Ben Bottelberge, is a Client Executive for the commercial sector in Nairobi, Kenya. He graduated from the University of Portsmouth in July 2015 with a BA (Hons) Business Studies. In this article, Ben shares his IBM journey and how IBM is helping him grow.
Starting my IBM journey
My IBM journey started in the third year of my four year course, where students were required to secure 12 months of work experience. With hard work and some good fortune, I secured a role in Procurement where I supported two teams – Global Travel and EMEA Marketing & Communications. This was my first time working 9-5, and I had no idea what to expect.
In the first couple of months, whether it was the meetings (face to face or virtual) or some of the tasks I did, I really felt out of my depth and had no idea what was happening… but I realized that this is normal, because first we need to understand IBM and how things work here.
I was privileged to have two managers who were very supportive of my development and understanding of my ambition, so they constantly challenged me to push myself and improve the “Ben brand”.
Throughout the year, I expanded my experiences and network by getting out of my comfort zone and embracing challenges beyond my day to day tasks and activities. This started by volunteering to various givebacks (voluntary community development initiatives) – whether it was teaching pre-University candidates about professional skills, or communal development, I always ensured the “Ben brand” would resonate with everyone I connected with. This developed from just participating in projects, to leading existing projects and eventually even developing new projects and initiatives.
Your brand is developed from your output, whether that’s work you produce, contributions to discussions, etc., you are what you do and that’s what people will know you for.
Developing a career plan and being adaptable
Towards the end of my internship, I decided I wanted to face clients, and have targets that constantly challenge me – I want to go into Sales. I applied for a Sales role in the IBM UK graduate scheme with a plan to work in the UK for 3-5years before coming back home, and I also applied for the Leading 2 Africa program.
This opportunity to come back to Kenya was not part of ‘the plan’, rather this was an opportunity to work in a rapidly emerging country. The Leading 2 Africa program gave me the opportunity to embrace a new challenge in an exciting environment. This taught me first hand that: Things don’t always go according to plan, but that’s an opportunity for you to face a new challenge and prove your adaptability. The key takeway for me was that there are various ways of achieving our personal goals, and IBM’s range of opportunities give you that flexibility.
Embracing the new challenge
In September 2015, after I graduated, I officially joined the IBM Leading 2 Africa program as a Sales Specialist for the Sales and Distribution team, assigned to the commercial sector. The first few months were mainly learning, getting to grips with IBM East Africa and understanding the local market. As part of my development as an IBM seller, I was enrolled in IBM Global Sales School (GSS) to learn the sales etiquette IBMers should embody and skills we practice. This program involved traveling to South Africa, Dubai, Turkey then graduation in Dubai. In this role, I learned about dispute resolution, working with timelines, and so many other skills – all invaluable at work and my personal life.
I was lucky to be part of an experienced team who transferred indispensable knowledge, skills and advise to me through shadowing meetings, mentorship, and teaching me their day to day sales practice.
My development was a two-tier approach, where I had GSS to provide the theoretical knowledge, and exposure to real client engagements. I can’t stress the importance of learning as much as possible from my team, and other colleagues.
Ultimately the skills gained from GSS, the exposure to clients and the experience transferred from my team, has given me both confidence and the competence to drive my own client relationships and deals.
I am now a Client Executive in the IBM Sales & Distribution department, where my clients are part of the commercial sector. This is a great growth opportunity as it allows me to gain cross-industry experience and cross-brand skills, meaning I can learn about all the products of IBM and apply it across multiple industries. Through this role, I constantly gain exposure and knowledge about my clients and the industries they’re in. And because of this, I learned that as IBMers, we are meant to be experts in our areas but still have the flexibility to adapt through continuous learning.
Overall, my experience with IBM – developing the “Ben brand”, learning from personal and other people’s experiences, and gaining the courage to embrace new challenges – has been the best start to my career. I now have a role that challenges me, a supportive team of experts who treat me as an equal, a manager who is committed to my development, a graduate program that helps me grow in the direction I want – all while working in a company that is essential to local communities, industries and the WORLD.
If you’re like me and want a role that challenges you, develops you and helps you visualize your career journey, then IBM is also for you.
To find out more and apply to the IBM Leading to Africa program visit the IBM Leading to Africa Website
Connect with us on Facebook at IBM MEA Talent and follow us on Twitter @IBMJobsMEA to find out more about Leading to Africa and other Graduate and Internship opportunities in the Middle East and Africa.
Discover what you can do at IBM. http://ibm.co/jobsafrica