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!

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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.


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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.

Doing what I want to do!

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By Smitha

Ever during my studies, I wanted to be “A Successful IT Professional”. Even though I didn’t have any idea about what makes it true, or what I shall do. Well, everything needs a good start.

It’s been 3 years since I left my job in India and shifted to the Netherlands. In the evolving field of IT, a gap of 3 years means a lot. When I was looking for a job here, most of them required a thorough knowledge of Dutch. The urge to do something on your own, to be independent, and, more than everything else, to utilise what I have learned, kept on haunting me.

That is, up until I came to know about the vacancy at the ISC through a dear friend of mine. And what other good things can happen? Then it was time to refresh some of my knowledge, to do an aptitude and English test, followed by the hiring day with group activities, interviews and testing our aptitude.

I had to wait one day, which felt like a year, for the results: I was joining per January 2015! Nothing could be better than this to start the new year. We started with 15 people in total, and everybody was just as excited to work for such a great company as IBM. The one and half month of training included e-learnings, virtual trainings, and face-to-face workshops for soft skills as well as mobile application development, and went so much faster than expected.

By the time I was finishing my training, I was already assigned to the EZ project with C#.Net. I asked the team whether I had to do some more reading and learning for this project, but the answer was to “learn while you are doing it”. And ‘they’, my team, are such great and nice people. Always ready to help me out, teach me, tell me about the project, and clear any lingering doubts. While I do think I disturb them a bit too much with my questions (“Could you please tell me a bit more on this?”), they tell me that this is the way you learn :-)

But now it’s all going very nice. Its like my dream came true. I hope this is the best opportunity for me to learn and grow, leading me on the path to becoming an expert in my field.

And already we are all ready to welcome the new hires from April! And for sure, the ISC is growing, just as each of us is.

Salesforce World Tour

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By Jos

The Salesforce World Tour is an event that provides hundreds of live demos of Salesforce applications, power sessions for each role, a Cloud Expo with 25 leading partners and a Keynote speech from one of the Salesforce Executives.

Salesforce is organizing these events in cities all over the world. Cities such as Boston, Toronto, London, Paris, Washington, Munich and last week I got to go to the event in Amsterdam, together with my ISC colleagues Frank and Orkhan. The ISC allowed us to attend this event during a workday, which was a really kind thing to do.

We went there with our goal set to gain insight in the latest developments, to be motivated by how big Salesforce actually is and above all to become inspired, to come up with unique and innovative Salesforce functionality by ourselves.

We started our tour at the Cloud Expo meeting some people whose applications we used in our own work. It was nice to see a face to go with all the codes and applications we use! We gained quite some insight in possibilities regarding Salesforce development, and now have a couple of ideas on how to put this into practice.

Later during the event we went and listened to the Keynote speech. We were happily surprised that it was actually the co-founder of Salesforce.com, Parker Harris, giving the speech. During his speech, Parker introduced several guest speakers who explained how they implemented Salesforce in their companies. Companies such as KLM, PostNL and The Bencom Group (from Groningen’s very own Ben Woldring). It was nice to hear how these well-known companies are using the software that you work with every day. This is my personal motivation to keep learning and to keep getting better at what I do.

My own inspiration, however, came from something else. During the event I heard about Salesforce’s 1-1-1 model. What this model means is that 1% equity, 1% of the profits and 1% of the employees’ time will be put in a public charity. This already resulted in over $75 million in grants given, 750.000 hours of community service and providing product donations to over 23.000 nonprofit organizations and higher educational institutions. To me, this is heartwarming. Really, that feeling, when you’ve truly helped someone, isn’t that the greatest reward you can get from work that you do?

After the event, when I was on the train back to Groningen, I was reflecting on my day. I was both motivated and inspired. Ideas were coming to me. Ideas on how to move forward with Salesforce at the ISC. Ideas on how to give back to the ISC and to the world. I can’t wait to put these ideas into practice. My next blog will be about the results of at least one of these ideas. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. Thank you and ‘till next time!

Salesforce World Tour Reflection

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.