An excellent start

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By Pascal

Not even one quarter has passed and the ISC already has shown wonderful experiences in 2015. I will go through some of them quickly. We started with a new and talented group of colleagues in January. I have already worked with some of them and I´m looking forward to see them develop and add value to our company. As I am already talking about adding value to the company, we are proud that we have construction workers running around creating a whole new work floor for 100 new employees and a brand new Interactive Studio (we will bring you a time-lapse video of the construction soon)! The fact that we are growing in number of colleagues, square feet of workspace and experience feels really good and satisfying to me.

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Nowadays the sun is up after 6 pm, so the time for outside activities has come. At the project I´m working for we already played some intense soccer and basketball matches in the last weeks. This helps in relaxing and bonding. Part from the outside activities, the ISC Event committee organized an indoor soccer tournament. With 6 teams and a great audience, it was game on and our high performance culture really kicked in!

For me personally, the start of this Year of the Sheep has brought me new experiences in the Agile way of working at my project. Also, now the assessments and administration are finally done, I am formally a People Manager. This role, the steep learning curve at my SAP specialism, combined with a buzzing ISC client portfolio makes me proud to be part of the IBM Services Center Groningen!

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Rise to the occasion

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By Aman

Rounding up the new hires for the year of 2014, I joined the IBM Services Center in November. I had a somewhat unconventional beginning here, as I wasn’t part of a new group of employees and I also didn’t go through the customary six week training. Rather, on my first day, I was already made aware of the account I’d be working on and what my role would be. The training would be on the job, and I would learn more about the project when I began.

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Soon after, I was off to the Heineken headquarters in Amsterdam, eager to meet the rest of the team and discover what this new chapter in life had in store for me. Needless to say, I was nervous beyond words, somewhat anxious and jittery. I fail to imagine what they made of me when I entered the meeting room, not far from where Freddy Heineken once sat at his desk. A 22-year old kid, student of Economics, with no experience at all, had arrived to do ERP implementation for Heineken. And them all big shot consultants from IBM and Heineken, with 20 years in the field, wearing nice suits and shiny shoes. If they were a bit apprehensive, they never showed it, and in fact made me feel quite welcome. A few days later, I felt like I belonged, and told myself I must have done something right to be in that place! Never did I let myself forget that I was on probation. It’s crucial to stay professional at all times, and not appear to be overwhelmed by it all.

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Last month, I had my first week in the field, the real field. Now this was the true test. We visited Brasseries de Bourbon in La Réunion, a tropical island far far away in the Indian Ocean (the pictures are from there), for phase one of our ERP implementation. Heineken has a majority ownership of several subsidiaries around the world. My project has 12 countries in scope over the next 2 years, and I’ll be working on-field at half of them – as a Functional Consultant, specializing in Finance. Very exciting, to say the least! The week in La Réunion proved to be a thoroughly enriching experience, where they would constantly throw me into the deep end and see how I’d perform. The management would have daily feedback sessions with me, and that was most useful. Not only is it reassuring to know where you can improve, but also that they’re willing to work with you to make you a better consultant. What matters most is that one is a good communicator, professional and socially-agreeable. The rest of the skills and knowledge for the job can be picked up along the way, and that’s been my biggest takeaway.

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Back at the ISC now, and working on the Design phase of the implementation, I go about my daily tasks with a lot more confidence, buoyed by the faith shown in me. I still believe every day is a test, because that brings out the best in one. Kick-starting my career at a massive global corporation like IBM, further consulting an enterprise which sells a cool product, and traveling the world through work – it’s been a dream come true. We might be fortunate with the opportunities that are given to us, but it’s what we do with that opportunity that defines us. Grab it with both hands. And never let go.

Break everything

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By Albert-Martijn

Or at least, try to. Throw a brick through the front window. Kick down the door. Uplift tables and turn them over. Press all the buttons on the coffee machine at the same time. Leave the door of the fridge open. Click on ‘log out’ while you haven’t even logged in yet!

What?

What was that last part? Clicking on a button? How is that breaking something? Well, creating an application through programming is just like building a house and filling it with household appliances. You need a fundament, weather resistant walls and a roof, different rooms with different functions, etc. But what if the fundament isn’t strong enough and will sink when it rains? What if the walls aren’t stable and will blow over in the wind? Or, going back to programming, what if the text field, meant for a person’s name, also accepts numbers? What happens if you use bogus information for your credit card, and the application accepts it? Sure, you now have a free fridge, but you also committed fraud.

