A pretty girl and the dentist chair

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By: Erwin Reimert

 

It all started the 1st of July last summer: My traineeship in Big Data & Analytics was about to begin and I was eager to dive into the world of IT. During the summer months we’ve been educated in several Data & Analytics technologies. I would be placed in a suitable data & analytics projects afterwards, but the projects were still in the pipeline when my group finished the training.

My first project became the ABN Amro Amstelveen project. A big project with over 20 CICers at client location. The work itself was not always the most challenging, but the atmosphere was good because of the team. We had fun, not always in the work we did, but with each other (and they had some nice warm fish to eat at the fish market as well).
After a while, the data & analytics projects were coming through. One by one, people from my group were assigned to interesting projects that were in line with our training. Eventually that moment came for me as well. I was put on the BI project for Jumbo, and again I found myself eager to dive into this new challenge.

Now, almost six months have passed already since training. It’s not normal how fast the weeks are passing by. One could ask “Why does the time fly?” to which I believe it is all about the perception of time. As Albert Einstein said: “An hour spent in the company of a pretty girl passes more quickly than an hour in the dentist’s chair”.
Many people find their work they are doing similar to the dentist’s chair. It has to be done, so get it over with, or, it is a necessary evil. When you have these thoughts, you better find something enjoyable in what you do, because time takes a lot longer to pass by when you are not having fun.

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When I look around at the CIC, I see young and vibrant people who like where they are and what they are doing (most of the time). I enjoy the atmosphere, my colleagues and the opportunities of working for IBM almost every day so far and hope to do so for a long time. Could it be that the CIC is that pretty girl Einstein talked about?

Roller Coaster – Road trip

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By Meyke Kerkhof:

 

In June it all started. I was told I would have a call in 30 minutes. The call was from someone from the UK who was interested in hiring me as a visual designer for their project called “Fit for the Future”.

I was a bit stunned by the fact that I could possibly travel to London to work as a visual designer; to create visuals for a programme that would be shown all over Europe. I started the call with Imogen. Overly enthusiastic, I told them about my experiences so far. The next day I was told that they hired me and I should pack my bags because they expected me 3 days later in London.

This was a dream come true for me. Six years ago, when I was still in college I was asked to create a visual of my future goals. So I drew my head on an English cab, because I was sooo famous due to my design skills, and therefore would be asked to work for a big company in London. My head is not on an English cab yet, and I don’t know if I am still aiming for that, but at least 50% of my future goals were achieved!

The first day I arrived in the Hilton hotel, I told them I worked for IBM and needed a cab. I got that tip from Aman (a colleague), who said: “Just say the name IBM and they do anything for you”. Aman was right. All of the sudden there were three employees who were helping me, to which I found to be very funny. So there it was, my English cab, and me off to my first day at work.

Imogen was waiting for me at the entrance of the building and quickly I was introduced to a lot of people.

That was the start of the project and since then I travelled every now and then to London and back. Living the good life!

However, all things must come to an end. Unfortunately after a few extensions, the project stopped, but with a big bang! I was asked to create an animation for the big boss “John Granger”, leader of GBS Europe, which was well received by the audience. I was happy. The job done. Cheerio.

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Defecting as a Tester

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By: Leonora De Raad

 

Hi everybody,

As winter starts I write my blog from the Renaissance Hotel in Amsterdam, which has been my home for the last six months. Huh!? Has it really been that long already!? It’s not for nothing that they say time flies when you’re having fun! After a rough first three months of training while starting at the ISC, I must say I love working here! I was first hesitant about my project, as testing is not my cup of tea. I said in the beginning at IBM, I would do everything except testing, but I must say it has been an interesting experience. In July I was sent together with Sarika to work on testing the entire new suite of apps and new desktop plugins for one of the largest banks in the Netherlands. The testing was kind of underestimated, and therefore we are now with a team of 20 CICers!

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Leonora and her team.

