Amsterdam to Groningen

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By Sarika

Working at the ISC Groningen is a fascinating experience. You work in an environment which is conducive for young and enthusiastic people who are passionate about IT.

I would like to tell you about the initial days at my job which involved a lot of daily travelling. I am living in Amsterdam with my family. During the initial period of my job I was travelling from Amsterdam to Groningen on a daily basis. From home to office, it was a 3 hours journey. It was crazy!!! I used to wake up at 5 am and go to sleep at 23pm, so I was sleeping a maximum of 5-6 hours per night. It was really difficult to manage, but excitement to learn and work kept me going.

After 3 months I got my first project in one of the banks in Amsterdam. I am quite happy with my first assignment, and it has also reduced the need for daily travelling. At the same time, I am missing the office in Groningen and my ISC colleagues, as I had very good time there.

My first project is the top 2020 IBM Project and I am part of the testing team. We are working in a big team with very experienced colleagues. I am working on Performance Testing of the LDAP server and use IBM Watchit Tool for this. Overall this project is a very nice learning as well as work experience for me.

amsterdam

“London, thou art the flower of cities all!” -William Dunbar

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By Rik

I would like to talk to you about two things.

The first being the slogan the ISC uses to attract new hires: “Image where it could take you”. Well, for starters, it took me to London! In the last 15 weeks I flew back and forth to England’s capital 13 times. There I work with a team of colleagues from the IBM London office on a project for a major financial institution. When I started at the ISC last January I was told there would be a chance that I had to work in a city other than Groningen once in a while, and I heard stories from colleagues who worked in Amersfoort or Apeldoorn. I didn’t expected it could also be London! As you can suspect I am quite enjoying my time there! It is an amazing city to work and live in. From beautiful views along the Thames (sometimes enjoyed from a hotel room window), to great parks to run in. From fascinating modern architecture to streets filed with historic buildings. From small narrow streets filled with pubs to wide avenues leading up to palaces.

Thames view

British aren’t famous for their kitchen (although I did like their gravy pie with mash potatoes), London is a great place to go out to dinner every night. A few tips: Gaucho for the best Argentinian steak, Nando’s for really, really tasty chicken, or you can go to one of the food markets for flavours from all over the world (there is one every Friday almost next to the IBM’s Southbank office). The only bad thing is that it is hard to find a decent beer in London, for that you have to go to Belgo, which serves Belgian beers (I’m not a fan of British beer).

Gaucho

The second thing I would like to talk about is how nice it is to work in a great team. During this project I already learned so much more and so much faster than during my previous projects where it was just me and one other guy who had just a much experience as I had. All my current team members are more experienced than me, and always willing to take some time to teach me something. It’s not just the code reviews and feedback from my fellow front-end developers that help me learn, but also the back-end guys, testers, designers, architect, scrum master and project owner. Being able to ask them a question every now and again about what they are doing really helps me to learn!

Another thing I really like about working with experienced colleagues is seeing all the great tools they use. Developers really love to use tools that make their lives easier. For instance, why would you find and download all the necessary libraries and other dependencies yourself if you can do it automatically with Bower and NPM? And of course you build your projects automatically with Grunt so your codes gets nicely compressed by minifying and uglifying it. And writing css gets so much easier with tools like Sass. Team communication is so easy with Slack. This are just a few examples. Conclusion, great developers use great tools!

Suffice to say, I am really enjoying my time at this project. I get to spend time in an amazing city, and learn a lot from working with great colleagues!

My first-ever blog

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By Sjoerd

Hello everyone,

This is my first blog post for the IBM Services Center (ISC) and it actually is the first blog I have ever written, so please bear with me while I tell you about myself and the ISC :)

It was just four weeks ago that I first entered this building and had my first ever post grad working day. Together with my peers in group 11 we started our training in Big Data & Analytics, and I must admit that there is some interesting technology behind all of it. I already learned a crazy amount of new things and I would really enjoy sharing all the details with you in a follow up of this blog post if you guys are interested. I also started to learn Python as a programming language and I plan on learning other languages in the future, I might even do some developing.

