- Course: Computer Science (Industrial) BSc
- Nationality: British
- Company: IBM
What was the name of the company you worked for and what do they do?
I worked for IBM, which is a multinational technology company providing enterprise technology solutionsfor large businesses. The department I worked in is called storage, specialising in storage virtualisation solutions. For example, if I have a huge chunk of storage, say 1000TB sitting on one or multiple nodes and I want to partition that storage to 1000 machines (presenting each machine with 1TB).
Our software provides the infrastructure for doing so, and is sometimes referred to as the 'VMWare of storage'.
What was your role within the company?
In-between every new release, developers would add new functionality to the product. I work in the test team and my job is to test this software before it was shipped to the client. This involved using the product in conjunction with different platforms and developing automation scripts and internal tools.
Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?
My role was extremely diverse so there was nothing typical about any day. I would usually begin by coordinating with my team leader at the time, depending on which project I was working on. I would then proceed to complete any work set by them. This could range from running a simple test procedure to 'this code is broken, fix it'. The project I was most involved with regarded using our product in conjunction with VMWare's vSphere; a typical day in this role would involve spawning hundreds, sometimes thousands of Virtual Machines only to delete them and see how the software copes. If I wasn't testing I would be writing automation scripts that spawn a particular configuration of Virtual Machines or automating the deployment of various VMWare components.
Outside of this particular project a typical day could involve testing various hardware configurations which would mean adding or removing DIMMs, CPUs, FC/ISCSi HBAs to/from a given node to see if it copes, or just general troubleshooting of a broken node until it works again. I would often be involved with international projects which meant coordinating with people all over the world and using hardware located in other countries (usually by SSH). The product scope was massive therefore allowing me to work on different aspects of the product ensuring that I was never stuck in a role I disliked.
What did you enjoy the most and did you get involved in any interesting projects?
I most enjoyed working with VMWare products. I believe virtualisation is the future of technology and VMWare is an industry leader in this respect, therefore allowing me to gain extremely transferable skills.
I was given 6 hypervisor servers within one huge blade server for my own purposes. Having all of that computing power at my disposal was a lot of fun to say the least. VMWare have built an OO command line interface for their vSphere product on top of this, therefore allowing me to gain experience with two technologies simultaneously.
Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?
Working in the industry is strictly subject to a classic chicken and egg scenario - you can't get a job without the experience and you can't get the experience without a job. A work placement allows you to gain some real industrial experienceand have a break from your course. Industrial placement employers know that applicants will likely have little to no experience in the industry, therefore making this the perfect opportunity to break the cycle. You are then far more employable when you finish your degree and will likely have a graduate job offer from your industrial placement employer.
What did you hope to get out of this experience?
As a whole I was hoping to gain some transferable skills, to find out what it means to work in the industry and see if I have what it takes. I feel like I have achieved all of those goals.
With respect to working at IBM I wanted to experience working at a multinational technology company. There is much controversy in the industry surrounding whether you should work at a small start-up or at a huge company and the advantages/ drawbacks therein. This experience has given me insight as to one perspective of this debate.
Additionally, I was hoping that the experience would give me some sort of direction as to which career path I may hope to follow in the future. I am still just as clueless about this. If anything this placement has shown me that the industry is far more vast than I had initially imagined and is still constantly expanding.
Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?
Don't think. Just apply. Do it early, don't leave it until January like I did because many of the big employers' application deadlines are before the new year. Worst case you change your mind and continue into third year with some CV writing/job application experience. If you are unsure about where to apply, the employability team send weekly emails with industrial placement opportunities for students, find one that remotely sparks your interest and send a CV. If you have any other questions or uncertainties then use the resources that they provide for you.