Throughout my time at school, I was unsure about what I would do afterward. I knew that I wanted to go to university but had no idea as to what I would study, where I would study or what career I would take afterwards – it took three personal statements to determine which course I ultimately chose.
After attending a UCAS event in London, I found out about IBM and their ‘Futures’ gap-year scheme. Although, prior to this, I had very little knowledge of IBM, I did a little research on the company and decided to apply. As I had just been rejected by the University of Oxford – my first-choice university – I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to take a short break from academia and gain invaluable experience in a fast-growing industry, before re-applying to university.
Just over a year later, as I am reaching the end of my gap-year, I stand by this decision 100% and wholeheartedly believe that taking this year out to evaluate my options and gain such essential experience has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have found it so valuable that had I not gained a place at Oxford upon re-applying, my next best option was to apply for a degree apprenticeship with IBM.
Day to day, I work in the capacity of a project management analyst. In that time, I have worked on a multitude of aspects of the project - such as bid & testing management - and learnt a great deal, being pushed by my team to develop my skills further. I have gained a wealth of experience and learnt significantly more than I could have ever imagined doing so.
Through working in a professional environment with a very highly regarded and performing team, I have had the opportunity to gain insights into a host of elements of a project, allowing me to ascertain not only what I am good at, but also what I enjoy. Through earning a competitive salary, I have had the opportunity to learn good strategies for money management and to save before going to university – alleviating financial worries for the next few years.
I feel that this experience will prove to be greatly beneficial during my studies and for the first few years after graduating. Further to the practical skills that I have learnt, that aren’t taught in school – such as becoming proficient in Microsoft Excel, I have also learnt to manage multiple streams of work from different people, boosting my time management skills exponentially.
I would advise each and every sixth-former to research the range of schemes currently on offer, across a multitude of industries – from food to law. The essential experience that you can gain from them is second to none for our age category and the skills learnt will be invaluable going forward – with placement students often yielding better results during university as a result of their newfound skills.