I Got Hired: Strategic Analytics & AI Consultant at IBM

Posted on: 30 June 2022 by Samantha Riella in Graduate stories

student sitting on Abercromby Square

Aisha Chowdhury, a final year BSc Mathematics student from the University of Liverpool has secured a graduate role as a Strategic Analytics & AI Consultant at IBM.

What activities whilst studying have been most beneficial to your career development?

For my chosen industry, I found that teaching myself Python was extremely important. I would put aside a few hours weekly to crack on with the content, which I took at my own pace. Firstly, I needed to know whether I even enjoyed coding, the best way to find out was to learn. Secondly, it was necessary to show employers that I had a serious interest in coding and tech.

In addition, I was on the Get Hired Programme organised by the Careers and Employability Team. I attended panel talks by representatives of big industry names - they offered insight into their roles, application processes, and a whole wealth of useful information. I had the opportunity to complete a mock interview and assessment centre. This was probably the best part of the programme; getting that chance to practice before a real interview is invaluable, as it gives you an idea of what to expect and how to better prepare going forward.

What did you do during your degree to prepare for the transition into the workplace?

Being surrounded by strangers when starting a new job, or even meeting new clients, can be nerve wracking. I felt it was important to be involved in extracurriculars, such as society events or the EDI committee, where I was putting myself out there with strangers. I was elected Vice President of the Mathematics Society and interacted with new faces constantly, which improved my people skills. It also helped with organisation, communication and management as I planned society events.

I’ve realised that the more you put yourself out there, the easier it gets!

How has the Career Studio helped you? 

The Career Studio really helped me with my first CV draft. I’d never done one before, but the constructive feedback I received helped me get a knack for CV writing and tailoring my CV for each job application. For many companies, their first impression is based on your CV. The Career Coaches at the Studio were really friendly and getting my CV proofread relieved a ton of stress.

What was the application process like for IBM?

My Get Hired mock interview was with two people from IBM. I went into the interview seriously as I was hoping to apply for an IBM role eventually. I ended up connecting with them on LinkedIn and developing a mentor-mentee relationship with one of them. She suggested that I follow people from IBM who work in the areas I’m interested in, as they sometimes post job openings. A few months later, I was scrolling through my feed and saw a post about a role - which I’m now currently in!

The application process was lengthy and a real test of my resilience. I began with submitting my details alongside a CV, which I’d tailored to the role and its requirements. The next step was an application questionnaire. I had 4 questions regarding my interest in the role, skills for the role, and two competency style questions based on my past experiences.

Having passed both stages, I was invited to their Virtual Assessment Centre. It was spread across an entire working day and involved 4 sections with ample breaks of 45-90 minutes in between. There was an introduction, where we had a Q&A with a staff member, and no assessors were present so we could ask questions openly and freely. This was followed by a group task where we solved a problem together. I had a one-to-one case study interview, and finally a business-oriented group task which involved doing a powerpoint presentation at the end. It was non-competitive, meaning that technically everyone could pass (or fail) this stage. People were working together to achieve a better result as we were not competing.

The last stages involved three separate interviews which assessed ability, suitability for the role and interest in the role and company. The very final interview was with the head of the team, so he could see if I’d be a good fit for the team itself.

What is your future graduate role? 

I’ve been interested in AI for a while from a theoretic perspective, such as cognitive automation, to its vast real-world applications. As for IBM, I was enticed by their cutting-edge research into quantum computing Many companies have tons of data they aren’t utilising effectively. As a Strategic Analytics & AI Consultant, I will be working with businesses to use AI and extract information from the data they own. In turn, this can be used to generate actionable insights, inform decision-making and ultimately add value to their customers.

I’m most looking forward to the flexibility of my role. The work I can do is on a spectrum, it can be more technical or more consulting-based. As a Mathematician, I love the technical side of things but I also really enjoy interacting with people. I’m hoping I can find a sweet spot which balances both aspects well.

What are your top tips for students currently looking for graduate roles?

Make a LinkedIn profile and connect with peers, people you meet at talks or events, and especially companies that you’re interested in. Follow people who work at those companies in case an opportunity arises - especially talent acquisition and graduate managers or partners. If applying for a job with a specific company, take a look at their LinkedIn posts to get an idea of what they’re currently up to, or if there are any projects you’re interested in.

I regularly used LinkedIn, Gradcracker, Bright Network and Handshake. It’s really important to use multiple platforms as a job may be listed on one platform, but not another. Handshake itself was great to use as it felt more tailored to me as a University of Liverpool student from specific careers events and jobs on campus, to employers looking to hire University of Liverpool graduates.