Leading to Africa: turning challenges into opportunities

By Belinda Mbuthia

I am an intern on the Leading to Africa (L2A) program at IBM currently based at South Bank, London.   The program is for students who are interested in working in Africa after they graduate.


Why I chose IBM’s Leading to Africa Program? L2A

I am interested and passionate about the African continent. What many perceive as challenges have been identified as opportunities for science, technology and business by companies such as IBM.

What drew me most to the L2A scheme was the chance to learn more about the African market and the opportunity to interact with like-minded people all over the world who are just as passionate about the continent through projects and different activities.


What does my role involve?

I am a member of the IBM UK Health Checking team. Our team ensures that our clients’ systems are running smoothly by constantly monitoring their status based on the policies agreed with the customer. My responsibilities as an IT analyst in the team vary on different days as my work is dependent on a monthly cycle, but I am mainly involved in reviewing systems health check status and liaising with the various teams in IBM to fix and sort out any issues.


I am also the team leader for the L2A student committee. I am actively involved in progressing objectives agreed upon with the other interns by contacting our scheme leaders, organising L2A events and providing feedback to both the scheme leaders and the other L2A interns. Additional activities for L2A interns include: regular conference calls, meetings, events and forums all aimed at increasing our awareness of IBM’s activities in Africa and preparing us to work there should we successfully move on to get a job there.


What skills have I gained?

I have found that being in IBM I am learning new things and developing my skills every day. From my daily role, I have had a chance to complete online technical modules enabling me to be able to use different types of software hence increasing my technical competence. In addition, my role involves juggling adhoc requests while still completing my monthly tasks hence challenging me to develop my organisational skills and working well under pressure.


Taking on the team leader responsibility for the L2A committee has definitely developed my leadership skills. I have had to follow-up with different committee members on different action items while assisting where I can. I have also really developed my networking skills as I maintain good communication with the scheme leaders and all the interns.


Moreover, I have taken part in giveback opportunities which were great opportunities to develop my inter-personal skills. I was required to give a presentation at an assessment centre that I was helping in which gave me the opportunity to sharpen my presentation skills.


So why do a placement?

The opportunities to develop your skills (soft or technical) are numerous. It’s finally a chance for you to experience how the industry actually works and to apply some of that knowledge gained at university to real-life situations at the work-place. The networking opportunities are also invaluable. Making the right contacts will prove fruitful when searching for jobs after you graduate. Lastly, taking on actual responsibility that affects the performance of the business is just the preparation you need to start your career.


What have been the best bits of your placement to date?

My time at IBM has been invaluable. I have been able to represent the company at conferences where a head of state, ministers and other delegates were in attendance, collaborate with other employees on different projects, take on extra responsibilities and even take up different modules to develop my skills. All these in a span of only five months!


My tips when applying for a placement:

– Complete the application as early as possible. This gives you a higher chance of getting the role that you want before they fill up.

-Give evidence to support your skills mentioned in the application form e.g. projects, positions of responsibility in societies

-Show your passion for the company and role during interviews and assessment centres

-Lastly, prepare well. This applies to all levels of the application process.


It’s hard to believe that it was just the other day that I was wondering what program to apply for, what company or even whether I should take the year out to get some work experience. Now almost half-way through with my placement at IBM and I can confidently say that doing this placement was one of the best decisions I have ever made!


To find out more about the Leading to Africa program, take a look at the website or the blog post by the program manager.

For more information about our other student programs, take a look here.

To keep up to date with our global opportunities, tips and news, check out our global Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts.

What will you make with IBM? ibm.com/jobs




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