We are the team that Sint Nicolas was telling about, the 20+ people in a room suited for 10. The project has been quite a rollercoaster ride with a lot of interesting experiences and chances and many possibilities to develop myself further in different roles. My first day at the project and the present day, are a world apart. When I started, next to it being a nice summer day, the room we are now cramped in was filled with developers. However as time progressed they started to leave the room. In the end they all fled from a consistent stream of questions and defects reported by us. I learned first-hand that testing is under appreciated – although very important – and much about having good social skills to talk to developers.

In the beginning I was primarily engaged in sorting out the possibilities and choices that the client could make with the product and getting the requirements from them based on the possibilities. In doing so I learned a lot about the apps. I was asked to take over the “show me sessions” to inform communication and business implementation team about the apps. After that I became defect manager for mobile, a role between testing, development and the client. In these different roles I learned a lot about what such a big project is all about, how different parts of IBM work together: GBS, GTS and SWG and how differences in culture and hierarchy can influence the way people communicate.

I wonder what will be next in my IBM career. I am looking forward to a new challenge!

Interfacing through a Sugar Pill

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Users want to be in control. Even in a world that becomes more and more automated, our users still want to be the ones in control. Know that they are the ones the machine is waiting for, and not the other way around. However, as interfaces get more and more intuitive, users lose more and more control, and reduced control means less input from the user. This means a less than happy user.

When I was visiting Amsterdam with a few colleagues, I noticed some of them wouldn’t use the buttons near the cross walk, some would press it once, and some would spam it until their fingers were raw. In the end, we all got the same result: a green light, so we could cross the road.

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Why didn’t pressing the button help? Why didn’t spamming the button speed up the process? Because the button doesn’t do anything. Welcome to the placebo button: a button to occupy us while we wait for the system to continue and reach the stage we want.

So why have a button at all? Without that button, we would walk up to the cross walk and wonder how the system knows we’re there at all. Which leads to uncertainty in answering the question, “When is this light going to change?”
The button gives us a solid idea of control: we press it, and now the system knows we’re there, so the light will change really soon.

If you pay a little attention to systems you use daily, you’ll find this placebo button in many places. Elevators, climate systems in your office, your smartphone…

Do we really need a refresh button while we live in an age where the latest information is always there?

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Most applications update their information automatically. As soon as something new is available, that information will be pushed to the app on your phone. There really is no longer a need for a refresh button. So… why keep a redundant option?

Once again, control, and giving that control to the user. How does the user know he has all the latest information? A simple message of “You’re up-to-date” isn’t enough to quench our thirst for control: we need something to do to ease our pain.

The refresh button, while doing nothing, gives the user a feeling of relief and sense of control.

Personalized content and the way it’s created for you is another great example on how the user is included. Those of you with Netflix have seen this happen: you sign up, and then the site will need a moment to gather all the data, and Netflix informs us that it is creating our personalized experience and presents a loading screen.

Really? You haven’t given that much data to the Netflix system to account for those moments of waiting. But what it does is make you, the user, believe that the system is doing something special – for you.

The wait makes it seems that what you gave the system is valuable and unique, thereby increasing the value of the user experience.

So, for those interested in building interfaces and/ or user experience:

• The user wants to be in control: give him this idea, even if it means using placebo buttons.

• The placebo is a means to manipulate a user’s experience, without having to alter the system.

Happy UX’ing!

Today it’s time to change

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Today it’s time to change

By: Cesare Valitutto

Quite long time has been passed since I started working with the CIC. A long time by the perspective of my first full-time job.

I am used to saying that “time flies” when one is really involved in what his is doing, wholly absorbed by his daily life.

Do not misunderstand me, I am totally happy with what I am doing and if went back to my first day, I would make the choice again. I would move again to “KKGroningen”, renouncing the sun, the beaches and the Italian food! (Yes, I said it).

I think this is because changing (and being ready to change!) is really important, especially when one is young. To change, is the key for facing any kind of situation which life always offers us; being more open-minded and conscious, more confident and wiser. If not change, or taking part in important and critical decisions, what made IBM the company which it is now?

