Computer Science BSc student Charlee Boyle

Charlee Boyle

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I work for a company called IBM who has a key role in innovating information technologies and translating that into value for their clients through professional solutions and services. IBM is a trusted partner for thousands of enterprises on their journey to the cloud including banks, retailers, and airlines. IBM enables its clients to continue to drive industry with their mission-critical systems.

What is your role within the company?

As background, I work on z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition, which enables clients to easily create RESTful API’s to be used to communicate with their favourite IBM sub-systems hosted on IBM Z Mainframe, namely CICS, IMS, DB2.

I am part of a 5-person squad (sub-team) of the full Hursley (UK) z/OS Connect EE team; we also have teams in Silicon Valley (USA) and Beijing (China).

I work as a Software Engineer for the product, which means designing, developing, testing and releasing software. I have been given a position whereby I feel as though I am a valued IBM employee who has significance to the team. As this is an IBM product, we encompass IBM DevOps and Design Thinking; a set of processes used by IBM teams to deliver quality software. This means iteratively developing software, continuously delivering it and ensuring that we interact with our clients along the way so that we meet their needs.

Can you give me an insight into a typical day?

I try to start off every workday by using the IBM Hursley gym which energises me for the day. I start a typical day at 9 am where I spend some time planning my tasks for the day based on how busy my calendar is. If I have been working on something the previous day, I will spend the time until the daily stand-up meeting at 9:45 am working on that. The daily stand-up is a 15-minute time-slot meeting where we discuss what each member of the squad (a small sub-team) has been working on the previous day, what they will be working on for the rest of the day and whether or not they need any help. The time after the stand-up is a 2-hour slot which I can usually use to make good progress in my work; typically, this means working through a ‘Story’, a small piece work on the backlog of tasks to be completed.

At 12 pm I take some time to eat my lunch, get some fresh air, and play some Pool or Table-Tennis with other placement students. The time after lunch is usually where meetings slots are placed, Some common meeting agendas include; reviewing work from our design team, discussing how to approach a large piece of upcoming work, or listening to another member of the wider team ‘playback’ a significant piece of work that they have recently completed so that they can gather feedback – This takes place over a video call. The time from 1 pm until 4 pm is usually my most productive part of the day, as generally there are no meetings meaning that I can get stuck into a task without any distraction. I work in a small 2-person office with my colleague Jack who went through the same placement journey that I have. I live with 4 other placement students who are all within separate teams, working on different IBM products.

What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

I enjoy the constant learning that I experience every day while working in an agile team. I have had the opportunity to work on a mission-critical product used by many banks across the world, z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition. When communicating with IBM’s Informational Management System, one of IBM’s oldest and most trusted products for storing information and processing transactions, z/OS Connect is able to handle up to 21,000 transactions per second.

Working on a product that has such power and significance in the industry has taught me many things about producing critical software. I have also had the chance to dedicate time in my week to ‘Giveback’ projects, these projects allow IBMers to develop new skills outside of their day job. I and my housemates started off a project to allow IBMers to track their scores online in a league type system, for example, a table tennis league.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I saw an industrial placement as an opportunity to take time away from studying to utilise the skills that I had developed at Leeds University and gain first-hand experience in developing enterprise software. Working for a company like IBM gave me the tools to widen my network in the industry and show myself that I can succeed in a team that delivers real software. I felt that it would give me a much better understanding of the industry and where fits best for myself; this couldn’t have been truer.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during the year?

I have learned that the only way to be certain on a career path or idea is by truly exploring it, gaining real experience and learning from the process. I have been given opportunities by IBM to explore multiple roles and work with experienced people in that field; from this, I have developed skills that I would not have otherwise, expanded my professional network and gained a real understanding of what it is like to be in these positions.

Has your experience given you a better idea of what you want to do for a career?

An industrial placement has given me an invaluable insight into the world of software engineering and the roles needed within a team to deliver quality enterprise solutions.

It has helped shape a clearer picture in my mind of which career paths I can pursue after finishing university. I have a strong understanding of what skills I need to acquire and build upon to be successful, and most importantly how to get to where I want to be.