One extraordinary year

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By Nynke

Hi all,

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, and a lot has happened since…
On the first of September, I -and of course the other 17 people who started at that date- will be employed at the ISC for exactly one year. And look how far we’ve come?! This joyous event of course has to be celebrated during a get-together with those people I’ve gotten to know rather well in the past year. The thing I like most about the ISC is that, if you want to do something, you should just go for it and see where it ends up. It’s a bit like not having to leave university just yet!

With a team of 5 people, we’re writing preliminary regulations, enthuse candidates, and organising the elections for the works council. The works council is an independent body within an organisation, which represents the employees within the company. It is designed to review all decisions made by management, which makes it rather important. Given the fact that I enjoyed being a student assistant for International Business Law at the University of Groningen for two years, setting up a works council is something I really wanted to contribute to. So that’s what we’re doing now, and the elections are coming up fast!

Career wise, this year has obviously been pretty interesting as well. Apart from the work-related learning on the project, it is all about seizing opportunities. From September onwards, four new People Managers (PeMs, first-line managers) will be appointed. And I’m one of the candidates! The seven candidates are currently in training (the other ones will be appointed at a later time), in order to become first-line managers for the colleagues within the ISC. Talking about opportunities ;) It truly is like said in the ISC slogan: “Imagine where it could take you” and start to make it happen!

Training is over, what’s next?

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By Quino

In the blog post of August the 7th, Robin gave a recap of the eight training weeks of group 7. I am also a member of group 7 and I decided to pick up where he left off, because a lot has changed for us since then.

Since the beginning of August our training is officially over, which means it’s time for the next exciting step in our IBM career; our first projects. Within the last two weeks everybody from our group has been assigned to their first project. Four of us have been assigned to an Intershop project and they just came back from two weeks of additional training in Jena, Germany. There they received the necessary training for their upcoming project. One of us is working on a Ruby project in Amersfoort, and two others are currently on a WebSphere project in Amsterdam. The six remaining, including myself, are working on several Salesforce projects.

The beginning of a project is quite a change compared to being in training. You have to cooperate with IBM’ers all over the world, you get a lot more responsibilities and you could come across some obstacles which you have to cope with. So far I think it’s really exciting to be on a project, it feels good to put the Salesforce training we had at IBM Frankfurt (as Frank told in his blog post on the 18th of July) into practice. My fellow project team members and I are currently creating a Salesforce demo for IBM which should show specific capabilities of the CRM. It’s going well, but we also discovered that the possibilities of Salesforce exceed our training. The programming side of Salesforce requires skills in the languages Visualforce and Apex, which we do not master yet. But now we know which area to focus on to become more complete experts in Salesforce. So the upcoming period I want to create a demo which we can be proud of, and I want to master the Salesforce programming languages, which probably is going to be quite a challenge.

The negative aspect of everybody being on projects is a rather empty office. Only those from group 7 who are on Salesforce projects are able to work from our office in Groningen every day. Because Salesforce is fully in the cloud, it isn’t necessary to work on the projects on a client´s location. The other members of our group will be working at the clients` offices for approximately 3 or 4 days a week. It’s quite different without everybody in the office during the week. Luckily everybody will be here on Fridays most of the time, so after work we can still kick off the weekend together like usual and give eachother updates on every project.

Stacking up on frequent flyer miles

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By Robert

It has been a few months since the last blog post from my hand. In that post I’ve told a little bit about a second project I was probably going to work on. I eventually got a second project; however, it was not at the bank.


Project Part I

I was sent to Kosice, Slovakia, for a Siebel configuration training, which was really cool. After this trip, which was intensive and relaxing at the same time, it was time to put what I learned into practice at my second project. Once again, I am at a government project. This time the project is in The Hague – or to be more specific – in Rijswijk. Unfortunately it took a full month to get all account credentials required to install the Siebel software necessary, as I was eager to put my training into practice. Of course it always takes a little while before one is to be able to start on a project, but the installment of the software caused quite a large delay. Finally, at the 15th of June, I got my credentials, with which I was allowed to install the Siebel Tools and Client on my working station.

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Project Part II

By now already two months have past since my Siebel training, but still I have not been able to get some hands on experience with the tools. To make a long story short: even the Siebel training could not have prepared me for the assignment, as I immediately got a task that was really specific to the IND (Informatie en Naturalisatie Dienst). It was quite a hard task, to start with; I was literally thrown into the deep. Luckily, I could start making a workflow, which was the thing I liked the most during the training period. Even though specifications where not clearly written down, and sometimes even missing, in the end I managed to pass the test. I had to devise a workflow with four query couples, ending up in eight(!!) queries for specific cases and fields in the application.

To make it even more interesting I also had to add some steps which compared the results of two query couples, based on some data, and store these temporarily to be compared in the end with yet another result of a query couple comparison.

