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Being Part of the Forefront of Security Solution: Life at IBM Security at Belfast

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(8 min read) Claire, Emma, and Shay work in IBM Security based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We spoke with them to find out what it’s really like to work in IBM Security, and ask what advice they would give to others who are exploring a career in the same field.


Please tell us a bit about yourselves, your roles, and your working team.

Claire(left): I first joined IBM as a placement student on the QRadar Risk Manager team in the Belfast lab for 16 months as part of my Software Engineering degree at Queen’s University Belfast. I then returned as a graduate in 2017 moving to the app team (Spectre) as a QA Engineer. The team are given a great variety of work, providing everyone with the opportunity to learn new technologies and not be confined to working on one specific product area.

Emma: I started my career as a Software Tester 20 years ago in Telecommunications, then became a Test Lead in the Financial Services, then moved back to Telecommunications to work for a company which was acquired by IBM. Having worked for IBM for ten years now, in the fields of Network Management and Security, I felt the need for a change and left to work as a Quality Manager in Consultancy. The draw to move back to IBM was strong, so a few months ago I returned to work in the Security Division with a super team who now feel like family.

Shay: I’m a front-end developer in our Belfast lab. I started with IBM in 2016 as part of the Extreme Blue summer internship program and continued working part-time on that project during my final year at university, before returning as a graduate in 2017. I studied Software Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast.


What attracted you to work for IBM?

Claire: IBM is at the forefront of security solutions and is a well renowned company all over the world. I first got in contact about a placement opportunity with IBM at a university careers fair. It wasn’t until I completed my placement year that I truly appreciated the potential of my degree pathway and knew I would love to return to IBM. There is a lot of support within our office, giving placement students returning for their final year of University the chance to undertake a final year project with the mentorship of the company. There is also a wealth of learning opportunities on IBM Learning Academy, where employees can partake in courses to better their own understanding in a variety of areas, which is also promoted through the Think40 scheme.

Emma(right): IBM have really helped me hone my skills in Software Testing, Test Process Improvement, and Agile methodologies. I have been given great opportunities including certification and placement as a Scrum Master. Through the Customer Advocacy programme I have built strong relationships with IBM customers. I get daily exposure to cutting edge technologies. IBM is all about empowering individuals and teams while allowing for healthy work/life balance. It really is a great place to work.

Shay: Having only previously worked at a local start-up company, I was interested to experience working for a prestigious company like IBM. I was also eager to secure a summer internship going into final year so the Extreme Blue program was the perfect opportunity. It’s an intensive experience! Teams of roughly 4-5 take on an accelerator project and have 12 weeks to deliver it. At the end, all the teams from across the European labs come together to showcase their achievements at an expo (hosted by a different studio each year).


How is IBM transforming the Security Industry?

Emma: IBM is a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for SIEM. QRadar, our SIEM product, provides advanced analytic solutions for early and effective detection of threats. The office in Belfast is leading the way in the provision of practical Software Security Applications, enhanced and secure cloud services for our SAAS customers, and UX development which keeps the needs of the customer at the fore.


What skills and experience did you need to join the IBM Security team?

Claire: Completing a degree in Software Engineering or any computing related equivalent was core to a Graduate role with IBM. Our team adopt an agile approach, so understanding client needs is beneficial, along with the ability to work as part of a team and promote quality throughout the product lifecycle.

Emma: An inquisitive mind, a willingness to learn, and lots of enthusiasm. There is a whole network of extremely talented teams and individuals who are more than happy to help new hires in IBM get up to speed.

Shay(left): For mid to entry level, experience is generally more important than possessing specific skills, especially in software where skills are so easily transferable. If you have solid previous experience in a specific language or framework then the barrier for entry is so much lower when learning another.

Before I joined IBM, my experience was in back-end Java development but I was able to pick up the skills that I needed quite quickly such as Javascript, HTML & CSS. The main technologies my team work with right now are React, Next.js and GraphQL.


What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?

Claire: Receiving positive customer feedback is always a bonus, particularly when the team release new applications that will make a positive impact to the customer’s experience of using QRadar, one of IBM Security’s many portfolio products. I am also part of the social committee in the Belfast office, where we have arranged several events raising money for a number of worthwhile charities.

Shay: Working at IBM provides me with the flexibility to pursue my other passion, which is sports — I play both gaelic football and hurling. It’s a big commitment and it means I have to do quite a lot of travelling but I appreciate the support I get, so I can make it work.

Last summer, I spent 6 weeks in Austin, TX at the IBM Design Education Program. This is a training program for designers, developers and offering managers from across the company. I made so many friends from around the world (and learnt a thing or two) while I was there!


What are your top tips to someone looking to work in cyber security?

Claire: If you have an interest in cyber security and are looking to work alongside experienced professionals who will guide you through the learning process then consider applying to a role with IBM. There is a lot to learn within the industry and a lot of resources are available through IBM to help individuals reach their potential.

Shay: At a global company like IBM you have to think about the impact of what you develop in terms of things like accessibility, scalability, and globalisation. Always try to empathise with your user. Build the right thing and build the thing right.

If you are also interested in being part of the IBM Security Team, apply now!


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