At Computacenter, we are proud to offer a range of different career paths for people looking to start or progress their careers in IT, including our award-winning graduate programmes. These programmes are structured in a way to give candidates access to all parts of Computacenter, helping to accelerate the best fresh talent into the technology services industry and world of business as a whole.
This year, we are delighted to welcome Emily Gaskell, Sam Jones and Sharon Odozi as Graduate IT Consultants in the Platform and Hybrid Infrastructure Team (PHIT). The three talented young individuals have only been part of the team for a matter of days but are already settling in well.
In this blog, they share their insights and experiences over the last two weeks, exploring how their preconceptions of what a global, FTSE 250 organisation might have been like were changed:
Joining our new team
Two weeks ago, three of us started our new adventure at Computacenter as Graduate IT Consultants as a part of the Platform and Hybrid Infrastructure Team (PHIT). We each took a journey here through QA Consulting, a branch of QA where we all undertook a 12-week training program; Emily trained in Azure and Data Science while Sharon and Sam studied AWS and DevOps.
On our first day, we arrived feeling both nervous and excited. We expected that Computacenter, as a large organisation, would feel somewhat impersonal. The preconceived expectation was far from the truth.
Our team members Vicky and Neil gave us a very warm welcome and encouraged us to take part in icebreakers to get to know each other. We have, of course, discussed our background when talking to and networking with other members of the organisation, but this gave us the opportunity to discuss hobbies, interests and our families which has made it easy to quickly build relationships.
Meeting other graduates
On our second day, we met some of the project managers who had recently completed grad schemes at Computacenter. It was great to hear their thoughts about starting out at the company and how they had found the process.
Working with different areas of the organisation
As a large organisation, we had the expectation that there would be a rigid hierarchy at Computacenter which would determine who we could and couldn’t talk to and who we could and couldn’t work with. This absolutely wasn’t the case.
Since joining, we have had the amazing opportunity to meet lots of people from different areas of the company and with different levels of seniority. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet Martin Provost, Head of Consultancy, who was easy to talk and relate to.
Everyone has been really excited to have us onboard. It’s made us feel inspired about the future and is so nice to know that we have a voice in the company.
This was especially apparent when we found out about Fresh Minds – an internal initiative which allows fresh talent to connect, network and have their opinions heard.
Another facet of the company that really stood out for us in the first two weeks was the overwhelmingly large warehouse in the Hatfield Ops building, that we only actually saw a very small part of. As we had no expectation, and little knowledge of the inner workings of the company as a whole, we were unsurprisingly blown away by the sheer scale of their physical technology production system.
The second we arrived into the warehouse we were inundated with rows and shelves full of a wide variance of technology all being prepared for prospective customers. It’s safe to say we could easily have wandered around the maze that were those laptops and servers for hours without finding an end or discovering everything there was to discover.
Strangely, this sense of awe and scale was shared when a week later we were exposed to the Cyber Defence Center. Despite being much smaller physically than the warehouse the CDC was truly impressive regarding the technology and systems they use to monitor the company as a whole. We were deeply impressed by the tools utilised by the defence centre.
We were so impressed with how lovely everyone has been when giving us these tours and inside looks into the company, it has truly made our first two weeks that much greater.
We would like to end this blog by saying a big thank you to Neil Walters and Vicky Mellor for the past two weeks, specifically for being so warm and accommodating, and for facilitating fantastic opportunities for us.
We are very much looking forward to developing our careers at Computacenter!
Interested in one of our award-winning grad schemes?
As a Sci-Fi fan, I watch many movies that showcase Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future, and usually the narrative becomes one of humans battling machines in a race to survive. Granted this isn’t always the case, but it seems to happen more often than not. This causes many to question the ethics of AI and whether we should be pursuing our attempts to create something that has the potential to advance beyond what we are capable of. I think the point where AI will advance to that state is still some way off, but that is a topic I will cover in a later blog, especially around the ethics of AI.
We do however have interactions with AI and machine learning now that help to make our lives just a little bit easier. Let me give you an example; my wife turned to me after she’d finished her call somewhat puzzled, saying that the person that called her wasn’t a contact in her phone, but the phone suggested that the call might be from “John Appleseed”. She then asked how the phone could know who might be calling.
I explained to her that her phone will search through messages and emails and if that person‘s number and name appear together in any of these places a number of times, then through Machine Learning and AI, it can make reasonably accurate predictions.
My wife was quite taken about a back by this as she started talking about Big Brother, privacy and security but I do think that these capabilities and functions in our technology do help to make us more productive and improve our user experience. AI and machine learning also play an ever increasing role in the workplace.
The office I working in has multiple technologies that come together to form a modern workplace. As an example we have digital signage giving us messaging and updates on what’s going on in the business, we also have meeting rooms where we can either use monitors to project content from our devices or we can use video conferencing to enhance our remote meetings.
We have the ability to hot desk across multiple floors which can lead to the issue that if you don’t get into the office early enough, or if more people decide to work in the office than normal then it can be difficult to find a desk.
The biggest challenge these technologies and capabilities have is they are mostly disparate and disconnected thereby reducing the productivity and experience of users. One of the things I believe will happen in the medium to long-term is the consolidation of these technologies coupled with AI and Machine Learning will provide a more cohesive and coherent experience, let me give you an example.
If I get up at 6 o’clock in the morning my phone will tell me that the journey time to the office will take me an hour and 10 minutes. If I get up at 7 o’clock, the phone will tell me that the journey to the boys school will take 10 minutes, so clearly my patterns are being learnt and understood by my smart devices.
