Training – Round 2 Blog Post

Hello!

One of the many cool things about the CbD program is that we go through training every six months for two years.

Your very first two weeks on the job will be training, then six months later, then six months after that, and then six months after that.

Each training session covers a different topic. I just completed my second round of training and it was entitled, “Think on Your Feet.” It was an enlightening course, which taught skills on how to answer questions, speak succinctly, and organize thoughts. It was only two days long and it took place in North Carolina.

Training is worth your while for many reasons. First, you learn a few useful tips and tricks to use in your career. Second, you can put a new certification on your internal resume. Third, it’s a nice break from your usual schedule. Fourth, you get to reconnect with a lot of your peers whom you may not have seen since the previous training session. I was able to see a few friends whom I had met six months earlier. It was awesome to catch up and see what everyone had gotten up to during those six months. Additionally, old friends can introduce you to new friends. This is great from a social and a networking aspect.

As I mentioned, my most recent training took place in North Carolina. However, it was right when the final of the March Madness basketball tournament was happening. For those who don’t know, North Carolina was in the final! A large portion of us CbDers went out to a bar to watch the game (photo attached).

After two quick days it was time to go home. I said goodbye to some people, as I wouldn’t see them again for six more months. As for my fellow New Yorkers, many of us had the same flight back home.

All in all, training is enjoyable. It’s kind of like going back to school for a short stint and being joined by a few friends.

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– Austin Begin
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Interview

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Congratulations! You’ve just been hired into the Consulting by Degrees program at IBM.
All of that hard work at school has paid off. No more filtering through countless job postings, no more tweaking your resume, and no more tedious cover letters. Right? Not quite.

Now it’s time to get staffed on a project.

I spoke in a previous post about the “bench” and how it’s the in-between limbo period between projects. I did not, however, speak about how exactly to find a new project.

There’s a portal online where you can find all of the open spots on projects. You find one for which you feel qualified and you submit your resume and a short cover letter expressing why you believe you are a good fit. Does this process seem familiar? It’s a lot like apply for jobs.

Don’t be intimidated. If you are brand-new to the CbD program, people know it. It’s all in the open. Thankfully, there are roles on projects that new-hires can assume. Then you start developing more skills.

Not only that, but you also have a CbD manager who is working his/her inner network to identify open spots for you.

Then the interviewing process starts. It can be as easy as a 5-minute phone call. It’s an opportunity for the project to see if you’re a good fit. If you get it, great! If not, don’t stress.

My advice: always be honest. If interviewing for a role, don’t make yourself out to be something you’re not. Don’t tell them you’re an Excel wiz if you’re not. Telling them your skills and what you want to learn will help them decide if you’re a good fit. For example, if you tell them you’re looking for a business analyst role, they may not think you’re a good fit for their project, but they may have a contact who is looking for exactly that. Being honest is the right way to go.

The process is not nearly as stressful as applying for jobs. At this point, you’ve already been employed by IBM, and that is a great place to start.

Austin

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Hotel Life

AB NJ Hotel

Hotel life is…interesting. I use the word interesting because that’s exactly what it is. It can be good interesting, or it can be bad interesting.

When assigned to a travel project, it is up to you to book your own travel arrangements and hotels. Sometimes the project will have a preferred hotel due to close proximity to the client sight. Other times, it’s completely up to you.

The first week of my first project was a little short notice, so the only hotel I could book was about 35 minutes away from the client site by car. Could’ve been worse. However, I knew I’d be on that project for a few months so I booked in advance and found a good hotel only 10 minutes away.

After staying at a hotel week after week you start to have preferences you never thought you’d have. For instance, food at a hotel can be both good and bad, but it’s always expensive. Therefore, I once booked a hotel because it was very close to a supermarket. I then called the hotel to ensure the rooms had mini-fridges. I brought 3 days’ worth of groceries upon check-in. I’d return every night and my food was nice and fresh.

Only once did I make a fatal mistake. The temperature dial in the fridge ranged from light blue to dark blue. I thought to myself, “okay, light blue looks like ice, and dark blue looks like water, so light blue must be colder.” I was wrong. I arrived back at the hotel that night to find some liquefied yogurt with a funky smell.

Other than food, hotel experiences can vary. For instance, a fellow CbDer friend of mine was once on a project where the project team members all stayed at the same hotel. They would often hold meetings in the hotel lobby even after a full day of work on the client site. That all depends on the nature of the project work and the team.

Staying at a hotel during the week has another effect: It separates work-life and personal-life. Some people love this, others don’t. On one hand, you are able to designate your time during the week solely to work, and then when you are home on the weekend, it’s all about leisure time. Fridays usually act as the transition day, as you are still expected to work a full day but many projects allow you to work from home or from your local office.

Traveling to hotels makes you appreciate a lot of things, one of which is the temperature of your refrigerator.

Thanks for “checking-in,”

Austin

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Global Teams, Distant Days: Being On a Remote Project

I was pretty excited to get on a project quickly after I joined IBM. Within the first week, I had an interview and I was getting set up to work remotely for four months on an internal project, revising IBM’s Cloud business strategy. Given IBM’s current attempt to change its business strategy, this type of project has been a pretty exciting experience and I ended up learning a lot about how IBM sells its business and where IBM’s leadership sees its company going.

