Shrewsbury School

Futures Feature - IBM and Beyond Update

Thursday 6 May 2021

Head of Futures Chris Wain catches up with former pupil Olivia on her IBM Internship.

Back in October 2020 Head of Futures Chris Wain caught up with former Head of School Olivia M (MSH) who had just started on a one year internship with IBM. Details of the interview can be found on this link. Seven months on, Chris chatted to Olivia again to find out how this placement was progressing.


CW: Olivia, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. Now you are more than six months into your internship, what have you been up to? What are your main responsibilities?

OM: My main responsibilities involve running client Stand-Ups and Retrospectives as well as taking backlog items out of Salesforce and writing them up into Powerpoint in a more user-friendly layout for the clients.  “Stand-ups" and "Retrospective” sound really fancy but they’re just Agile terms for the daily project catchup and project recaps. 

CW: Have you had to remain working from home? Presuming yes, what impact do you think this has had and is this likely to change before the end of your contract?

OM: I have, unfortunately, had to continue working from home.  There is a chance that I will get into the office before September but it’s quite slim. The closest thing I will get to meeting my colleagues before July will be at Wimbledon. It has been difficult as the nature of my role means I would get the odd job from people walking past my desk in the office but IBM have done a great job trying to combat the loneliness that working from home can bring.  My task manager and foundation manager reach out whenever they can and there is a weekly intern social as well as quarterly team socials which are always lots of fun. 

CW: You mention that you will be involved with the upcoming Wimbledon tournament. What will this involve?

OM: IBM have worked closely with Wimbledon since 1990. IBM provide the crucial AI for making the tennis and data graphics but also analyse all of the data to get it back to the coaches, players and fans. With the help of IBM cloud they do it in record time. This means there is quite a big team working behind the scenes at Wimbledon.  Usually the team at Wimbledon take on between 20 and 30 of the interns who apply for the 2 Championship weeks but this year due to Covid-19 restrictions IBM have only been able to hire 6 interns. My role will be analysing the data during the qualifying week and working closely with the team of match analysts. 

CW: Which skills and competencies do you feel you have been able to develop through this internship?

OM: I am so lucky that my role is a client-facing one because my confidence talking to strangers in a professional setting has seriously grown from working with different clients on various different projects.  My online skills have also developed no end - I am much more competent with a computer than I was at school!  I’ve also been able to take courses in Agile and Design Thinking which are practices used very frequently by IBM and my professional vocab has been seriously upgraded.  The assessment centre and interview process that I had to go through in order to apply for the Wimbledon role was also great practise for interviews and group assessments in the future. 

CW: Our lower sixth are now starting to think more seriously about their post school plans? Any advice you could provide them?

OM: I honestly think that doing a year in industry is one of the best things a school leaver can do. I know my experience has been rather different to usual but I’ve got the bad side and I still think it’s a fantastic thing to do.  Going to university with a little bit of real-life experience will allow you to have your eyes set on the kinds of things you do and don’t like when it comes to job hunting but it also changes the way you think.  I’ve spoken to many of the interns who are University placement students and they all say that those who they know did years in industry all went on to get Firsts because they had a whole different mindset and attitude to working when they returned.  Now that’s when you’re already halfway through University - imagine starting from the very beginning with the same mindset. Also having a whole year of experience on your CV makes you a seriously attractive candidate when it comes to applying for Spring Weeks and Summer Internships.  You meet and connect with so many people - these are great connections to hang on to and if you’re in the office you’ll be able to get some drinks with them and actually make friends! It’s also great to be able to go to University with some money and yes you’re not able to travel in the same way as other gap year students but you still get 5 weeks of holiday.

CW: How are you feeling about starting university in September? Do you feel this experience will prove useful?

OM: I am really excited to start University in September.  Having a year off where I was working and looking after myself has given me both work experience but also life skills that will be great to have going into University.  I’m also far more ready 12 months after leaving school than I was last Summer. 

CW: Finally, are you looking forward to getting back together with your year group, when restrictions allow?!

OM: I am super excited to reunite with my school friends properly - hopefully at our Leavers Ball!  It’ll be really fun to see everyone again and hear about all the different things everyone has gone on to do. 

  •  Stop press – coincidentally IBM have just announced an insight evening next week, Thursday 13th May from 5-6pm, open to pupils from 5th form and above. You can register on this link.
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