STEM Placement at IBM

I applied for StemInsight Placement at @IBM and had a call with Mark / Lade to confirm the dates when I can start the placement; though they were busy, they agreed to take me on. Mark Wakefield is the Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager and Lade Adeyeye is his Assistant,  who is on a year long university placement.

I was looking forward to the placement for two main reasons : First, I would be able to develop a curriculum for my students that will help them prepare for the ‘real world’ and second, to meet experts who can be guest speakers at Reading Collegeand discuss some of the technologies with my students.

The image below depicts my feelings before the placement. I was confused as to how to connect the ‘curriculum’ with the ’employer’ keeping in mind that we have to follow the guidelines of the awarding bodies.


This is how I feel now after completing the placement. Thats me ready to perform for the new session with support from lots of people whom I have met during this placement.


This blog is about my journey from first Image (confused) to second Image (armed with lots of tools, skills, up-to-date knowledge and industry contacts to take away from this placement).

Week One :

I had a very warm welcome from UK Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs (CCCA) team on my first day.

Health and Safety – The first session I attended was ‘Health and Safety’. This session was about how and who to approach regarding safety at IBM. I received a badge after completing this session which gave me general access to IBM building at South Bank for two weeks.

Diversity with Deborah – As she took me upstairs to meet her team, the first I thing I noticed was she has an all WOMEN team and similar to me she is very passionate about bringing girls to technology. We discussed the diversity issues that she tackles and I was amazed at how much she is working for this issue.

Social Media with Ella – Deborah had to go for a short meeting and she left me with Ella. I am glad she did.  Ella is Global Recruitment Communications Specialist and handles Social Media accounts for IBM globally. She talked about how she came to IBM on university placement programme and then didn’t leave.

We talked about how some social media websites change algorithm frequently and how it affects the engagement of users and how Latin American’s spend so much time on social media as compared to people from other countries. We are developing a Social Media project together which will be delivered in January to Level 3 Btec Students at Reading College.  Ella has kindly agreed to come to my classroom to kick-start the project and then later on for end of the term presentation from my students on their research.

BLUEMIX and Design Thinking with Amy Magistris – Bluemix Garage, as the name suggests is a start up with IBM. Amy, a university student on placement is a perfect representation of what they are doing at Bluemix Garage – cool, young, enthusiastic, eager to reach their goals, hungry for more.

Amy did a Gap Year with IBM and is now working at IBM / studying at University at the same time. We talked about her journey at IBM so far and how I can help my students apply  for a Gap year programme at IBM.

Bluemix Garage team uses design thinking workshops to gather clients requirements and develop quick/customised solutions using BLUEMIX platform.

Amy did a quick design thinking workshop for me citing examples on how they have used it in real life with a client.

John Easton is a Distinguished Engineer and Lead Cloud Advisor at IBM. He has been working with IBM since last 31 years.

I was so engaged during his session that I have not written any notes during his session. The session started with an overview of IBM Cloud. Then we had a discussion on Cyber Security, Encryption algorithms, Internet of Things, Node-Red which was very interesting.

John Easton and his team has agreed to do a project on Encryption with level 3 BTeC students at Reading College. The two month long project will be launched by John’s team at Reading college in September.

Longitude Explorer Prize is a challenge for young people to develop innovative, practical solutions that use the Internet of Things to improve health and wellbeing in the UK. It is a collaborative project of @Nesta_UK and @IBM.

On the fourth day of my placement, I got an opportunity to attend the event where ten finalist teams of the Challenge were presenting their ideas on how they have used IoT to develop practical solutions to improve health and wellbeing of people in the UK. I was amazed at the ideas presented by students(secondary school) and their fabulous presentation skills.

It was at this event that I met the new CTO of @IBM Andy Stanford-Clark. He is an IBM Master Inventor, visiting professor at a university, leads a research team at IBM and a TEDx speaker.

Also, I met @DedipyaR at this event who is an inspirational speaker and is a role model for any student who have recently migrated and think that they are not good enough to find a job. What he has achieved at @IBM is really commendable.

Both, Andy and Dedipya are happy to come to Reading College to share their story. We are yet to finalise the dates.

On my fifth day of the placement, I got an opportunity to visit Wimbledon as a Broadcast Centre Guest. I am not a tennis fan, but after spending half day watching games at different courts, I am thorough with the rules of the game now. The visit to Broadcast centre was an incredible experience, it will stay in my memories forever. The visit was an insight on how IBM Watson AI is used for data analysis and how that data is converted into stories making it more applicable, approachable to more people.

WEEK 2 –

Kliment Stefanov is a programmer at IBM. During my session with him we talked about Software Development Life Cycle and Agile Development Techniques used by IBM in their software development cycle.

Peter Vincent works in IT Security at IBM. I got a chance to spend some time with his team and to get an insight on various encryption tools used by IBM. The team shared lots of resources that can be used in classroom and they are happy to visit the classroom whenever required.

Sarah Jones works in the Health Care department at IBM. I know IBM and Health Care together sounds a bit unapt After talking to her I was amazed at how IBM Watson is being developed/used to be used in Health Care Systems across the world.

Alkesh Shah is a design thinking expert and I got an opportunity to have an exclusive workshop with him for two hours. This was the best session of my placement. I came to IBM  to create an employer sponsored curriculum and this session was a light bulb moment for me where I was able to frame my entire project with the help of Alkesh. He has even agreed to be my mentor to help me deliver this project using Design Thinking.

When I came to IBM, I thought MacBook will be banned at IBM. But Thursday morning session with Hugh Thomas-Davies was a myth buster on how IBM is working with Apple to create various applications for Apple devices.

On the last day of my placement,  I had the chance to visit the Data Scientist’s team on the top floor of IBM. I met Jassel Majevadia there. The views from the top and Jazz combined together made my last session fascinating. Jazz works as Data Scientist at IBM and plays with numbers all the time. She is a Stem Ambassador and happily volunteers at various places to create awareness on various STEM profiles.

My suggestion to anyone going for STEM placement at IBM would be to go with open mind and with clear expectations of what is it that you want out of this placement. IBM encourages their employees to volunteer as part of their ‘Give Back’ to Community.. People are busy but they are more than happy to help if you ask them where do you need their inputs on.

The STEM Insight Placement at IBM had been an amazing and inspirational experience.  I would be using all the skills, insights on various careers and contacts to create a measurable impact on my students and teaching. As part of my Give Back to IBM for providing me this opportunity, I will be working with them to develop resources on Cyber Security for Schools.