IBM Extreme Blue
IBM is one of the world's largest global technology companies, providing hardware, software and tech services. The company’s values revolve around innovation, trust and client success.
IBM welcomes students and new graduates with a similar ethos of innovation and leadership into its graduate programs and has various entry-level opportunities and development programs. One of these is the Extreme Blue internship.
What Is the IBM Extreme Blue Internship?
The IBM Extreme Blue internship is a 12-week global internship programme for business and technical students. During the programme, students are expected to develop a solution to a challenge IBM or a client faces, and build this idea into a viable product.
Working alongside IBM’s technical professionals, students will create a business case and, at the end of the 12 weeks, pitch to IBM executives, partners and clients.
As Extreme Blue is a global programme, the requirements and dates differ depending on the country running the scheme.
This article explores the UK Extreme Blue programme but information regarding the process for other countries can be found on the relevant country site on IBM’s website. There are over 50 Extreme Blue labs across the US, Canada, China, Europe and India.
The internship offers a competitive salary.
What Does the Internship Involve?
Each internship round has space for 16 students – 12 in technology roles and four in design roles. The cohort will be split into teams of four to complete the programme.
- Technology Role. Students on the technology internship will work with other technical interns and will build on their existing IT skills to develop an IT-based solution to fulfil a brief supplied by a sponsoring client.
Interns will work with cutting-edge technologies and alongside leading IT professionals to design, develop and test a new product. They will gain experience of IBM, the IT industry and project management in a process that aims to demonstrate how IT can be used to develop custom solutions that leverage benefits for all.
- Design Role. In the design role, students will work alongside their team members to design, develop and test a viable product before pitching it.
The project has no constraints; those in the design internship are expected to push the creativity of their team to come up with the most innovative ideas. It will be their role to ensure that they focus on user experience and design a product that comprehensively meets the client’s needs.
Extreme Blue projects arise from different stages in IBM’s product lifecycle. Depending on the nature of the project and goals of the sponsors, students may be working on a solution that will be used as a proof of concept in the future or on an innovation that has the potential to go into product release in the next year.
Both scenarios provide valuable experience of crucial stages in the long-term product development timeline.
Product ideas will be showcased at the Extreme Blue Expo, held in one of seven European countries. This will be an all-expenses-paid trip and a great opportunity to gain experience pitching in front of a large audience.
Working hours are flexible, as each team will oversee its own schedule. Students are expected to work a minimum of 40 hours a week.
It is worth highlighting that the work is likely to be intense at times, as students will need to have their product ready to pitch by the end of the 12 weeks.
Interns will be expected to give a four-minute presentation on their project each week to executives and senior leaders.
Help and Support
Although the teams are expected to take ownership of the product they are developing, students will not be alone in the process and support will be available from multiple sources.
Project sponsors will set the project briefs for the teams according to the current challenges they face and will provide a team of mentors made up of business and technical professionals.
These mentors will be there to support the teams and answer questions throughout the process. They will also form the project’s primary stakeholder group.
The high-profile nature of the Extreme Blue programme means IBM employees are often more than willing to offer their help and support to Extreme Blue interns. This means teams will also be able to tap into the expertise of 400,000-plus IBMers in the global IBM network.
Students will also be able to consult with the other teams that make up the Extreme Blue cohort, offering support and fresh perspectives.
When and Where Is the Internship Held?
In the UK, the Extreme Blue runs each year from June/July to September. Applicants must be available for the full 12 weeks of the internship.
The roles are based at IBM Hursley, Winchester. Free accommodation for all Extreme Blue interns will be provided near to IBM Hursley.
What Qualifications and Skills Are IBM Looking For?
To apply, you must be predicted to achieve a 2:1 or above and be in the penultimate year of your undergraduate study when you complete the internship. Computer science and business skills and an interest in technology are considered key, but IBM invites applications from students from any academic background.
You will also need to be familiar with certain key platforms and tools. IBM provides a ‘roadmap’ to help candidates get up to speed with the key technologies before their application.
The UK Extreme Blue internship will consider any student with a work visa for the UK. Note here that opportunities for foreign nationals in other countries running Extreme Blue Labs are limited.
