My placement year with IBM helped me to secure a place on their graduate scheme

Chloe Saunders new
Chloe Saunders
Now: Business Transformation Consultant at IBM
BSc Psychology with Employment Experience
After gaining valuable work experience within IBM's Human Resources Business Development team thanks to a year-long placement during her psychology degree, Chloe secured a place on IBM's graduate programme, working as a Business Transformation Consultant, analysing customer data to create artificial intelligence solutions.
Chloe Saunders new

What did you enjoy most about your course?

I have always found psychology extremely interesting. I was excited to learn more about psychology because it provided the opportunity to learn about the underlying causes of human behaviour. I was fascinated to learn more about myself and other people – why we behave the way we do, personality types, relationships and habits. Another key aspect of the BSc Psychology course I enjoyed was the final year dissertation, during which I studied factors influencing sleep quality in students. I really enjoyed the freedom of conducting my own research on other students, then relating my findings to other research papers in high-impact journals. 

What is your current role and what does it involve?

My current role is Business Transformation Consultant, which is part of IBM’s 2-year graduate programme. My role sits within IBM’s Artificial Intelligence & Analytics team, where cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the forefront of the services we provide to our clients. As a Business Transformation Consultant, my role is to help drive the implementation of AI solutions into our client’s business processes. An example project I have been involved with is the creation of an AI Virtual Agent / Chatbot for one of the UK’s leading banks. Using customer data and working with SMEs from the bank, a team of us designed the Virtual Agent to handle customer queries through seamless conversation.

What transferable skills did you develop during your course? 

Data analysis skills developed from my degree have massively helped me since starting at IBM. One of the most important traits in Virtual Agent design is the ability to notice patterns and trends in customer data, in order to develop the most effective Virtual Agent. This is very similar to the analysis I did when conducting research for my degree, as I also had to analyse real-world data and draw conclusions from it. Another skill I developed at university was the ability to work effectively as part of a team through various group projects.

What do you miss most about Sheffield?

I miss a lot of things about Sheffield! I miss the freedom of being a student, living with my best friends, going out on a weeknight, £2.50 drinks! I even miss the IC sometimes.

What would you say to a prospective student considering studying BSc Psychology with Employment Experience? 

I would say that if you have an interest in learning more about the brain and human behaviour, as well as a passion for research and data, you should go for it. Psychology gives you so many transferable skills, whilst allowing you to apply knowledge gained in the lecture hall to your everyday life. Since leaving university, I find that many of my colleagues are very interested to learn more about my degree. 

What skills did you learn from your placement?

My placement year at IBM was my first “real job”, so it definitely allowed me to develop many skills and build my confidence as a young professional. I progressed many soft skills such as teamwork, communication and organisational skills, which has increased my ability to deal with certain situations now. Additionally, working within a team as part of a global company allowed me to develop my commercial awareness, such as how organisations are structured and how they make decisions. This has been key to my career development thus far. 

What did you enjoy most about the placement year?

My placement year was a refreshing break from academic studies, which provided the opportunity to live in a new place and meet many different people. A placement year is fun because you still live the student lifestyle, just without the essays and exams!

I also really enjoyed the level of responsibility I was given as a placement year student. I had the opportunity to work on large deals with clients such as Lloyds Banking Group, Lenovo and Vodafone. I also travelled to several client locations and assisted my team in client workshops. This meant I stayed in hotels across the country, which was a new experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

How do you think the placement year has helped your career?

As well as the development in skills, my placement year gave me a fantastic insight into the world of technology, which I had never really explored before. I gained key knowledge in AI, Cloud and Blockchain through IBM’s internal learning portal and this has really helped me to shape my career goals. I wasn’t particularly techy prior to my placement year, however during my placement, I realised that I wanted to pursue a career as a technology consultant. Therefore, I am very glad to have gained a position in IBM’s AI team because it allows me to continue my learning and development in this area.

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