George Adams – Systems Runtime Engineer at IBM Hursley

"The placement has certainly given me more confidence because I have experienced real-life situations and challenges that I can apply to my studies."

Who was your placement with and what was your job title?

My placement was with IBM Hursley as a Systems Runtime Engineer. 

What attracted you to this placement opportunity?

I was attracted by IBM’s international reputation. IBM is well-known company and I decided it would be a great opportunity to kick off my career and gain useful contacts for the future. It was also a chance to put some of the skills I have gained from my education into practice.

How did you go about securing your placement and what was the process for this?

I registered my interest on the IBM website in September. Shortly after doing my application form, I received an email inviting me to do the IPAT test, which is an online numerical test. The test takes about 45 minutes and contains about 30 questions, each of which has a time limit on it. The next stage was CV screening in which a manager at IBM looked at my application form to check that my skills matched the company’s requirements. I was then invited to an Assessment Centre in Warwick. At the Centre, I did two group activities; one logic and the other a discussion with about five other people. I then gave a presentation which I had had a week to prepare in advance. I was offered an interview for a role in London, but after thinking about it, I decided to decline the invitation because I wanted to be based in Hursley (Hampshire). Fortunately, a role came up at Hursley. I had a telephone interview with my manager and was offered the role shortly after. 

Can you describe the various roles and responsibilities of your placement?

I am part of a small team of seven in the runtimes department. Runtimes is responsible for producing the IBM versions of several runtimes such as IBM Java, IBM Node and IBM Swift. My small team works on the IBM Node.js SDK. Node.js is an open source project on GitHub. My team is responsible for taking each release from the community and modifying it to meet IBM’s client specifications. This means that we can provide support for clients which makes it much more appealing to large companies than an open source (unsupported product). My main role is on system verification testing which means that we essentially test each new release for regressions or features that might have broken. 

How did the Careers and Employability Department (Placements Team) support you both before your placement?

The Placements Team at Plymouth gave us talks to prepare us, including talks from previous placement students. The team also organised Business Fairs, CV checking and mock interviews. This really helped us to prepare for the application process. 

How did the academic staff support you during your placement?

I had two visits from my tutor to check how I was getting on and to ensure that the placement was working well for me. I was kept up to date with University news and events to smooth my transition into my final year. 

How did your previous studies enable you to be successful during your placement?

My previous studies helped me to identify areas that I enjoyed in the IT sector, such as software development. So choosing a placement in this area was important to me and was one that I felt confident about. My first and second year studies helped me to gain employability skills such as team working, time management, leadership roles and task management. 

How will your placement help you with the final year of your degree?

I think that when I return to university, I will be driven to successfully complete my degree. The placement has certainly given me more confidence because I have experienced real-life situations and challenges that I can apply to my studies. 

In terms of your career development so far, what have been the benefits of undertaking this placement?

Firstly, I have gained a year’s worth of industry experience which will help me in my future career choices. I’ve made new contacts, new friends, and learnt new skills and I’ve gained insight into new developments in this sector. I’ve gained more experience of teamwork and improved my interpersonal skills. I’ve also benefited from regular assessment and feedback. I believe that my placement will benefit my career because I think that employers prefer an applicant with experience. 

What would you say to a prospective student thinking about undertaking a placement year?

I would recommend not spreading yourself too thinly, and by that I mean you should tailor your application for each employer. So do your research on the companies you apply to and think about what skills you can offer the company, rather than what they can offer you. Think carefully about interview questions and don’t respond hastily – give yourself time to consider the question. When you are offered a role, make sure it is going to interest you and benefit you. Don’t just go for the money! 

Was the fact that Plymouth offered a placement year a motivational factor in your decision to choose Plymouth? If so, why?

Yes, life as a student can be financially challenging, and so the placement year was a chance to earn some money and gain some work experience. I had heard from final year students that a placement year was a really good opportunity to gain important skills.

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