement students. Similarly, the staff benefit from mentoring placement students by sharing their skills and expertise to encourage development from the student.