IBM has been at the forefront of computer innovation since it brought the world its first PC in 1981. And although software and services account for the large majority of its revenue, 'Big Blue' (nicknamed after its official corporate colour) also offers consulting services.


  • Relatively good work/life balance
  • Good name to put on your CV
  • There are opportunities to take on different roles within the company


  • Poor appraisal process
  • Too much bureaucracy
  • Compensation is not all that competitive
  • Budget for training has been substantially cut

Few companies have spent as long at the cutting edge of information technology as the world-renowned computer giant, IBM. An acronym for International Business Machine, and nicknamed "Big Blue" (for its official corporate colour), it's a multinational computer technology and consulting corporation which sells computer hardware and software, and offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology.

Despite the fact that IBM may not have become a household name till the 1980s, the company was first created in 1911 by the merger of three separate ‘computer’ manufacturers to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. This first incarnation didn’t quite create the complex technological marvels IBM produces today; instead think of something more akin to massive punch cards. In the 1920s, having already expanded into Canada and Europe, the firm was renamed the International Business Machines Corporation, which became commonly known by its acronym: IBM.

IBM would go on to lead the evolution from rudimentary counting machines to supercomputers. In the 1940s, the growing firm created the world’s first fully automatic computing machine, the 50-foot long ‘Mark 1’. By the end of the 1950s, IBM had invented modern computer memory and in the 1970s it created the first supermarket label scanner. Though IBM’s greatest invention came in 1981...

The 5150 Personal Computer, or ‘PC’, brought to individual desks the kind of computing ability that had previously been limited to bulky back-office master computers or ‘mainframes’. It was a massive success, but IBM had made a rare misstep by making the internal design of the machine open for anyone to replicate. Instead of making millions from licensing, IBM found its design copied by scores of other manufacturers. The bulk of the profits from the rise of the personal computer went to the company it had selected to provide the core software for the machine – a group consisting of 32 “hippies” calling themselves Microsoft.

Since then, IBM has reshaped itself, dealing with the massive increases in competition in its core hardware markets by gearing up its businesses in software and services, advising businesses on IT infrastructure, training employees and running outsourced IT systems. In 1995, IBM bought software company Lotus and in 2002 it acquired the consulting arm of accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. The latter purchase extended its services division beyond IT into general business advice. More recently, in November 2007, IBM bought business intelligence software company Cognos for five billion US dollars. The company’s software and services arms now account for 77 percent of the firm’s income. In fact, the company has exited the PC business altogether, selling its lines to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo in 2005.

However, computing innovation is still the core of the company’s reputation. In December 2007, IBM as invented a computer chip that transfers information around using beams of light instead of copper wire. Earlier that year, in April 2007, IBM invented a piece of software as powerful as half the brain of a mouse. However the most publicised achievement of IBM in 2007 is undoubtedly its release of the world’s most powerful supercomputer, The Blue Gene/P, which is three times as powerful as the previous leader – also made by IBM. The combination of its old-fashioned technical genius and its new areas of business has helped IBM back into financial comfort. The company has also established a healthy revenue stream by more assertively enforcing its impressive portfolio of patents.

IBM’s UK operation has shared its parent’s recent achievements, including the firm’s recent run of new products for the deaf and hearing impaired, developing a system to relay public-address announcements over mobile phones and another to instantly convert speech into British Sign Language.

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As IBM has diversified, the entry opportunities for graduates have become more diverse and there are now six different entry points for graduates. Technical geniuses have software development and technology to choose from; the former is more technical, but neither necessarily requires a computing degree. Both roles will see you rotating between different projects for the first two to three years; from there, either role can lead in technical or management directions. The non-technical roles – strategy consulting, finance, sales and business – similarly don’t carry particular requirements. The exception is finance, where accounting and business are the preferred subjects.

IBM’s Finance arm is an integral part of the IBM corporation and covers every geography and business unit within the organization. you will have a wide range of responsibilities including: accounting; business analysis, funds management; investment analysis; financial planning and forecasting; accounting; and working with bid teams on major projects. IBM will sponsor graduate trainees in Finance to complete their CIMA or ACCA qualifications. Sales are pretty much what you’d expect, while life in the business division could see you managing projects or keeping an eye out for emerging opportunities.

As a Software Engineer in the IT & Technology Programmes you will work in the heart of IBM’s software innovation and get involved in the design, test, implementation, delivery, integration, and support of IBM's software products. Throughout your first two years with the firm, you will be rotated through a variety of product areas and roles, giving you the opportunity to enhance your experience, network and product knowledge. Software Engineers work in IBM Hursley, Hampshire – a 100 acre estate.

Whichever division you enter, you’ll start on a competitive graduate salary. In line with its newly individualised ethos, the company also offers a nifty personalised benefits scheme: in addition to the standard medical cover and pension, you can choose from a selection of extras including travel and dental insurance, a mobile phone, or savings in the canteen.

Although IBM has offices all over the UK, it expects graduates to be flexible in terms of location. Strategy consulting positions are mostly in London, finance positions are in Portsmouth at the firm’s UK head office and software development is near Winchester. On the other hand, the company has embraced mobile working, with 30 percent of employees working from outside the office on any given day.

The IBM selection process varies slightly depending on which role you are applying for. However, the application and assessment process at IBM is as follows:

You’ll need to complete the IBM standard online application form and attach a copy of your CV to complete your graduate scheme application. Whatever division you’re interested in, you’ll need a 2:1 degree or above. You will then have a week to take their online numerical reasoning and verbal reasoning aptitude tests. Candidates will also be required to take the IPAT test. The first part of the IPAT test usually involves number series and progressions (e.g. “2, 4, 6, 8, ...” or “1, 8, 2, 6, 3,..”) and the second part consists of standard math reasoning questions. But take note that the test is known to be quite difficult and you’ll have to work under a tight time deadline, so make sure you practice the IPAT test

If you pass the IBM online aptitude tests, you will be invited to attend a first round selection/assessment day. This will be held at one of the firm's offices in either London or on the South Coast. This day primarily focuses on your team working skills and IBM will assess how you work and interact with other people throughout this assessment period. If you are successful on this day then you will be invited to an assessment centre.

The IBM assessment centre has been designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate a broader range of skills than you would be able to if you just had an interview. You will complete a number of different exercises and interviews aimed at giving you the chance to show a range of the skills you possess. It is the assessment centre section of the IBM assessment process that is most different for each graduate scheme programme applied for.

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Employer Type: Public
Chief Executive: Samuel J. Palmisano
UK General Manager: Brendon Riley
2009 Revenue: US$ 103.630 billion
No. of Employees: 399,409
No. of Graduate roles: 250+
No. of offices: Located in over 200 countries worldwide


Graduate Salary: £27,000 - £32,000


Application Services
Business Consulting
Software Development
Strategy Consulting
Technology Consulting



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UK Head Office:
IBM United Kingdom Limited
PO Box 41,
North Harbour
Hampshire PO6 3AU
Tel: +44 (0)239 256 1000

UK Offices:
Milton Keynes
South Bank

European Locations:
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United Kingdom