‘So… what do you actually do as an intern?’ I think I heard that question over 50 times at a careers fair I attended last week. And while I did my best to offer an adequate response, I still left the expo feeling like there was a gaping hole in peoples’ perceptions of what kind of work IBM interns are actually involved in. With applications for 2014 recently opening I figured this to be a good time to lift the curtains and offer a first-hand look into an IBM internship; and don’t I have just the perfect person to do so. Enter Megan Lee.
At only 20-years of age, Megan is one of our younger interns – but if you met her, you wouldn’t think it. Sitting under Human Resources, Megan works in a Diversity role where she divides her time between drafting communications, data reporting and awards submissions. I’m sure I could go on and throw around numerous titles, credentials and achievements but I was lucky enough to catch up with Megan for a chat last week so from here on, I’ll let her to the talking.
Before IBM what did you do?
I’m studying Commerce Liberal Studies at Sydney Uni, so before I was an intern I was pretty focused on uni life! I also did quite a bit of work for the uni as an ambassador and in the marketing office at the Business School.
Why did you pursue a position at IBM?
I wanted a new challenge, and IBM is certainly a fast-paced, performance oriented environment so I guess I saw it as an opportunity to learn, enhance my business acumen and develop new skills.
Do you find that your university studies link closely with the work you do at IBM?
Yes definitely… quite a lot of the content I learn at uni is applicable to what I do at work. I think that exposure to the real world of business is essential to fully understanding what you’re studying. In saying that, the critical thinking aspect of my uni studies links even more closely to how I work… it has helped me be far more effective at work through challenging assumptions and working out whether there are better or more efficient ways of doing things.
Describe your typical day…
I get into work at around 8.30 or 9, check my emails and see what’s in my calendar for the day. The vast majority of my work- and my day- involves doing communications, collating data for reports, helping with award submissions and presentation decks and attending meetings or dialling into calls. At lunch I catch up with other interns or sometimes attend education sessions… I usually head out at around 5pm.
How has the work you’ve done as an intern differed from your initial expectations?
I think the term “intern” is loaded with thoughts of getting coffee and photocopying. My initial expectations were far different to what my experience has been. I thought my role would be either insurmountably hard or monotonously boring but in fact it’s neither. Even though we are interns, we are part of teams doing real work and contributing in tangible and measurable ways. That’s something really distinctive about IBM internships, because they are 6 or 12 months, it’s possible to really get a grasp of your role and identify how you can use your strengths to contribute and how you can fill potential skill gaps of your own through learning from people around you.
What opportunities do you see here at IBM?
There is no shortage of opportunities at IBM and I think that stems from the huge scale of operations and the mere size of the organization. In my first interview I was told that its often joked that IBM stands for “I’ve been moved” and it’s astounding to me how commonplace it is for people to move between roles or business units. There’s really no one conventional career path and because of that freedom of movement, IBMers have really broad skills bases, really in depth knowledge of the business and a multitude of opportunities for development and advancement.
From your own perspective, what differentiates IBM from other big multi-national corporations?
The IBM brand. IBM is pervasive all around the world and as a brand, I think very few companies come close to having the same level of recognition. Also, the IBM value of innovation that matters- things like Smarter Cities, Watson and the work IBM does in places like Africa also sets IBM aside because although it’s a massive organisation, it thinks locally. I think it sets the pace for other companies. It’s had a long legacy of being ahead of the pack.
What’s the best thing about being an Intern at IBM?
For me the best thing would have to be being able to learn from people who are exceptionally good at what they do.
Daniel Almond is a Communications Intern at IBM A/NZ. A recent Journalism graduate from Sydney’s University of Technology, Daniel is based at St Leonards where he works with the recruitment team helping manage the IBM employment brand.