You’re probably catching on by now, and yes, this is about testing. Take a wild guess and tell me what percentage of road bridges work as intended. Go on, throw it out there.

80%?

90?

99% even?

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And then realize how many times you see news headlines about bridges collapsing. That’s right, almost never. So it’s basically a 100%. Yes, be impressed, that’s an amazing figure. But also means we can be sure these bridges won’t fail us. And they managed to do so by testing it thoroughly. How many cars can fit on this bridge at the same time? Double that number. How hard does the wind blow in this region? Triple that number.
What is the highest speed the heaviest available truck can move at and hit the bridge from below to dislodge it? Quadruple it. Does the bridge break? See where and why. Adjust building material. Positioning. Maintenance. Test again. A product tested in this way can, with a high probability, withstand the test of time. Or, even better, the test of the end-user. And we all know they can be a force of nature.

Your application is a product. People WILL try to break it, knowingly and unknowingly. And you need to test it, and see if it is end-user proof. Find out what doesn’t work, how the system can be cheated, how shortcuts can destroy the experience, and make sure no-one can ever do that again. The more creative your test approach, the better. You’ll find defects you could never dream of.

So, break everything… to make it work!

First months at the ISC

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by Mart

One and a half months of training to be a mobile developer, and now for something completely different…

Last week I started on the DoMuS project. Why the strange camelcaps? Don´t know. Someone got creative? This ongoing project is about maintenance, updates, and solving technical user problems for the document management system of Economic Affairs.

A single document management system: that´s it?

You´d wish. The document management system is an endless list of servers, databases and client PC´s. One could easily fill six of these blogs by just listing the different servers involved.

Luckily, my mentors Thijs & Matijn take me by the hand through this complicated landscape. And these guys are great! My every “And what did you do just now?” is thoroughly explained without a single sigh on their part. For which I thank them.

In the near future I hope to be a wizard in the DoMuS environment like they are; dancing through firewalls, rolling out patches like a rabid dog, and taking control of client PC´s like I own those busters. Until that day of mastery arrives, I´ll keep listening, learning, and thanking all my colleagues for their support.

Non stop learning

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By Nuria

It has already been seven months since my last blog, and eight since I started working at the ISC. Although my education period finished at the end of July, I cannot say that I have finished learning, and I`m almost certain I will never say that. At the ISC you are always learning new stuff. Sharing knowledge is one of our values. As you can imagine, there are several ways to keep learning.

For example you can learn from colleagues. In my opinion this is one of the best ways. Knowledge is up to date at ISC. From my experience, you learn not only advices, but also the best approach to perform your tasks. My colleagues have helped me on my projects and I am very grateful! Thank you guys! I think everybody tries to do their best.

Besides learning from colleagues you can attend to Workshops at the ISC. They are usually arranged by Education Committee and they are about different topics. From Bluemix to Git, to a workshop about Communication.

You even learn when you are on a project! Project experience is the best way to put your theoretical knowledge into practice, gain expertise and realize what your gaps are to focus on…you know..never stop learning!

And finally you can learn from the platform “IBM Think Academy”. There you can find topics that matter to IBM, and all IBMers, like cloud, big data, analytics, mobile and social media.

Interesting, right? Maybe I am forgetting some other ways, but I will let you tell me when you join us!

My first day at the ISC

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By Ray

February 12th, it has now been 6 weeks since I left my old job and joined the ISC. A lot has happened since then but it was all for the good.

My first day at the ISC was a nervous, but a good one. I started off with a new graduates group who. The graduates were starting their training in mobile development and I joined them for the first two weeks. That was a lot of fun. We got to know each other a lot better and we learned to trust each other. We went drinking and bowling with most of the ISC and I got to know a lot of new people.
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After two weeks I got my first assignment for the ISC. It would be a short one, just to keep me busy until my other assignment would start. For this assignment I had to go The Hague for initially 4 or 5 days a week. Thankfully I was able to discuss this with the project manager there and we agreed it would be for 3 days a week.

