Extreme Blue: IBM’s Leadership Program for Future Tech & Business Leaders

Young people from the Extreme Blue Leadership Program talking and laughing

Extreme Blue at IBM is not your average internship program. Imagine having the opportunity to unleash your technical ingenuity and business acumen in your job, with support and expertise from one of the world’s leading technology companies. Embracing diversity and inclusion as a source of innovation and creativity is in our DNA. Our Extreme Blue leadership program looks for talented individuals with technical aptitude and established leadership skills who seek a unique career experience that focuses on collaboration, innovation, and growth.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with three of our former Extreme Blue participants, as well as the program’s global leader, about their recent experiences.

Meet Jorie, a Software Developer for IBM Data & AI based in California; Mateo, an IBM Systems Software Developer in Texas; Derrick, a Quantum Researcher in North Carolina; and Erik, IBM’s Extreme Blue Global Program Leader.


Tell us about your experience with IBM’s Extreme Blue leadership program

Jorie: I began my journey at IBM as an Extreme Blue intern last year. I worked on a team, along with two other technical interns and one product management intern, to develop a product for our IBM Consulting business related to cloud migration efficiency for enterprise IT portfolios. My experience with the Extreme Blue program inspired me to pursue a career at IBM after graduation!

Erik: I’ve been the Extreme Blue Global Program Leader for two years now. I came to this program after spending nearly ten years helping to build and scale the entry level sales training program at IBM, formerly known as the Summit Program. I love how Extreme Blue combines both business and technical approaches to help solve some of IBM’s most important challenges. I’m constantly in awe of the amazing interns we bring in every year and the progress they make in such a short period of time.


What was your major in college or grad school? What is your current role at IBM and how did Extreme Blue help you prepare for it?

Jorie: I majored in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering. I also double minored in Digital Media Art Engineering Technology, as well as Business Administration.

I am currently working as a Software Developer for IBM’s Data & AI business unit, based in San Jose, California, supporting advanced data privacy capabilities on IBM Cloud Pak for Data. Extreme Blue prepared me for my current role by helping me develop a unique set of technical and professional skills that allow me to be versatile and multi-faceted within my team and the organization.

Mateo: My college major was Computer Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence.

Currently, I am an IBM Systems Software Developer on the Cronus team, where I write code that helps testers interact with the processors on IBM’s Power and Z systems. Extreme Blue helped me prepare for this role by exposing me to specific hardware and systems knowledge I use every day in my job. Furthermore, the fast-paced nature of Extreme Blue taught me how to learn different technologies quickly and apply them to my job.

Derrick: I earned a PhD in Computational Science and Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University.

I am now a Quantum and Qiskit Researcher at IBM. Throughout the Extreme Blue program, I had to deliver weekly presentations to showcase the progress I was making with my project. This helped me build my confidence.


African-American male Extreme Blue intern wearing a red hoodie


How long is the Extreme Blue program and what were your key takeaways?

Jorie: Extreme Blue is a three-month program, from which I developed a strong professional skillset that I took with me in my early career. Some key takeaways I had from the program included aptitude in design thinking, agile methodologies, informational interviewing, professional advocacy, innovation practices, entrepreneurial spirit, leadership development, and a host of key technical skills.

Derrick: We were given the freedom to come up with solutions to our problems rather than being told directly what to do by our mentors. This made us feel like our contributions to the overall project were truly ours.


How is the program structured and could you select your areas of interest?

Jorie: The Extreme Blue program is structured differently than a standard tech internship. It places a heavy emphasis on leadership capabilities and business acumen, in addition to technical skills. In parallel to your team’s software development journey, interns participate in various workshops aimed at professional growth, receive mentorship from IBM’s vast network of innovation leaders, and even facilitate an application for a U.S. patent.

As an Extreme Blue intern, you learn to wear many hats; but still have the opportunity to focus on specific areas of interest. For example, my team wanted to explore machine learning applications for our project. After delivering the MVP (minimal viable product), we spent the last few weeks of our internship acquiring new machine learning skills as we built out a “wow” feature.

Mateo: The program began with onboarding, followed by five development sprints that lasted a total of ten weeks, and ended with an Expo Day, where we could present our projects to IBM executives. My Extreme Blue mentors provided me with many choices in terms of what technologies I wanted to learn and use for all my projects.

Erik: The program is structured by creating a team of three technical interns and one MBA intern (to serve as Product Manager), where each of their skills complement one another and align to the technical needs of the project team. We try to give the interns as much say as possible into which of the projects they’re most interested in participating.


a female Extreme Blue intern standing by a lake


How does the application and hiring process work for the program?

Jorie: First, I underwent a conversational prescreen call, during which I received a brief on the program structure, answered behavioral questions, and discussed my resume experience. After determining I was a good initial fit for the role, the program managers promptly scheduled me for a full technical interview.

Once I passed the technical interview, I was scheduled to meet with an internal IBM employee (who would mentor my future project if I was selected). By the time I received an offer to the program, I had reached a full understanding of what sets Extreme Blue apart from other technical internship engagements and felt compelled to join the team!

Mateo: There were four main steps to get accepted into the Extreme Blue leadership program. First, I had an initial call and resume screening with a recruiter. Second, I had a 90-minute technical interview consisting of general computer science questions, algorithm coding questions, and a technical discussion on my resume. Third, the Extreme Blue organizers matched me to a team that was a good fit for my skills. And finally, I had a final interview with the mentors of the team I was matched with.


What is your favorite memory from your time in the Extreme Blue program?

Jorie: Without out a doubt, the virtual talent show! My peers demonstrated a wide assortment of musical, athletic, entrepreneurial, comedic, and volunteerism talents. It was a great bonding experience filled with laughter and positivity.

Even though my internship class was remote due to the global pandemic, the program managers did a fantastic job setting up team building events to ensure everyone’s personalities could shine through.

Mateo: My favorite memory from Extreme Blue was Expo Day. This is the big day at the end of the program where each Extreme Blue team gives a 30-minute presentation on their projects to IBM executives. I loved Expo Day because it was a chance for all the interns to showcase and celebrate their hard work over the summer.


Asian-American male Extreme Blue intern pictured in suit


Anything else you want to share about your experience in the Extreme Blue leadership program?

Jorie: You get as much out of the program as you put into it. So, make sure to approach the experience with curiosity. Ask questions to stay engaged in group sessions, pursue IBM’s Your Learning courses, and take advantage of your position as an Extreme Blue intern to set up informational interviews with other IBMers. There is so much to learn from those networking interactions!

Mateo: Although my Extreme Blue experience was primarily focused on software engineering, there were many things I learned beyond engineering and coding. Throughout the summer, we had many workshops and events on topics such as networking, mentorship, communication, design thinking, agile methodology, resume building, entering the workforce, and much more.

Derrick: Building connections, not only with the people on your team, but also with other IBMers from different teams and businesses. If you ever had any questions your mentors would always guide you in the right direction or put you in touch with the right people.



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