Career as an IBM consultant

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John Chapman is a consultant with IBM. He uses his expertise in software and hardware project management to help other companies in the UK and abroad improve their IT systems.

Can you describe your role as an IBM consultant?

I work with my company's clients, managing IT projects within their organisations. I usually work with a large piece of software that can run all the IT systems within one organisation, linking finance systems to distribution, manufacturing to human resources and so on.

What are your main responsibilities?

I manage large teams of people who programme software and hardware. I also monitor all the financial aspects of the project, tracking our costs, revenue and profit. Other activities include resourcing the project, which means ensuring I have the right people to do the job.

What is your weekly routine?

Monday morning is often spent travelling. I usually work at the client site for the duration of any given project. I have worked with companies from all over the UK and Europe. I work from the client site during the week, usually staying in a hotel overnight, although in the past I have stayed in a company apartment. I almost always return home on a Thursday evening, and work from home on a Friday.

What is your work environment like?

I always work from an office, although I may work from many different ones in any given time period. Sometimes I work from my company's offices and sometimes I work from clients' offices. Virtually all the offices are very pleasant environments to work in.

Who do you work with?

I work with many people at all levels. On one project that I managed, I met regularly with the client's chief executive, for example. Most of my day-to-day activity, however, is with the project team members, who are all very highly educated IT experts. When giving reports, I work with our accountants, lawyers and senior managers.

What skills do you need for a career as an IBM consultant?

The ability to get on with other people is by far the most important skill. Effective communication is key to my role. But you also have to have good problem-solving skills, to be able to analyse situations and balance the pros and cons before making a decision. It also helps if you have a good knowledge of organisations and organisational strategy.

Why did you choose to be an IBM consultant?

I was attracted by the opportunities for working abroad or in other parts of the UK, but still being able to travel home at weekends. Also, I have been interested in IT and the advantages of using IT in large organisations ever since I studied business at university.

What training have you had?

I have a Degree in Business Studies, which gave me a good overview of all areas of business. The company graduate scheme also gave me exposure to the various parts and projects of the business in a period of just 18 months.

What do you like about your career as an IBM consultant?

I love the travel – seeing new places and meeting new people from many different cultures. I also enjoy the challenge of my job. I am regularly in situations where my skills are pushed to the limit.

What are the main challenges?

The biggest challenges are managing relationships. It's important to appreciate that people work differently and have different pressures.

How do you see your future?

I will remain in my current role for a few more years, managing larger and larger projects. I would then like to complete a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), before returning to internal management within the company, where I could eventually be responsible for general strategy.

John's route to his career as an IBM consultant

  • Degree in Business Studies.
  • Placement year with IBM.
  • IBM graduate scheme.

John's IBM consultant tip

  • There will always be a situation where you will need somebody else's help.
  • If you have a large network of colleagues who respect and like you, it will be much easier to get assistance with any problems you have.

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Salary of an IBM consultant

  • Starting salaries may range from around £17,000 to £28,000 a year, depending on the size of company and your qualifications and experience.
  • Typical salaries for senior consultants with experience range from around £40,000 to £80,000 a year.

Career as an IBM consultant

  • Most IT consultants have a degree, though not necessarily in an IT-related subject.
  • You should be able to show you have an aptitude for understanding computing networks and applications.
  • Some people may start with lower qualifications, such as an HND, and receive training in their company, but most employers want higher qualifications or proof of experience.
  • Competition for the best jobs is fierce.Work experience can be an advantage.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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