Apprenticeships at IBM: Experience is the Best Teacher

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Dale Haiducek is a long-time believer in learning by doing – one of the many reasons he’s a natural for IBM’s new registered apprenticeship program. “My most powerful learning experiences have come when I’ve immersed myself in a task or in a particular work environment,” he says.

Dale’s interest in science and technology goes back to his teenage years. He took BASIC and C++ programming in high school and thought about a college major in engineering. But his early work with young kids at the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Camp in Michigan, where he grew up, drew Dale to a career in teaching.

In the classroom, Dale put his “learn by doing” philosophy into action, creating hands-on learning experiences for middle school students in math, science and engineering. For him, teaching was a chance to get students excited about subjects they often found difficult or boring, and his classroom became a place where they could explore and experiment. He took the same approach at one of his most rewarding summer jobs.

Between school years he worked at one of the Summer Science Camps started by Bernard Harris, who was the first African American astronaut to walk in space. “We had the kids designing and building water bottle rockets, catapults, a container that would protect an egg even if you dropped it from twenty feet…all sorts of stuff,” he says. “Challenging kids and helping them learn while they’re also having fun can have a powerful impact. That’s a big part of why I chose a career in teaching.”

Dale, who migrated from Michigan to North Carolina for his first teaching job, is now part of the IBM Hybrid Cloud team, working on the Tivoli application technical support team in Durham. He’s two weeks into IBM’s 12-month apprenticeship program, which includes 200 hours of training and on-the job experience, guided by an IBM mentor.

He made the transition after 10 years in the classroom – and completing a Computer Science Core Certificate program at North Carolina State University, which gave him the prerequisites to enroll in a Computer Science Master’s degree program. For Dale, it was important to get some practical work experience before going on to more schooling, and he liked the sound of IBM’s registered apprenticeship program. “Having a paid position that combines learning and practical experience – it’s a perfect fit for me. And I knew IBM’s reputation meant valuable experience that I could apply throughout my career.”

Dale is finding much about his new position that’s familiar – collaborating with colleagues, learning and sharing ideas. But he’s also enjoying some newfound flexibility. “In the classroom, you’re on, 100 percent of the time,” he explains. “Here, I can step out and grab a cup of coffee without worrying about whether the room is going to burn down.”

What does the future hold? “I’d love for this to end with a full-time job at IBM,” Dale says. “I like IBM’s customer-centered approach and its commitment to solving society’s biggest challenges. The company’s values fit perfectly with how I want to make a difference.”

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