I met the team whom I would be working with. they were great and I received a warm welcome into the project. Just as every project has it´s issues, so it was for this project. The start-up was a bit troublesome, the communication with the Chinese developers was difficult, but when the ball started rolling, everything fell into place. We kept moving forward, because our  goal was to successfully complete the project.

Now the project is almost finished. The deadline has almost arrived, due to the fact our Chinese colleagues are leaving this Friday because of the Chinese New Year. We are handling the last issues so that we could close this chapter with success. And then it will be 7 weeks after I started working at the ISC. It was a difficult choice for me, but it felt like the best choice that I have made in a long time regarding work. I feel at home and welcomed by the ISC and it´s been a long time since I enjoyed going to work every day and looking forward to it.

Time flies

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By Malissa

At this moment I’ve been at the ISC for a year and getting close to one and a half year. I still can’t believe it’s been that long already! Something that is even more surprising to me is that I’ve been on one account for the entire time. I hear you thinking, “That’s boring!”, but to be honest, it’s not.

Throughout the time I’ve been involved in several projects, all of a very different nature. For example: I’ve given support on very different applications, I’ve worked with some very experienced colleagues from the IBM office in Amsterdam to write a due diligence report, and I’ve been inventorying applications and making the appropriate documentation. Because of this diversity it has been quite fun. Personally I love working with people, and with the assignments I’ve had and still have, I have the chance to work with all kinds of people.

The only disadvantage for me is that for quite some time I’ve been staying in a hotel on weekdays. Even though I have a good time with my colleague in the hotel and eating at restaurants, I’m looking forward to the chance to cook for myself and wander about in my own home again.

Being an ISCer has been and still is a great pleasure thanks to all the colleagues. In my projects we work hard, but there still is time to goof around sometimes and make fun. At the centre the atmosphere is still pleasant, energetic and it’s just fun to be there after a week on location.

Just imagine, just last year July I graduated and now I’m working at the ISC, having fun with colleagues and gaining more and more experience each day.

But whatever happens, one thing is certain: Time sure flies when you’re having fun!

Valuable lessons from the depths of IT

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By Albert

<2014>

Hey all and welcome to the ISC Groningen’s blog! Many of you know me already, but those who don’t – my name is Albert and I’ve been working at the ISC for almost a year now as a Salesforce & Application developer. When people hear that you work in IT, the first association is that you have a boring desk job and nothing is really happening around you. If I would tell you that the job/year so far was boring, I would be lying to you. I managed to shift my perspective within the ISC from more of a technical job role to a more creative one by joining the ISC Design Team, which gave me the possibility to express my creativity and make our clients happy with what they want to see while implementing elements from IBM Design Thinking. In a previous blog post you might have read about the Design Camp we hosted numerous times, and what it is about. If you read it, you already know, if not – * Look it up :) *

As 2014 rolled off the stage to make room for the new & shiny 2015, I learned some valuable lessons which I would like to share with you:

• IT is the only place where a semi-colon means more than in an English exam.
• The best method for accelerating a computer is the one that boosts it by 9.8 m/s2.
• Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
• Simplicity is the soul of efficiency.

</2014>

<2015>

New Year, new beginning, right? WRONG!!

I firmly believe that one should not stop improving regardless of the time of the year. I think that having such a work atmosphere as the ISC has, brings the best out of you and also makes you strive for better self-improvement constantly.

After this has been said – I begin to wonder what the next lessons for this year will be… Stay tuned if you want to see what 2015 brings us…

… </2015>

Insider tips: A few pointers on personal development

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By Jelle

1. BE PREPARED
If you want to come across as professional, you had better be prepared. There is nothing more disappointing than failing to answer a question or failing to provide your anticipated deliverables. Moreover, if you want to get ahead of the rest, you should exceed the expectations of ‘the people’. This can sometimes be as easy as preparing a little bit more, in order to have all your bases covered. In our job roles this might mean studying technologies and techniques and being able to present the best approach.
Besides the beautiful deliverables we’re working on, there is another moment in our culture during which we are able to shine: meetings. Whenever you have a meeting, take some time beforehand to clarify for yourself why you are there. Go over the agenda and mark down the important points. If you want to state your case for something, you should have your arguments ready. It also does not hurt to imagine beforehand what other people’s reactions might be to your proposal. However, think twice before you start inviting people for a meeting. Time is money, and putting a bunch of people in one room better be worth the total amount of hours it takes up.