Work is not just work. Work is a place in which you can find confrontation, in order to grow both professionally and personally. I have been collecting so much experience working on so many projects, here in Groningen, in London, connecting with Ireland, Italy, USA, Germany, Belgium, there are no limitations.

If I have to look back to the person I was one year ago, I would ask myself: “So, you are potentially a computer scientist…what can you do? What are you expert in?” Today I have the answer to that question.

I am completely grateful to IBM and all the CIC community for its support, and the investment they are continuously doing with the youth, because they (we) are the future. The youth are the hope for the progress, for a happier world that we can better improve ourselves, look for innovation, and find new directions and perspectives.

So today it is again, time to change.

I am IBM

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By: Sandra van Diemen

Throughout my life I have been all different kind of things. At first I was just a girl who played the accordion; this is what defined me for a lot of years. After that I became a student and in my free time a cyclist and at times a triathlete.

If you have done something like that yourself, if you are an avid cyclist or runner, you know that you immediately connect with all kinds of people. You are part of the community and nobody is a stranger.

In March a big part of my personal definition changed. I finished my Master’s degree at the University of Groningen and I was no longer a student. So I ended up somewhere ‘in-between’.

Now I am no longer in the ‘in-between’ phase. In July, I began working at the IBM Client Innovation Center in Groningen and started off with 2 months of training. I was in my own team (of 15) and we did everything together. I was part of the team, but somewhere along the line I also became part of IBM. I didn’t notice it at first, but already in these first months I was becoming blue, which is also a big part of the first months of training.

So after the training I got assigned to my first project at the Department of Justice in Gouda. I became part of an IBM team that had already been in place, and was it a diverse team. There were IBM’ers from the UK, Belgium, the office in Eindhoven, the office in Amsterdam and three of us from Groningen filling in all kinds of roles like developer, manager, architect and tester.

What I noticed during my stay in Gouda – which was for 2 months – is that it is just the same as being part of the running community. It is being part of the IBM community. We come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but in the end we are all the same. We all have an affinity for IT; we all like working for clients; we all got drilled on how to be blue, and the list goes on and on.
So one of the most important things I learned whilst working on my first project in Gouda is that I AM IBM, and I like it :).

(Bonus, a lot of IBM’ers in Gouda liked running and even now, when I’m working on a new project, we still follow and encourage each other on Strava.)

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**Photo is of Sandra and other IBM’ers at 4mijl Groningen, 2015.**

Liquid Networks

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By: Steven Bos

“What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup.” – Henry Rollins

I would like to share with you my thoughts about coffee; the environment in which we drink our coffee, to be more specific. In Henry Rollins’ quote I see this “other cup” in the hand of someone else. It is not the coffee – or whatever beverage rows your boat – that’s important, but the fact that you have time to catch up with a colleague. At IBM CIC Groningen, we have this relax and vibrant atmosphere in which we can sit down in any of the relaxing chairs or wobble around in the wooden swing. Of course accompanied by a cup of coffee.

Currently I am on a project at ABN AMRO, in Amstelveen. At client side I am, together with 20 colleagues from the CIC, blessed with free (and even more important) good coffee. The good part is that they have a coffee corner, very cliché, but also very handy. It’s a space where work continues due to the fact that people have conversations about on-going work and it’s a great space for relationship building. You get to know new people, learn about their work, tasks and strengths. So, when I need help with something I know which of my “coffee friends” can help me out.

Some years ago I read the book Where Good Ideas Come From by Steve Johnson. In his book, Johnson tackles this question by looking at historical innovative events. The essence of the story in my opinion is that great innovations don’t emerge from “eureka!” moments but over time. You have an idea and after a period in which an idea is discussed with several people, one comes to their great innovative idea. Johnson calls this the “slow hunch”. The sharing your idea part is important, and is there a better place to do this than the coffee table? “Liquid networks” as Johnson puts it.