Core Eight Competencies
IBM has a framework of ‘core eight competencies’ that candidates will be expected to demonstrate throughout the application, assessment and interview process. These are:
- Adaptability. Candidates should demonstrate that they are flexible under pressure and can react to changing deadlines and priorities. They should be able to cope with multiple and evolving work schemes, adjusting to unforeseen changes in schedule, team and client needs.
- Communication. Communication skills are the cornerstone of working with internal teams and external clients. Extreme Blue requires strong teamwork, the building of a client relationship with the project sponsor and a pitch to a large audience. Candidates should be able to communicate assuredly and appropriately, with the ability to change tone and style to cater to a variety of audiences. The good communicators IBM seeks are comfortable speaking but recognise when their role is maximised by listening.
- Client Focus. The Extreme Blue internship is about designing and developing a product to meet the needs of a client, in this instance, the project sponsor. It is therefore crucial that candidates understand the importance of being client-focused and delivering a product that not only meets but exceeds client expectations. Candidates should display that they can see outside of their own perspective to deliver a product that is truly fit for purpose.
- Creative Problem Solving. The Extreme Blue process seeks innovative solutions to real-world problems, so candidates need to convey to IBM that they can approach challenges from new angles. Candidates should display they have the mental dexterity to think creatively when addressing any problems or roadblocks along the project timeline.
- Drive. The Extreme Blue internship is an intense experience with teams expected to deliver a product solution much faster than in normal working circumstances. Candidates will need to display that they have the energy and enthusiasm to take on this challenge and see it through to completion. IBM will also want to know that candidates have the drive to learn new skills, even those outside of their comfort zone.
- Teamwork. Strong team-working skills are crucial as candidates will be working closely with the same team members throughout the 12-week process. Candidates should give solid examples of times they have worked well within a team; it may be helpful for candidates to explore the role they prefer to play in a team and evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses. The ability to be self-reflective when working in a team will be well received.
- Passion for IBM. Candidates should show that they understand the way IBM works as a business – both technically and ethically – and are passionate about being a part of it. They will need to show they are up to date with IBM’s latest achievements, as well as the latest industry trends, and can discuss the challenges and opportunities these may pose. IBM will be using the internship to look for individuals with the potential to fill a place on their graduate programme, so candidates should convey the appeal of working for IBM long-term.
- Taking Ownership. The Extreme Blue process offers significant mentor support but the candidates will be responsible for their work and product throughout. Candidates must display that they can take responsibility for driving a project forward. They should demonstrate that they can own their mistakes and work to find solutions.
There is a short quiz on the IBM website that can be taken to give an initial idea of candidate suitability for a place on the Extreme Blue internship.
How to Apply for the Extreme Blue Internship
The Extreme Blue application process has three stages:
- An initial application online (including assessment tests)
- An assessment centre
- A final interview
Initial Application Online
The initial application online requires students to complete a round of online assessment testing, including a Cognitive Ability Game and Learning Agility Assessment. These test a candidate’s problem-solving skills and learning style.
Next, candidates will need to complete an online application form. This will contain competency-based questions and require a personal statement. Both of these will require candidates to display the IBM Core Eight Competencies which are expanded upon above.
Online applications will then be reviewed by a manager and candidates will be notified if they have been successful.
If your online application is successful, you will be invited to attend an assessment centre day at IBM Hursley, Winchester. This usually involves two group exercises, one focused on logical reasoning and the other on discussion.
Again, the ‘core eight competencies’ will be central to impressing the IBM recruiters.
If you impress at the assessment centre, you will be asked to a final interview. This will again be held at IBM Hursley, Winchester.
What Happens Next?
After the completion of Extreme Blue, there is potential for well-received innovations to be part of IBM’s patent portfolio. The opportunities for this will depend upon the quality, viability and stage in the product life cycle that a solution is in.
If your product is taken forward, your name will be on the patent, which is an excellent addition to a CV.
IBM uses the Extreme Blue internship to recruit talent for its graduate programmes. Graduate salaries start at £30,000 and have flexible benefits packages.
To enhance your chances of being selected to advance with the company, it is important to perform consistently across the internship and make the most of networking opportunities.