Even though it took me a little longer than planned, in the end I could be quite proud that I managed to finish the task with just a little help sometimes from some of the colleagues here. We work with the AGILE/Scrum methodology on the project, and have a daily stand up every day. This really helps to get a clear view of what everybody on the team is doing. It also makes it easier to ask for advice when you struggle with something on your task. At this moment we are working on the second release. I have got a nice set of tasks, which will keep me busy for the coming period. All in all I can say I am happy with the project I am on at the moment, even though it features quite a lot of travelling by public transport and staying in a hotel during the week.

If you read my story carefully you might have noticed that there is gap in the time line… Between my training and my first task it was time for a well deserved holiday break to South America and Sweden! As you might understand, as the title says, I have been stacking up on frequent flyer miles this summer, and with a project in Rijswijk this will not quickly come to an end.

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The end of the training period

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By Robin Almoes

In this weeks´ blogpost I will recap the last eight weeks of training my group and I attended. The first week of training was mostly about getting to know your colleagues and IBM. In this introduction week we learned about the history of IBM and the values of the company. It was very interesting to learn how and why IBM has grown to what it is today. We also received our laptops and telephones this week and spent some time getting to know some necessary programs.

The second week was focused on application development. We acquired knowledge on the software development life cycle and learned about different methods and tools IBM has available. In week three the group was divided in two different groups. One group received a Java Core course within the ISC. The other group, including me, received a course on Salesforce for a week in Frankfurt. The fourth week was focused on teambuilding. Three trainers from Switserland and Romania came here to get us out of our comfortzone and we got to know eachother a lot better. The trainers prepared some interactive exercises focused on teamwork and at the same time taught us about working in project teams. The theme of the last four weeks was to learn about Websphere E-Commerce. After a few e-learning courses about the basics of software, two different trainers taught us about customizing some applications.

The training period has been a lot of fun and I couldn´t have wished for better colleagues. We have had so much fun the last eight weeks and everyone is now preparing to go on projects. I´m going to miss all of them when they’re working at the client side. As mentioned by Jos, last week, the training period has ended, and now it is time to start working on projects. This topic will probably be covered in next weeks blogpost.

Starting a new Project

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By Zahierra

Hi everyone, It´s my turn to write a blogpost again :) In my last blogpost I told you all about the SAP Upgrade Project we were working on. This project is now completed.

During the Pentecost weekend, all the different parties who were involved in the project, including the ISC team members, combined their efforts to execute the upgrade and Go-Live. It was considered a great success!

After the Go-Live weekend we had to provide after care for the project during a couple of weeks. In this phase we took care of the defects that were raised after the upgrade by the business. This involved defects we missed during our thorough testing, but also contained some new functionalities which were raised as defects by the business users. Luckily most of the defects we missed, didn´t have a huge impact on the business and were therefore considered as a minor defect.

Some of you might be wondering which project I am currently working on, since the Upgrade project is now finished. I am happy to tell you that most of the ISC team members – including me – were asked to start working on various different projects for the same client. This gives us the opportunity to keep working with SAP, so we can improve our competence in this area.

The new project we are working on, allows us to work more frequently from our office in Groningen, which we all find really enjoyable :)

My first SalesForce.com project

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By Jos

As of two weeks I am assigned to my very first project within the ISC. This came somewhat as a surprise, because I actually am still in training. Ever since the Salesforce training in Frankfurt I was eager to put what I had learned into practice, so the surprise was a most welcome one. The project is the development of a Proof of Concept in Salesforce for a water supply company in France.

During my first conference call with the team I must say I had some difficulty getting up to speed, as the project was already up and running for quite some time. But everyone on the team was open to questions and really helpful. I felt like I was part of the team in no time.

Because I was still quite inexperienced with Salesforce, I asked my manager if it was possible to assign another employee of the ISC to the project, so I could brainstorm with someone on location and have face-to-face meetings about the task(s). I was pleased to hear he agreed and two of my colleagues were assigned to the project.

The project has a small time frame. We only had about 3 weeks to realize the Proof of Concept. Because time is of the essence, the team agreed to have daily conference calls in order for everyone to be up to speed on the progress and to be clear on what needs to be done.

The final presentation is next Tuesday and today we have completed our tasks. Now we just need to prepare for the presentation. My colleagues and I have had a great experience, learned a lot more about Salesforce and now know what it’s like to work in an international team.

We, if I may speak for my colleagues, can’t wait for our next assignment.

SalesForce.com developer training

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By Frank

This week I will tell you something about the SalesForce.com (SF) platform and the SF developer training my colleagues and I received. SF is a cloud based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and is leader in CRM system market. The system comes with a lot of out of the box functionality and is therefore relatively easy to setup.

First I was surprised that IBM was going to train us on how to develop a competitive CRM system, because IBM also has there own CRM systems. But as a Service Center we like to offer our clients a complete solution and SF is the biggest player out there. I don’t want to bore you with a lot of technical information concerning SF and rather tell you something about the training we received.