I encourage people to take time for coffee. Talk, work and share your ideas. This is how you can contribute to you work environments next big innovation!

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Blue veins on Client site

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By: Joseph Lanjouw

After almost one-and-a-half years working for the CIC, I experienced how big a chance it is to be working on and from a client site when assigned on a project. There are a few (lucky?) ones that do not or do rarely need to visit a client site. Most prefer to work as close to home as possible. However, reality dictates that most clients prefer to have you within their reach – in their office – and able to reach out to you in no time. Although one might think that modern communication techniques would eliminate this need, in practice this rarely leads to a client saying: you can work fulltime from your own office (exceptions occur!). This is really not that strange at all.

From my own experience (working 4 to 5 days on a client site), I can state that I sometimes feel like I have lost contact with the CIC. Especially, when I did not have any CIC colleagues on site (I have one now!). Fortunately, a fun thing is that you are actually able to get the best of two worlds! I work on a client site where I am appreciated, a serious formal-ish environment yet able to have fun (we actually have an intact foosball table!). I can promote the CIC far better when I am on site and communication lines are shorter. Besides that, you come into contact with so many other areas in the business; many people from different backgrounds and disciplines. This is the essence of developing yourself: watch, learn and do! I have learned a great deal already and there is only more to come.

When the time comes that I can be at the CIC, it always feels like a homecoming. A creative not-so-formal environment, all the nice colleagues, participating in the Education Committee and last but not least, a great deal of fun. Our CIC is like a safe-haven, a place where you always feel welcome and where a lot of ideas have and will find their origin. I think it is time for me to thank the CIC and IBM for giving me blue veins.

Quality Awards for Quality Effort

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By Zahierra

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After months of hard work and dedication, our team at Jumbo (A large Dutch retailer) received the 2015 Silver Quality Award from SAP in the category “Business Transformations”. We won the award for the SAP Upgrade Project, where we updated a SAP 4.6 system to the 6.0 version. The upgrade was really a big deal, because the whole business depends on it, and it was essential that all the business processes would still function when the upgraded version was implemented.

The IBM CIC team, fulfilled a variety of roles on this project, which included testing, developing and project management support.

Their commitment to the project (going as far as postponing holidays and even working through Pentecost and Ascension Day) and the hard work that enabled further growth at Jumbo, were deeply appreciated by the client. Now this effort has also been recognized by SAP and the broader market, which is really motivating. As a result of the excellent work the team delivered, Jumbo now sees us as their partner of choice for their SAP – as well as other – IT projects.

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Seeing those three blue letters…

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By Martijn

That moment when arrive at a cashier while you are on holiday in Croatia, and see those three blue letters… “IBM”.

When people ask me what I do at my job, most of the time I answer “stuff with computers”, Because describing what you do at IBM to most people is hard. I am a programmer, have loved to create since I started school. What really got me going was the platform GameMaker, which was a relatively simple program that gave you the power of building games. Starting off with drag and drop commands you soon discover the power of code. The power of thinking outside a standard set of options, creating your own and using them to your advantage.

After creating comes problem solving, because we all make mistakes. The internet provided me with the perfect quote on writing code: “Writing code is like writing a book, except if you forget 1 comma the whole thing makes no sense”. Since I was little, I started taking stuff apart. Always curious about what was inside of that toy I got; making a lot of people angry. After growing older and breaking everything on my path, I started learning how to fix things. The insight you get in taking something apart and putting it back together gives you a better understanding of how it all works. The same applies to code. At this moment I am still breaking things, sometimes intentionally to see what happens and sometimes due to mistakes.

Starting my career at IBM on April Fool’s Day was anything but a joke, I was taken on a rollercoaster through the entire history of IBM, meeting all the people at the ISC and participating in all kinds of events. I love rollercoasters for the thrill, and that is exactly what IBM has given me. Currently, I travel to the UK bi-weekly and am literally expanding my boarders when it comes to work.

So what do I do at my job at IBM? Building, breaking…and learning in the process.