Mat Kastner – Industrial trainee at IBM

Mat Kastner, BSc (Hons) Computer Science, at IBM

"Spending some time with real tangible deadlines that have a genuine reason behind them was useful, as obviously university deadlines are just made up. It helped me to realise why deadlines are important and how that relates to the real world."

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

I worked for IBM as an Industrial Trainee on their technical programme. 

What attracted you to this placement opportunity? 

I saw it advertised on the Plymouth University placements site and decided to try out the online test because I thought it would be good practice. Once I got through and had the opportunity to go to an assessment centre, I learnt a lot more about IBM and was very excited about the idea of working for them. 

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

There were several stages to the process. I started with an online test, which involved a lot of logic tasks like spotting sequences in numbers. I was then invited to an assessment centre which was a full-day event and involved multiple different tasks, mostly involving teamwork. 

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

I was a developer on a proof of concept for a product that was part of a larger mainframe database project. I was given real responsibility and my team was quite small, so the work I did and the code I committed had a real impact. 

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

The only reason I found out about the IBM placement was through the placements team and I was given plenty of help and support with sorting out paperwork and contact with IBM. 

How did the academic staff support you during your placement? 

It was really useful to have my lecturer visit me while I was on placement, he had actually worked at IBM before, so he knew all about it. He supported me whenever I had any issues and I was able to contact him if I needed help. 

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

The computer science course was quite practical, giving some hands on teaching with actual languages like Java – something that I was able to use straight away in my placement. 

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

I think the placement really helped me focus on my final year. Spending some time with real tangible deadlines that have a genuine reason behind them was useful, as obviously university deadlines are just made up. It helped me to realise why deadlines are important and how that relates to the real world. 

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

I think my placement at IBM has really helped me now that I have a graduate job at BT. There have been plenty of times where my experience at IBM has helped in BT as I’m in a unique position to compare the practices of both companies and recommend changes. I was also given the opportunity to apply for the graduate scheme at IBM early and would have had first preference when it came to positions within the scheme. 

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

It is definitely worth doing. You’ll get proper experience that will really help with future interviews and work. A lot of companies will only hire graduates, so they tend to stick to what they know but they will really appreciate any experience you might have that can improve their practices. 

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

I don’t think so initially. I wasn’t planning to do a placement year until I had spoken to university lecturers and other students who highly recommended it. I would suggest even making it a standard part of the course.

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