Peter is completing a summer internship between his second and third year. He is working in a technical role on the IBM Extreme Blue Program.
Lots of companies are not just assessing if you have the technical skills for the job. They are equally interested in whether you have the right personality, attitude and ability to communicate for that role.
How many internships did you apply for before you were successful?
Three. I also applied to Rolls Royce and Telefonica.
Please summarise your career progression since your internship and whether it led on to further work experience.
I’m still completing it, but getting on IBM’s summer internship is more difficult than their Graduate scheme. This means that they offer you to be fast-tracked through to the graduate scheme, if you choose to return.
How do you think the internship has helped you in your degree and future career?
It has made me think deeply about the areas of my subject that interest me. Also, now knowing what a technical job in a big company entails, it has made me think about the kinds of industries, and types of companies, I would want to work for after graduation.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying for an internship and what skills/experience do you think are necessary to be successful in your application?
During the interviewing process, I think that it is important to demonstrate an understand and appreciation for things outside of your direct studies. Lots of companies are not just assessing if you have the technical skills for the job. They are equally interested in whether you have the right personality, attitude and ability to communicate for that role. These things also help once on placement, being willing to always ask questions and to talk to people.
As a mathematician, It has definitely helped to have a background knowledge in other sciences. Although knowledge of computing is not required to apply to IBM, it is definitely beneficial once there.
Is there anything you wish you’d done before the placement to help you prepare for either the application process or the work itself?
The application process was fairly standard for me, and you just have to put in the time and preparation asked of you. They were very flexible about changing your assessment centres if you had exams or important commitments that clashed. As for the work itself, I really wish that I had a better grasp of computer science, but the placement is advertised as not requiring these skills, people of all skills learn a lot on the job anyway.
What was the highlight of your internship and your biggest achievement within the role?
IBM offer so many new experiences when it comes to working for a company. You are given interesting projects on the edge of new technology, with endless supplies of support. They also actively encourage people to register patents and publications on a huge variety of technology. In the final weeks of the placement, they offer to take all the interns to a European Expo, which for us is being held in Germany. One of the great highlights though has been meeting the diverse and interesting people, both on the placement and that work in the company itself.
Is there any other interesting information about your internship that you’d like to include?
The other interns on the placement are incredibly friendly and equally driven. There is a great, relaxed social atmosphere away from work, which makes the experience even more enjoyable. I would take this opportunity to point out that there are not many opportunities for doing university-style mathematics. You have to adapt your thinking to being able to apply familiar concept and knowledge to real problems. This is the case, however, with a lot of placements, and IBM try very hard to cater for everybody’s interests and abilities.