So who am I? My name is Sjoerd and I am a 24 year old Engineering graduate who decided to start a career in IT. The reason I decided to work for the ISC is that I like the different natures of people that work for the ISC and IBM in general. The ISC hires people with different backgrounds for the reason of having a more diverse work floor environment in which people’s skills complement each other. For example: In my group (group 11) we have people with a background in Law, Business Administration, Engineering, Maths, Finance and even Real Estate but we all share the same passion for IT. I am utterly convinced that I would have a great time working on a project with any of them.

Sjoerd

Now for something completely different, but yet very important when you visit the ISC in Groningen. If you were under the impression that the ISC is located in Groningen you might want to reconsider. During my first four weeks I have been under the impression that I have been in the Amazones. It gets warm here, very warm and very humid. I once heard about a climate system controlling the indoor climate, but that remains a legend to this very day. It was rumored that the climate system would cool the indoor temperature relative to the outdoor temperature by 4 °C, but instead it feels like it is heating the place by 4°C. Good thing we have a terrific HR team that comes by and brings you ice cream :) They are delicious, especially the pear ones.
For now just remember to put on a T-shirt or some light clothing when you come to visit the center on a hot day.

I will see you the next time.

Sjoerd

ISC events

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By Sukhjit

Since a lot of things are happening at the ISC lately I will give you a short story about what our Event Committee was up to lately. On 8th of July we had a football tournament within the ISC in Stadspark. All ISCers were welcome to join and play or just cheer for their favorite team, followed by some drinks in the canteen next to the field.

Unfortunately for us the evening had a bit different plans in terms of weather and every now and then it was drizzling; although that didn’t stop us from enjoying what we came for. Actually after the recent +30Cº days this might have come as a bit refreshing :). Overall there were 4 teams competing and everyone’s spirit was high. Each match was about 20 minutes long, and was followed by a 10 minute break. After several rounds of intense matches between all the teams and even more intense cheering, the tournament was over and everyone headed for the canteen. Some people even stayed a bit longer and enjoyed some more time playing before heading for the dressing rooms. After everyone changed from their sportswear to something more casual we enjoyed each other’s company, insights from the game and some fun stories.

At the ISC we have many different activities that are organized by our event committee, and I am sure that I speak for all of us when I say that we enjoy them to the fullest.

Can’t wait to see what awesome event is happening next? Read the follow up blog posts and you will find out!

Juggling

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By Mariela

Since I started working at the IBM Services Center Groningen, almost two years ago, I have been confronted with all kinds of activities, projects and expectations. Nonetheless, this dynamic company environment does not stop surprising me.
So, hereby a quick update of what I have been up to these last years. First, I was for quite a while doing some hard core Java learning while I was waiting to get started on a nice project. After about four months of intensive learning I got a project in SAP as project manager officer (sort of project assistant). After carrying out a very challenging SAP upgrade in five months, I moved to my following project. This one started one year ago.

In this new project I worked as an application engineer for a large number of aix applications. This again proved to be very challenging. I did not only have to learn a lot on OS level, but also on middleware/application level. Even though the project was very interesting and certainly good for my professional growth, I did not have a good click with all of the people there; which gave me a bigger challenge than I would like to admit. I am the kind of person who thinks that relations should not have an impact on work: big mistake. It has a huge impact!

Therefore, one month ago I asked for a project transfer. I am at the moment part time on my former project, and part time as junior project manager on an SAP project again. And today, I just heard that I am also going to be managing all the test process, which is once again a “new one” for me. I just wonder, when does the juggling stop? And even more important, do I want it to stop?

Shaking and spinning

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By Eelco

When I think about all the topics I can write about, my head starts spinning. Ever since I joined the ISC, in January this year, I’ve seen so many systems, programs, technologies… And every day I’m working with fun, intelligent colleagues, we recently had a day out of ‘klootschieten’ (curling) on the water with a barbeque after, the list of topics goes on and on.

