Stick figures on campus; IBM at the University of Toronto

As a favor to Stephen Perelgut (one of my mentors) and because I happen to really like working with IBM, I participated in today’s campus event at the University of Toronto. We were supposed to set up tables at the atrium of the Bahen Centre, but the power outlets didn’t work, so we moved to another room. The room was a little out of the way, but Cathy Sardellitti and Sarah Weiss did a great job at diverting some of the traffic to our room.

Representatives from most of IBM’s software brands set up their laptops with demos to show. I was the only person representing IBM Global Business Services. I had originally been a bit worried about whether I could make it through the four hours, much less muster the courage to strike up conversations with everyone (or deal with the rejection of seeing everyone walk by!). I knew it would be good practice, though, so I said yes. When the students came in, I was too busy trying to draw people into conversation to worry about whether people would talk to me! <laugh>

I set up this presentation to loop on my computer:

… and I invited people to ask me about IBM’s services and about what IBM is like for new graduates. I must’ve talked to about 25 people, mostly students who were interested in either internship opportunities or in full-time employment after graduation. It was great to reassure them that yes, IBM was still hiring. In the process of describing what life is like as a new grad, I realized that I really appreciate the flexibility that working in consulting gives me. I can help clients solve problems using both IBM and non-IBM technologies. I’m always learning new things. I can explore my interest in both about business and software development. And I’m doing all of this within a support structure that means I’ve got plenty of people and resources to learn from.

I also learned a lot by talking to the other representatives. They told me what they loved about their work, and they shared ideas for making the campus event even better. I really enjoyed chatting with other IBMers who were also passionate about what they do. =)

I think it was a good event. We helped some people who hadn’t originally considered working for such a large company see the benefits of doing so, and we answered lots of people’s questions. I’d do it again. It was a good experience, and next time, I’d probably find it easier to start the conversations!

  • Gordon Rae

    What a really cool presentation. It makes IBM look awesome, and it gives the candidates useful advice.

  • I suspect that IBM’s inclusiveness in choosing technologies regardless of who made them has been a major contributor to its current success. A few decades ago (Google is unable to tell me just when), IBM had one of the best taglines ever: “The way we put it all together is what sets us apart.” As true today as it was then.

    Incidentally, IBM has been one of the most positive forces in my life. When I was in primary school in the mid-1960s, we used the SRA Reading Laboratory Kit, a colour-coded (for the different levels of difficulty) reading-education system from Science Research Associates, which had recently been acquired by IBM, and that’s still being sold today. It was a joy to use and was my first example of great product design. Later, when I entered high school in 1971, my school happened to have access to an online service based on IBM’s pioneering APL\360 system (the first successful timesharing system for any IBM computer, which gained its young developers the ACM’s Grace Murray Hopper Award). APL was a mathematically-based programming language created by IBM’s Ken Iverson (later an IBM Fellow and Turing Award recipient), and its presence in my high school was thanks to his interest in using it for the teaching of math; when I spoke at a memorial upon his death in 2004 I introduced myself as one of his experiments. I was an APL programmer for a bunch of years (and began tagging my emails in 1979, writing the software myself, along with a chat program and other things — no need to write an IM client as it was built into the system), and moved to Toronto to work at the head office of APL-based company I.P. Sharp Associates (since bought by and merged into Reuters). Eventually three of us who had worked there, and understood living online, created the world’s first easy-to-use Internet service, Sympatico.

    I’m sad that APL has largely faded away. However, it lives on in my IBM 5100, a personal computer that IBM launched in 1975 (before Apple launched *anything*) and that ran APL and/or BASIC — in both cases, the code was well-tested mainframe code, thanks to the 5100’s being implemented as a tiny IBM 370 via microcode (its tape drive was even controlled via 370 channel commands). Of course, my usual computer isn’t my 5100; it’s my 5-year-old IBM ThinkPad R40, with its marvellous pointing stick in the middle of the keyboard.