It’s ‘Game, Set and Match’ for UCL Tech Industry Gold degree student
During the hot summer, we caught up with UCL’s Tech Industry Gold undergraduate, Patryk Sobczak, who was successfully selected for a placement run by IBM at The Championships, Wimbledon. As IBM provides digital platforms across desktop and mobile, engaging fans around the world through an interactive experience, this was a fantastic opportunity for Tech Industry Gold undergraduates.
In this Q&A, we find out about the selection process and a typical day behind the scenes at Wimbledon.
How did you find out about the placement opportunity?
I found out about the IBM Wimbledon placement opportunity through the Tech Partnership Degrees’ mailings which were sent directly to my lecturer and featured on our TP Degrees Chat App. Upon receiving the emails, I followed the link which described the placement in more detail and what it entailed. I decided to apply because it seemed like a unique opportunity which combined my passion for technology and my interest in playing tennis.
What was the selection process like?
Surprisingly, the selection process was not as stressful as I expected. The first step was sending off a CV and cover letter. I was then invited to a Skype interview where I was interviewed by two IBM employees and two Tech Partnership Degrees’ employees. This interview lasted for about 20 minutes and I was asked general questions about why I applied, examples of teamwork and why I would be suitable for the role. It was a very friendly interview – they were all very kind and approachable.
A few days later I was notified that I had got through to the assessment day which took place at Wimbledon. I expected it to be a typical assessment day that one would expect from large corporations, but it was entirely different. It was informal and lots of fun as we took part in discussion groups and individual interviews. In total, there were four interviewers present: a member from The Tech Partnership Degrees’ team, an Early Professionals Manager from IBM and two members of the Wimbledon IBM team. It was also great to meet the other candidates and get to know them too.
A day later, I was given the call that I was offered the placement!
What was your typical day at Wimbledon?
The days at Wimbledon vary so much that it is hard to describe a ‘typical’ day. The days before The Championships were very different from the ones during it. Before The Championships, the team had to deploy a lot of systems all over the grounds that IBM provides for predominantly media companies. These were mainly ‘WIS’ (Wimbledon Information System) machines that showed statistics of current and former players.
We all had our rounds that required us to look at all the machines, test them and report any problems to the team leader. Throughout the day, we would assist with any problems that arose. Luckily, thanks to the good setup, there weren’t many issues. Therefore, we had quite some time for personal projects, watch a few games on the smaller public access courts and remain available for ad-hoc requests. During The Championships, the hours were long; we arrived at 8:30 am and left when the day’s play was completed – usually around 9 pm.
What would you recommend to future students who apply for the placement and how should they prepare for it?
Firstly, it’s a great opportunity, so go for it! Secondly, make sure you’re prepared for the interview by researching what IBM’s role is at The Championships. Thirdly, have examples of any relevant work or projects you’ve been involved in to support your application – such as illustrating strong collaboration, teamwork, and attention to detail.
How will you apply what you learned to your future career?
I will focus more on creating a motivated and driven team that is able to effectively work together as well as have fun! My team at Wimbledon was a great example of excellent teamwork which also had a great team spirit. There are many transferable skills that I have learned and worked on. One of those is attention to detail, which was critical; the cables had to be tidy, machines locked into place securely and the setup presentable in accordance to Wimbledon’s high standards. Furthermore, I now have a different perspective on how to professionally approach customer and client requests – something that will be very useful in the corporate world.
Which three words would you use to describe your experience?
Unique – this experience is like no other. I got to see what goes on behind the scenes.
Fun – there were so many laughs. Everyone came into work every day with optimism and happiness.
Insightful – although The Championships only last for a fortnight, there is plenty of work to be carried out throughout the course of the year. Some people worked non-stop this year, to set up the new website and app. I got to see what goes on behind the scenes, unbeknown to the public. There is so much talent and effort that goes into it.
Did you get to meet any celebrities/watch the tennis/eat strawberries and cream?
I was able to see quite a few big players practise on smaller courts before the start of The Championships. I saw Federer on multiple occasions, walked past Nadal on my morning round in the Player’s Reception and saw Venus Williams and Murray practise before The Championships. I was not able to talk to them or take photos, of course, because of the strict employee policies. When we had lunch breaks, we were able to watch a few games on the smaller courts. My favourite was Mansour Bahrami who is a retired tennis player.
As for strawberries, I have had quite a reputation for eating lots of them. Wimbledon is known for their tasty strawberries and I now know why. I enjoyed snacking on them as they deterred me from eating anything unhealthy.
Finally, thank you to everyone who made this placement possible; IBM, Wimbledon staff, Tech Partnership Degrees and of course my university, UCL, who are great supporters of the Tech Industry Gold degree programme. It’s been an amazing experience.