Last month I received an offer for a one year internship (also known as ‘industrial placement’) at IBM and I was officially welcomed a few days ago after posting them the necessary documents. This is definitely going into my ‘success book’ which, from what I can recall, is pretty empty. But let’s change that, shall we?

First I want to tell you how this kind of internship works. Here in UK they are called industrial placements and it is basically a gap year for undergraduate students or school leavers, in which you can work in industry. On some programmes (including mine) you can do this after finishing the second year. Instead of beginning the third year at university you go to work for a company for one year (usually) and then come back at university. On top of that you will get 60 credits for doing that (half the credits for a year) and you have to take the rest after you finish the rest of your course years. And to give you an example: my course is 4 years; instead of 3rd year I will do an internship that will last one year and I will get the credits for one semester. When I come back in Septembre, I will do the second semester of third year and then in January I will begin 4th year which will end in January the next year. So my course will be 4 years and a half long. A bit more than without doing the internship, but I will get a lot of valuable experience this way and I’m still young so I don’t have any problems with doing half a year extra.

Let’s end  the theory and talk about how I managed to end up with an offer.

It is something normal for students to apply for placements here in UK but not so many invest their time in doing so. If I remember correctly, less then 1000 students do this in the entire country(correct me if I’m wrong). The university I’m going to is very interested in helping you achieve that, because they want to maintain their title as the university with one of the biggest employability rate in UK. As soon as we got into the second year and went to university for an introduction, they had prepared their speech to encourage us to apply for industrial placements. They got my attention and, to be honest, I was thinking of doing that since I was in the first year. So I was very determined to apply. In my mind i was planning to apply to every company out there so I could be sure to get an offer somewhere. Yes, I was over thinking a bit too much, it seems so easy when you think about it – write a CV, complete some forms, send the email and DONE! At the beginning of the year I was too relaxed. ‘I have time to do my CV, no rush… The offers did not even appear’. And then the fate decided to draw the weapons and as soon as the offers started to appear I was already buried in projects and they were more appealing then writing a CV.

In the end I managed to write my CV after IBM’s template, because I was determined to apply to that company. Note that this was in late November and the offers started to appear early October. So I managed to do only one application and I was planning to apply to Microsoft too (not too eagerly, but it was the only other development company offering jobs at that time).

And only two days after I applied at IBM, the answer came. I remember it was in the morning, I was rushing to a class, holding my stuff in one hand, the phone in the other, reading the email. I’m pretty sure that who saw me coming in the class could tell that I received good news. I was invited to take an online test to get to the next stage. I took it the next morning. Went into the living-room, cleaned the desk, prepared my phone as a calculator, notebook, pen, cleaned the computer processes, leaving only the browser open. As soon as I began the test, the neighbors’ baby started crying…and crying… but he eventually stopped… after I finished the test. How can a baby cry for one straight hour?! Or: How can the parents leave the baby crying for so long?!

The test was ok. It was difficult due to the limited time you had for each question (2:25 minutes). It consisted of numerical patterns and word problems. Two days later I received the email saying that I passed the test. All was going fine, I forgot about the other companies. I was too full of myself and I thought that nothing can stop me from getting an offer. Five days later I was invited for the assessment centre, but my face dropped when I saw that I have to travel all the way to Portsmouth for it. Fortunately they were paying for the expenses so it was ok, I like travelling.

Off I was! After a relatively short travel (I took the plane) I arrived at the hotel. The first thing I did was to look on google maps for the nearest Subway. Hungry me had priorities! The morning sun…actually rain, caught me all suited up, ready for the big event. I arrived at their office, I was asked to wait in a waiting area where I met the others that came for the assessment centre. After about ten minutes a lady came, a bit hesitant she said it – there has been a mistake in the email sent to us and the location of the assessment centre was wrong – IBM scores! So, yeah, I had to go back home. I couldn’t believe it, but hey, I got another chance and the next assessment centre was one month later, this time in Hursley.

This time was for real and I was happy that we were given the advantage and no other assessment centre was held before we had ours. I met with the guys that were in Portsmouth last month, it was good to see familiar faces. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what happened at the assessment centre as I was asked to keep it confidential. I can tell you that it was very relaxing and I had a good time.

One day after the assessment centre I was told that I passed it and they told me to wait for the offer mentioning that it was possible that I won’t get any. Fortunately, a week later I was jumping in the house after reading an email from them with the job offer attached to it. So that’s it, in June I’ll be a young IBMer. Man, I can’t wait!

The bottom line of this (long and boring) post is about opportunities. The IBM offer was one of them, I saw it and I took it. Easier said then done, you may say and I agree with you. It took me a bit of time to pursue this opportunity and I’m glad I did. The thing is, if you don’t try to pursue opportunities you may regret not doing that. If you pursue them you may fall off the track at some point, but at least you tried and you got the experience – you’ll be one step ahead next time.

A good thing, I mean an extraordinary thing about pursuing an opportunity and actually reaching your goal is that you develop yourself a lot. You build a lot of self-confidence and you’ll be more determined to try other things. Believe me, right now I feel like I can achieve anything I want and that really is a good thing in this world, competition is everywhere and you need to be one step ahead of the others otherwise you will quickly lose ground.

Opportunities come in many forms. The one I described above was pretty straightforward – there’s the offer, apply if you want to work for that company, earn money while you gather a lot of experience. Sometimes you may feel that there are no opportunities out there, but as the comedian Milton Berle said “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”, and no, that’s not a joke.

Well I hope I did not bore you too much with this post and hopefully you reached this sentence. Make sure you spot the opportunities around you and try to reach them. If I did it, you can do it too.

I will write more about my experience with IBM after I start working there. I can’t say anything about what I will actually work on, but I can speak about the experience as a whole.