In our third week of working at the ISC Groningen we received a SF developer training. The training took place in the IBM office in Frankfurt and so our first business/education trip became reality. Not knowing what to expect we arrived at one of the IBM offices in Frankfurt, where we were introduced to our trainer, Rob Goodman. Rob is an independent SF consultant and was going to teach us the ins and outs of the SF System. Together with colleagues from the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Germany our SF training kicked off.

What started as a sales pitch, (Rob Goodman was clearly very passionate about SF) soon turned in to a nice introduction of the SF system. I was surprised about the ease of use and about what could be accomplished with just point and click. The following days we explored almost all the areas of the SF system and at the end of the week we felt confident that we could pass the developer exam and become certified SF developers.

Next to the knowledge and skills we gained during the training we also improved as a team. In our spare time we visited the great city center of Frankfurt and really got to know each other. The World cup was still in the group phase (the Netherlands just crushed Spain) and we watched several matches on one of the many terraces Frankfurt has.

Overall it was a good week!! We learned a great deal about SF and had a lot of fun in the meantime.

The team in Frankfurt

An examination of your website’s effectiveness… for free

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By Albert Martijn

Yes, you read that right. A free web user experience analysis. Introduced in 2010, the IBM Services grants enables non-profit organizations to enhance their IT infrastructure, their leadership and technology skills. The solutions were developed with not-for-profit partners and designed to help them enhance their ability to serve IBM’s communities.

Web user experience analysis
This grant is designed to help an organization evaluate the user experience of one website —typically its primary site— and determine possible approaches to improving it. IBM consultants evaluate the effectiveness of the site’s branding, look and feel, navigation, and content. IBM reviews the evaluation as well as the findings of an user survey, presents best practices and comparisons with similar sites, and provides recommendations for improving targeted areas of the website.

Value proposition
An organization’s website can significantly impact how stakeholders perceive the organization. IBM consultants will review the results of their assessment of several aspects of the website’s overall user experience, and will then take into account best practices and comparable websites in devising recommendations for improvement. The team will also discuss the findings of the user surveys and of questionnaires that the organization has completed.

Doing right by the world
When one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world came along and was interested in such an analysis, a colleague jumped at the opportunity to show them the capabilities of the ISC. His enthusiasm was contagious and before I knew it, we were visiting the organization’s Dutch headquarters in The Hague. We we’re immediately amazed by how much this organization is doing for the betterment of mankind: that in itself gave an extra boost in motivation to do right by them. If we successfully apply our skills and expertise, the organization is able to reach their goals in an even more successful way, and with that, help our world.

And how often can you say your project is contributing to end world hunger?

So far, so good..

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By Nuria

I am a new IBMer at the ISC, this being my fourth week. I want to tell you a little about myself and my first feelings and impressions during these weeks.

As the title of this blogpost says: so far, so good! I would like to explain some things about myself. I have no experience in working in IT, but I do have experience in working in other sectors in my home country, Spain. Also it is worth to mention that I studied Business Administration… Why do I tell you this, you may wonder..It is inevitable for me to compare my previous experiences to my new experience becoming a developer. By the way, I find it very exciting to become a developer!

Most of what I have experienced these four weeks is pretty different from my previous experiences, but I must say, I like it! For example, our work area is an open space, where you can freely choose where to sit. This allows you to interact with the team, and teaming is crucial at IBM. Now let me share with you my favourite place in the office… the “Atrium”(see the pictures below) where we usually have our lunch break, and it invites you to get out of the regular office. Then, this can give you a first impression about the atmosphere at the IBM Services Center. Also I would like to mention that networking is highly important at the company and from what I´ve heard it may be very useful in the near future when you´re looking for help and cooperation. In addition, I have noticed that communications between IBMers all over the world are much more an eveyday thing then I at first thought. For instance, we are receiving training at the moment, which will continue for at least some weeks. The courses are given by people from other countries such as Romania, Germany and Switzerland. In my opinion, this is very positive because not only do you learn from their experience, but also the trainers help you in several ways: It allows you to have a global perspective of IBM, get a general technical knowledge, learn how to behave as an IBMer and finally to specialise in order to become a good developer. In other words, a completed necessary welcome!

Consequently I can just say I feel good….♪♫♪♫

ISC Groningen, IBM ISC Groningen, IBM

Emergency Response Officers

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By Malissa

This week I’m going to tell you about my new experiences at the IBM Services Center in Groningen. As I’ve told before: I’m working on a project for the government, but instead of going on about that I’m going to tell you more about our “extracurricular” activities.

Next to our project activities we have the choice to join different Committees. Examples of these committees are the Communication Committee, the Education Committee and the Emergency Response Officers. I joined the Emergency Response Officers (or in Dutch Bedrijfshulpverlening).

Currently we’re busy with the first part of our training: the first aid training. During this first part of the training we are learning CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), wound care and other first aid things. After this we will get trained in what to do in case of a fire and some evacuation training. During training we have a lot of fun, but it’s serious business and sometimes hard work. Personally I think it is important to know what to do when something happens. While following this training I have come to think it would be good for everybody to get at least a CPR course. You can save someone’s life!

bhv, isc, ibm services center, groningen, ibm