On a high level, this project was intellectually fascinating. IBM, like many other tech companies, must continuously reinvent itself to keep up with the brisk pace of tech development but, at the same time, IBM also has to retain its 100-year-old and well-established legacy. As a result, IBM differs from small tech start ups and must employ unique methods to address these challenges. Being a part of the Cloud Business Solutions, which works with the sales teams, researchers and IOT leaders, has shown me IBM’s brilliance in solving these issues. Whether talking to a seller in Netherlands or a lead in Japan, I understood the cohesion of IBM’s teams behind one mission: innovation. Hence, working in that environment, albeit only seldom interacting with others on my team face to face, gave me a great sense of work satisfaction and fulfillment.

On a day to day basis, however, the challenges were more social than intellectual. While I certainly enjoyed this project for the reasons explained above, I found it to be difficult to be so far away from my team that is works in various locations around the globe. In this aspect, my teammates were wonderful in being communicative and building up the sense of teamwork and cohesion as much as possible. Thus, although difficult at first, I quickly got used to my role on this project and found ways to compensate for the initial challenges. For example, I used the flexibility of staying at home to split my day into blocks: I would wake up at 7, work for 2 hours, go for a run, work for another 4 hours, bake cookies, work for another 2 hours, make dinner, take a late evening phone call, go to a yoga class, talk to a team member in India or China, sleep. This sort of schedule did not feel natural at first but I found that my flexibility and willingness to adjust to the different needs of a global team actually allowed me to find a better work/life balance. In the end, working on a remote project has been a positive experience overall and I learned not only a lot about IBM but also about my own ability to alter my routine to be more efficient at work and more relaxed in my personal life.

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Zuzana

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IBM locations NYC

There is one constant when being a consultant: variety. Variety of project, of people, of places.

Sometimes you might find the subject matter incredibly intriguing, and sometimes you might not. Sometimes you may love the client location, and sometimes you may not. Sometimes the office may be wide open, and sometimes it may be a smaller area of focus.

After seeing a handful of different locations, my favorite location is one of IBM’s. IBM has multiple locations in NYC and the one of which I am most fond is called Astor Place.

This location comes fully equipped with standing desks, comfy couches, personal cubbies, and a small kitchenette stocked with assorted coffee and tea products.

What more could a consultant need?

Astor is the place where a lot of interactive experience and mobile (iX&M) project are housed. As one who is more creative than anything else, I love it there.

Check out the photos below, they show a few of my favorite parts of the office.

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The only reason I know that this is my favorite workplace is because I have seen many different workplaces. That’s what is good about having a variety of experiences: you start to learn what works for you and what could work better. You learn what types of projects, what types of roles, and what types of locations you think are most conducive to your productivity.

You may find that there are many types of locations or project types that work for you, and all the better for it. Being versatile is a great trait to have as a consultant.

Thanks for reading!

Austin

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The bench

Oh the bench. Not exactly a place one wants to stay for too long. The proverbial bench is the place you go when you are between projects.

What’s so bad about that, you might ask? Sounds like a nice vacation? Not quite.

There’s an important measurement that a consultant at IBM becomes quickly aware of: your utilitization rate. Your utility rate is the percentage of hours charged to a project, over all hours worked in total. This shows how well you’ve been utilized. If you spend too much time on the bench, which means you are logging un-billable hours, then your utility rate starts to decline.

Fear not! Because there are many ways to combat the inevitable bench time. Of course, your main priority should be to get on a new project. That always comes first. But in case you find yourself on the bench, here are some best practices:

  • B&P work. This is bid and proposal work. It’s done when a new project is about to be signed. Not only are you being helpful, but if you do a good job, you might be top candidate to jump onto that project once it officially starts.
  • Network. Talk to people. Someone may know of a position that is soon-to-be available. Additionally, someone may have B&P work that you can help with.
  • Training. There are loads of resources on the IBM hub for online training. It’s great to be able to say you’ve completed certain trainings if it becomes relevant for a future project. Also, you’ll probably actually learn a lot about how IBM does its business, which is very helpful.
  • Give-back programs. There are many ways to give back to the community. Within IBM, there are groups that organize events/opportunities to give back.

And of course, after all of the bench-work is done, and after you’ve found yourself a new project, there is always something to look forward to. In NYC, we know how to host a super fun happy hour. Though it doesn’t need explaining, happy hour is a great way to unwind, while catching up with those colleagues and friends who you don’t work with day-to-day. Below is a photo of a few of my friends (who had the same start date I did) from a happy hour this December.

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Thanks for reading!

Austin

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The Daily Life

Hello readers!

I’ve always been a morning person. Call me crazy but even during my summer vacations I would go to bed early just to wake up and run with the sun every single day…okay…maybe not every day.

One thing about being on a project that’s semi-local, is that I have to wake up early. I wake up, go for a quick run (on the treadmill), and then make it to the client site while the sun is rising.

There’s an interesting mix of energies in the morning. Some people are serenely relaxed, others are jumpy and agitated, and others are disheveled and clearly late. The vast majority of whom are wearing headphones and listening to their own soundtrack.

Walking down a street in NYC with headphones on is a way to jump into your own little world, which is ironic because your own little world is often right next to the million other little worlds of the rest of the morning commuters.

Moments like these are useful in letting your mind take a breather. I’ve been spending my days as a scribe: I take meeting minutes. A doable task, and not necessarily a forgiving one. The role requires me to pay attention to every second of the meeting, while simultaneously writing notes and making sure it all makes sense. There is no time for the small vacations that we call daydreams or else I might miss something critical.

Having my mind focused for a long string of hours allows it to appreciate the moments where it can relax, which are primarily these morning moments. I am prepared for my day, nearly at the client site. My mind is relaxed; it is free to wander, and my most pressing thought at the moment is what everyone else is listening to in their own little worlds.

Thanks for reading,

Austin

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