So I’m going to write about two things that amazed me the most in the last few weeks. Currently I’m working on a project at the NAM. The project is called “TNO Building Sensors”. In Groningen, there are placed multiple sensors that measure acceleration on buildings. Whenever there’s an earthquake, these sensors register the movement (shaking) of the building they are attached to. And the measurements are precise; a sensor records 250 measurements per second! All this data is collected in a database. The ‘potential tremors’ data – potential because the NAM is no authority on saying what is an earthquake and what isn’t – currently exceeds the 5 million records. Wow! And the fun part? The potential tremors are just a fraction of the total data. Most data is generated by heartbeats (every sensor sends one every minute to show it is still working) and the ‘unknown causes’ (someone bumps against the sensor, a train passes by, you name it). In total, we are reaching the 200 million records. The thing that amazes me the most about this ‘big data’? If I’d want to retrieve a specific record out of these 200 million records, it will only cost me a few seconds at most. I knew indexes* were awesome, but this awesome?

So I was talking about two things. The second thing is called NHibernate. According to Wikipedia, NHibernate is “an object-relational mapping (ORM) solution for the Microsoft .NET platform. It provides a framework for mapping an object-oriented domain model to a traditional relational database”. So yeah, right. I just began to understand how cool this is recently. ‘Back in the days’, when I was freelancing, I had to work with databases every now and again. To read and write data, I had to write complex queries and test a lot. With NHibernate, this is in the past. All you need to do is create a file (hbn.xml) that describes your database (table/columns), generate a class that goes with this file and voila, you now can work with your database. You can even make the NHibernate files more complex. Let’s say you have clients who order stuff. You create two hbn.xml files, one describes the order table, the second the client table. In the client.hbn.xml file however, you also map the orders of the client to the list ‘orders’. Now you can use the NHibernate magic and do stuff like _clientRepository.GetAll() (gets all the clients) and see all orders of a client via client.orders. No queries, no trouble, just… magic!

I am really enjoying my project more and more. There are still tons of cool things to learn. I hope that when this project ends, the next cool thing is around the corner, for I feel that I’m very lucky to be on my current project. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the ISC!

* = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Database_index

My eternal first day

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By Cesare

Three months have already passed since I started my experience at the ISC. Three months and I still feel like it´s my first day. Yes, because every day brings something new to do and something interesting to learn.

We are employees, but first of all we are guys who just finished their studies and who want to gain experience. Most of the people who work at the ISC are under thirty years old and I think this plays an important role in the group, reducing distances and reinforcing our relationships, also outside of the working hours. Furthermore the atmosphere in the office is really nice and cozy; open workspaces are a good way to stimulate people to cooperate and solve problems together, sharing and exchanging knowledge, and make each “lesson” less boring.

I am currently spending a couple of days in Rome, my sweet hometown, to defend my master’s thesis and..I miss my job! It sounds crazy I know.. Who in the world would ever wish to come back to work instead of eating super-tasty italian food?!? No, OK, it is not the right example haha! But, what I mean, I miss the whole context which I am working in, my colleagues and my team.

The most satisfying thing is recognizing that you have grown, reaching little goals, day by day, step by step, squeezing our minds and perhaps struggling a lot to find a solution for some problems, but in the end having our first product up and running in front of our eyes. Using a metaphor, working at the ISC is like playing darts: you probably start as a novice, with a good technique but poor aim, and just with time and continuous exercise you will finally hit the red target.

Keep trying!

blog cesare

The project is coming to an end…

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By Nynke

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while, but this week I get the chance to write to you again.
After a pretty turbulent last couple of months in the project, it is now all coming to an end. The activities at the client will be concluded and our assistance will therefore no longer be needed.

The closing phase of a project is always a pretty hectic period. First of all, any activities we have been doing the last 8 months will have to be transferred and explained to someone who will take over these tasks. That means telling him what we do, but also conveying any information we might have on the application we’re working with and all associated activities. We just have to prevent that the knowledge we have about the system and work processes leaves the company with us.
Next to that, we’re obviously finalising the tasks we’re currently working on (although it seems as though we only get more work, instead of less), and we’re going to have to say goodbye to the people we have worked with over the last 8 months. More than a technical challenge, this assignment required a lot of social skills from us, which created a bond between us and the client’s employees. Luckily, we get the chance to participate in the team event at the end of this month which will give us ample of time to say goodbye.