2. BE INVOLVED
The ISC is just a year old, which means that a lot of aspects of our organisation are still taking shape. This also means that you can still have a say in how things will ultimately be. So, don’t shy away from giving your opinion. When you do give your opinion, however, make sure that you state your case to your best ability (be prepared!).
Going outside of your job description does not only aid in bringing something extra to your colleagues and you, it also helps you to develop new skills. These skills might come in handy in a future role. The great thing about working for such a young organisation is that you have a lot of opportunities to develop skills that you would not develop in an ordinary development/testing job. However, it does require some true involvement. You will find, though, that what goes around, comes around.

3. BE RELIABLE
Within your job role, or perhaps one of the before mentioned special endeavors, you should always stick to your promises. If people count on you, you had better not let them down. It is easy to say that you will deliver, but make sure you commit to it. Otherwise your name will be besmirched before you know it, and it is hard to get rid of this stain of unreliability. So, in short, deliver where you promise, and if you can’t, let it be known in due time.

4. BE CONNECTED
Networking is important, and the efforts you put into connecting with other people will almost certainly pay off at some point in the future. Knowing more people means that you have more possibilities for getting things done. You will be more resourceful in solving problems at hand. Next to that, you can see more opportunities, where others can’t see them because you know the guy who is the missing piece of the puzzle. A good network works two ways, next to knowing people that might be able to help you, people know you and know what you can do for them. This might yield some pretty rewarding experiences in the future as well.

5. STAY CURIOUS
Working in a young and vibrant center, it is expected of us that we stay on top of developments and that we are curious about what’s out there. What can help you and is a must-know in your job role or project? By staying up to date, you can go the extra mile more easily, impress your clients and by extension do well in your job.

6. ENJOY YOUR WORK
Lastly and most importantly: nothing is more important than going to work with a smile on your face. For me this means cycling to a beautiful office in the center of Groningen with 75 like-minded young individuals, where I get challenged and learn something new every day.

“OMG… It broke again!” a.k.a. My Hursley Experience

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By Aleks

Well, it’s about time I tell you my story. :) My name is Aleks and I am an application developer here at the ISC Groningen. I have been mostly engaged in mobile and front-end development, which, let me tell you, can be very interesting, fun and rewarding. But don’t be fooled, it also gets quite stressful sometimes and that’s when you might hear me say: “OMG… It broke again!”

Currently, I am working on an internal IBM project based in the UK, so every once in a while I get to pay a visit to the IBM Husley office in Winchester. Actually, travelling is part of the working routine for the most of us. Personally, I really enjoy it, as I get to see new places and meet a lot of new faces. Getting to know other cultures most certainly is a really enriching experience. Let me tell you about my Hursley experience!

The IBM Hursley facilities are huge and you can literally get lost. Well, I didn’t, but judging by the suggestions for directions I was getting by chatting with colleagues, I must have looked like I was lost! :D During my last visit, having already gained enough confidence to wander around, I stopped by the IBM Galileo Centre. It’s a pretty fascinating place, equipped with industry labs and all kinds of simulating environments, where you can give freedom to your imagination to develop a certain business solution and “unleash the potential in your own innovation”. It’s where a lot of client meetings and showcases are held.

And that is not all… Coming out of the centre I proceeded to take a hike through the IBM Hursley Park, paying my respects to the Hursley House as I walked by. It is considered to have been built in the early 18th century and since then has had various purposes, including being made available as a nursing hospital during the First World War. Nowadays, it’s part of IBMs development laboratories and is used as an Executive Briefing Centre. It is also the home of the IBM Hursley Museum. Pretty enriching so far, isn’t it! :)

Hursley House


Source: http://www-05.ibm.com/uk/clientcentre/hursley/visit-hursley.html

The city of Winchester itself, that I only got to see at night, I perceived as very romantic. For such a small place, with a population of only 120 000 people, it has a lot of beautiful sights to offer. The Cathedral, Wolvesey Castle and Palace, Winchester Guildhall are only a few of its landmarks. But most enjoyable for me to experience was the short walk I took by the river…

Well, it’s getting late so time to go back! See you again Hursley. Au revoir, Winchester!