Sunday 4 December 2016

How Joe got a new lease of life with the computer giant IBM

When Joe Sullivan lost his job he was pushing 30 . . . but now he is keyed into a whole new career in computing, reports Katherine Donnelly

Published 11/08/2011 | 05:00

Joe Sullivan could not have lost his last job at a worse time.

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It was September 2008, the month that US bank Lehman Brothers collapsed sparking a global economic crisis and a massive downturn in employment.

"Within two weeks of the Lehman's crash, I was made redundant. The timing could not have been worse," said Joe, of Blanchardstown, Co Dublin.

With no qualifications apart from his Leaving Certificate, he soon discovered how bleak his prospects were in a jobs market that was not only shrinking, but also demanding ever higher skills for available positions.

Now, a short three years later, he has a degree and a career with computer giant IBM within his grasp, and money in his pocket thanks to a paid internship linked to his course.

Having no idea what to do when he left school, Joe spent a number of years working in warehouses, eventually ending up in Avaya, a technology company in Sandyford, Co Dublin.

He said that while he always had a notion about getting a qualification, the easy availability of work in those years and a ready supply of money had its attractions.

After a year in the Avaya warehouse, he took up a position as a computer technician and worked at that for three years before the department was outsourced and his job disappeared elsewhere.

"Then I spent about a year looking for a job and did a few interviews. In some cases I was hearing that 200 people were applying and a good proportion were more qualified than I was".

The message about the need for qualifications sunk in and, in 2009, he signed up to a part-time Higher Certificate in Computing course in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), which he could complete in one year. His place was available as a result of a labour market activation measure similar to Springboard.

His certificate in hand, Joe was eligible to apply for advanced entry into the third year of a four-year degree course in computing in DIT.

It had an option of a two-day-a-week paid internship instead of taking extra subjects for both third and fourth year.

Joe was successful in gaining an internship at IBM's Blanchardstown operation, and found himself back in the workplace part-time, testing software, while also studying for his degree.

As well as two days a week during term time, Joe works full time in IBM during the holidays, building up his experience and the prospects of a long-term career there.

"I hope a year from now I will have an honours degree and a full-time job with IBM," said Joe, who is now 32.

Although he admits that he is happier in the workplace than in the lecture theatre, Joe is already planning a masters degree, perhaps after taking a one-year break from formal study when he completes his undergraduate qualification.

"Going back to college when you're older and don't have formal qualifications is challenging to say the least, but it's hugely rewarding and I'd say to anyone to give it a go; there's nothing to lose and everything to gain!"

Irish Independent Supplement

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