The period after the assignment is usually a very exciting one. Where will our new assignment be? Which client will we work for, and which skills will be required? (I love this diversity of tasks, roles and clients!) This is a time that also allows you to finish up all the work that has been pending because of the workload on the project. In my case, that means catching up with the courses I have started (but not finished yet), People Management activities, and of course the Works Council. As much as I’m enjoying my current project, I’m actually looking forward to this opportunity to catch up.

Did I just hear we might get extended for another month…?

Work hard, play hard on another level

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By Robert


The Project

Last time I wrote a blog I was on a project in Rijswijk. And now, I’ m still at the project in Rijswijk. Life is still quite hectic at the client, but it seems just part of the job. Next week I have been working at the project for a year so I am already quite used to it.

Just hardly having finished my work on the last release I was put forward for joining a SCRUM team for a little side-project in-between releases. While already having a little theoretical experience from the SCRUM trainings we have enjoyed in Groningen it was nice to finally put this into practice. After two weeks of developing and unit testing we were ready to show the results to the end users, who responded enthusiastically.

It was quite a nice experience working this way with short lines of communication and valuable input. To celebrate the success the SCRUM team decided to plan a dinner in a nice restaurant together to talk about other stuff than Workflows and Business Components.


Speel je Oranje hard uit Event

As the saying goes: Work hard, play hard! So three days before Kingsday we (the Event Committee) had a little Kingsday pre-party organized for all the Kings and Queens working at our office. While our King decided it was time to stop with old-fashioned games like ‘Sjoelen’, ‘Koekhappen’ and ‘Spijkerpoepen’ we still kept it oldschool. But also new elements such as the spontaneous Oculus Rift showcase Jelle was very eager to give to everyone interested, and the homemade Karaoke version were appreciated. Soon even Italian Aria’s filled the Atrium, and after closing time at the office the party continued in the city.


New Floor

Lastly, the construction of the next floor is almost over and as the ISC grows rapidly, it is right on time that we have the availability of a brand new awesome designed new floor. This floor also has another theme than the more rural themed 1st floor.

ISC Project Preview

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Hi everyone, it´s me again! It´s been more than a year since I wrote my first blog post, and I’ve regularly updated you with information about my project.

In one of my first blog posts I told you that I was assigned to a SAP Upgrade project for one of the largest retail companies in the Netherlands. After that, most of us working on the SAP Upgrade, were assigned to different projects for the same client.

Since then the number of ISC´ers working for this client has been steadily growing and we’ve joined various projects fulfilling a variety of roles. There are currently 14 ISC´ers working for this client! Through this blog I´d like to give you a bit more insight in the kind of projects we’ve been (and are still) working on.

SAP Factory
After successfully completing the SAP Upgrade Project in June 2014, a part of the ISC team (including me) has joined the SAP Factory. In the SAP Factory, our main task is to implement changes to keep on improving the SAP Landscape. The changes can either come from problems (production issues or bugs) or wishes from users to improve the current business process.

SAP Forecasting & Replenishment
During this project, the aim is to achieve a more streamlined supply chain management process using a new SAP Module. The F&R module replaces the old way of store and DC replenishment, which will help make more accurate predictions for order placements.

SAP Automated Testing
There is also a team who is responsible for making automated test scripts, made with a tool from IBM called ‘Rational Functional Tester’. The test scripts are made for various commonly used SAP transactions and applications within the SAP Landscape, and can be used to speed up the regression testing process when needed.

Store Improvement Plan
The goal of this project is to create a Store Improvement Plan (WinkelVerbeterPlan) website. This website will be used by store owners or managers to write down points they think are necessary to keep on improving. On this website they can also do planning: which points they are going to work on and for how long. After the time has finished, they can see whether they’ve reached their goal or not. The overall managers have the option to see how each store is doing and how well they are improving.