International Office Blog

News and information from the International Office at the University of Brighton

Joseph Omar

My placement at IBM has been a gamechanger

Joseph Omar, a Mathematics BSc(Hons) student, did a 12-month placement with IBM as a Business Operations Analyst. In February 2020, he talked to us about the experience and about his time at the University of Brighton.

Thanks to my placement, I feel more ready for the real world now…
You develop a lot as a person when you first start university and there’s a similar developmental leap when you go on placement. You’re suddenly in a business environment at a corporate company surrounded by professionals. It’s a gamechanger and I feel a lot more ready to go into the real world now.


My reporting chain was to the CEO of IBM…
On my year’s placement at IBM as a Business Operations Analyst in the Systems Hardware division, I worked with the sales team to gather information about their latest deals and then present this to management. The vice president of the UK business would then report to Europe who would report to someone else who would report to the CEO. Given the size of the organisation, this was a significant reporting chain.

I got involved in as many opportunities as I could…
I made a real point of branching out at IBM, not just doing my day job. I ended up winning a competition to come up with a technology solution on behalf of the Rugby Football Union to keep school and university students engaged in rugby. I got to present the solution to the CEO of the RFU it’s something they want to implement in the future.

The placements team really helped me with my application…
They helped me to get the wording right on my written application so that I was selling myself properly. They also gave me feedback on my assessment centre presentation, and they put me in touch with a Maths student who had done a placement with IBM the year before and whose advice was invaluable.

Now I know what I want to do…
I didn’t know what I wanted to do in second year. The I did my placement and now I know the area I want to go into, which is data analytics and consultancy. AI and machine learning and all the rest of it is blowing up now and Maths graduates are needed in these fields. If you don’t know what you want to do, then do a placement and you probably will.

I think employers really value Maths graduates…
I’ve always liked the pure logic and truth of Maths. There’s no debate or subjectivity like with History or Psychology. There’s an answer. We’re trained to have a mathematical way of thinking. Say if you’ve got a task or a problem, you follow logical steps to solve that problem. I think employers really value that way of thinking.

At Brighton you get one-to-one time with lecturers…
At the open day, I got a really good feel from the lecturers and it seemed to be a really intimate setting. At other universities with hundreds of students enrolled on the Maths course you’ll never really get that one-to-one time with your lecturers. Here, you can go up to their office and speak with them in person, no problem. Whenever I’m unsure about something or need something confirmed, I’ll send an email or go to a lecturer’s office and I’ll always get a response. They are always happy to help.

My course has also helped to build my soft skills
One of the modules, Social, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Mathematics, specifically aims to develop students’ soft skills by encouraging us to present to the rest of the group and then lead a discussion. I think it’s really useful to have exposure to having to present because you often need this skillset in the workplace.

Working as well as studying has helped to build my skills
I’m a Maths tutor at the university’s Pi Shop, which provides Maths support to all students at the university if they need it. I’ve also joined a Maths tutoring agency outside the University for private clients. Working as a tutor has really enabled me to develop my communication skills. I’ve learnt to gauge someone’s understanding and adapt the way I explain something to them based on the way they absorb information. I’m also a steward at the Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. I’m busy, but it’s all valuable experience.

I would sum up my experience at Brighton as…
Very fun. Educational. Life changing!


Olivia Weatherill • January 7, 2021

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