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Consultant Spotlight: Meet Rachel, Business Consultant in UX Design

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(4 min read)

Rachel Degnan joined IBM’s Consulting by Degrees (CbD) programme as a Business Consultant in August 2017. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Mathematics and Management (Industrial). She did her placement year in IBM and returned after graduating. She’s currently developing her skills as a User Experience (UX) Designer on Agile projects.

What is your role and what are your key responsibilities?
I’m a User Experience Designer working on a public sector account based in Edinburgh. My role involves designing, testing, and reviewing how a citizen will interact with the service and make their application.

What is your degree background, and do you believe your degree supports a career with IBM?
I studied BSc Mathematics and Management at the University of Leeds and graduated in 2017. I think the degree naturally lends itself more to finance-based roles which are supported within IBM. However, over the past year and a half, I have been working on Agile projects as a User Experience designer. I think there are elements of most degrees with can be applied in some capacity to a project and would not worry about having to have a specific subject to pursue a career with IBM. I think it is much more dependent on your attitude, work ethic, and desire to learn.

Tell us a little about how you got to where you are today in your career?
After studying Mathematics and quickly learning that accountancy was not for me, I started the graduate scheme quite open-minded about what roles to take. I learned about the public sector account I’m now working on through someone I’d worked with during my placement year. I’ve developed skills in the user-centered design area through training and project experience.

Why did you decide to come back to IBM?
From my placement year, I knew I really liked the culture and the people who worked here. I think what made me apply back as a graduate was the range of opportunities that are available within one company. You have the ability to develop skills completely from scratch and work across multiple industries and roles over the two-year scheme.

What has been the highlight of your IBM experience so far?
I think my highlight so far would be hearing how the first benefit we delivered has helped families through their pregnancy and with their newborn babies. Before joining, I didn’t expect to be able to work on projects that really made an impact on people’s lives.

What have you done recently to develop new skills or improve existing ones?
I was asked by the Executive on my account to present at the annual Global Business Services partner event about the success of the first benefit launch. I used to be extremely nervous presenting to large groups, so this was massively out of my comfort zone but really good practice.

Are basic technical skills necessary to succeed at IBM?
I have probably used the phrase “I’m not very technical” over a hundred times, but when I actually reflect on that, I think it’s because I used to define ‘being technical’ as someone who is able to write thousands of lines of code. Although that is a very valuable skill, I think you can definitely succeed at IBM without it. I think having an appreciation for technology and understanding how it can be used to benefit clients and meet their needs is what will help you succeed. I’ve found that people within the company are very patient if you ask for help, and there are many opportunities to pick up technical skills on the job and through training.

Any advice you would give new starters?
When you join IBM it can be a bit overwhelming. I would say be open-minded about the roles as it can often be quite hard to fully understand what something involves from a line on a page, in comparison to actually getting into it. I have benefited incredibly from the individuals around me so if you can find someone who works within the broader space you are interested in, they can really help guide you in the right direction based on their experience.

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