Now imagine this capability being connected to all of those ecosystems and technologies in the workplace. Imagine that when I get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and my phone tells me that the time to the office will take an hour and 10 minutes and I simply touch or confirm by voice that I am going into the office, it automatically books me a hot desk (or tells me there is no space to save a wasted journey) as well as booking a video capable meeting space as by looking at my calendar the AI determines that I have to do a video conference later on in the day.
Then as I walk into the office, either CCTV using facial recognition or proximity using the device I carry, the Digital Signage changes to tell me where my hot desk is and what meeting room has been booked for that day. As I approach my hot desk the chair automatically adjusts to my preferred settings along with that the monitors and keyboards altering height, brightness etc to my usual settings.
We can see how this kind of experience will change the way that we use our workspaces as AI, Machine Learning and connectivity between ecosystems adapt and evolve over time.
When we think about the technology and interconnections across systems that are required to realise this outcome, we see that architecting the systems or choosing the solutions that we deploy will become a much more holistic task, and require both our own organisations and those that we work with to have a broader skill set and capability than ever before.
AI = Smart?
I attended the ISE 2020 show last week in Amsterdam where we discussed topics such as 5G and Edge Computing, AI and Machine Learning, Smart Cities, Smart Buildings and the increasing role that human centric design will have in all of these solutions.
I’m planning to blog more about these topics over the coming weeks as they are each huge topics in their own right, but I think for the short term, we will see more and more capability being put into Buildings, Workplaces, Cities, Cars, etc. Machine Learning and AI will be integral to this. The danger sometimes is that we try to be too smart and over engineer or create solutions that are either too difficult to use, have no value to the people that use them most or are just not cost effective.
When designing solutions ask yourself what is the problem we are seeking to solve? Or What opportunities can we create? And think also about what behaviours will change or need to change. Using our intelligence coupled with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will give us the best of both worlds and a future where we aren’t being hunted by robots.
Last week we talked about security however this week we will discuss networking and connectivity.
Time for the basics – why do we have networks? Networks only exist to facilitate engagement, communication, creation and sharing, points often forgotten in the midst of features and endless buzz words. By holding onto those key points summarising the purpose and drivers for network existence, at the heart of all discussions and chunking the conversation up, the reason (s) for network need or change is exposed. It may be a user need, an application requirement, a service orientated outcome, but without doubt the outcome “isn’t the network” – the driver of the networking need is the main story.
It’s time to overtly challenge all enterprise networking discussions – “Why does this network exist, what are the user / applications that drive the need for this network, what user or application measures validate network activities and so on”? It’s time to hold the network to account and unlock the business value of a secure connected enterprise.
In keeping with last week’s security summary, this outline will focus on three networking aligned areas of “interest” for 2020 (without doubt there are many more). No predictions, purely areas that may stimulate valuable discussion and ideally actions.
Secure networking – secure connected outcomes.
It’s important that we link security and networking together at all times with no discussions about networking in isolation. Its time to intentionally switch all conversations to signpost secure networking or secure connectivity. The addition of the single word secure will change the mindset of all concerned and ensure the only outcome validated as successful is a secure one. Networks are the technological digital transport umbilical cord of the digital age therefore inherent security is fundamental to ensure successful, connected digital outcomes.
See all – secure all.
Next up, visibility is the hidden jewel within networks but only if explicitly leveraged for the value it delivers. Networks as the digital transport in the midst of all digital transactions see all of the traffic they transport and connect. By utilising data packet by packet “see all” capability within enterprise networks with end to end visibility from user, though system, through application, though cloud and back, networks are as powerful as security control layers as they are digital data transport layers. Its time to exploit the network as one of the best digital security sensors available.
Optimum operations – time for NetDevOps.
And finally network operations MUST change. I write with no ambiguity when positioning the importance of network operational change now, to unlock tomorrows benefits, today. There is no digitisation without secure network connectivity, no digital user experience, no world of “smart” technology and human engagement – nothing.
Networks must not only understand the language of applications, they must proactively and consistently “enable” applications to deliver user & business outcomes. Network automation isn’t the story, it’s a component of a bigger story of applications, operations and network technology working in perfect harmony.
The changing face of network operations must result in enhanced platform efficiency, operational consistency and network automation bound into the application and software development life cycle. Without an intentional business and cultural shift to leverage the network intentionally and proactively beyond digital data transport, business agility, user experience and application value may be compromised.
Start now – change now
Enterprise networks have become a victim of their own reliability, performance and effectiveness. Networks are often invisible as technology entities, however complaints appear in an instant when problems or network failure occurs but with little said during times of “normal”. Networks are expected to “just be there”, “always on” delivering optimum reliability and performance for both known and unknown requirements. This is a tough ask, however by using the network as a security control layer, proactively using the network for optimum levels of end to end visibility and accelerating the evolution of network operations, the enterprise network will act as a springboard to every good in the digital age. That’s got to be worth it.
Until next time
Business Line CTO UK (Networking & Security)
Email inboxes around the globe are filled though January with a flurry of IT market and technology predictions. I’ve been guilty of writing them in the past but chose not to this year. However, a few people have nudged me and requested at least a summary or a few ideas on a few significant IT security areas to consider through 2020 (not predictions). One thing I can convey with certainty, is that fact we actually don’t know what will happen in the security arena moving forward, we can assume and theorise but don’t really know. The business and technology landscape has never been more uncertain, with well skilled and financed attackers (at times more so than the defenders) due to the potential for immense rewards. To that end organisations need to be aware, pragmatic, agile with effective security controls and actionable remediation strategies to help them deliver “Secure IT”.
So, what might happen
The “Windows 7” platform will be a highly targeted attack vector (whether embedded, full function or other). Whilst many users remain emotionally and operationally wedded to the now reliable and robust legacy operating system, the end of operating system support and patches for Windows 7 software platforms means enterprises as a minimum must evolve away from Windows 7 to Windows 10 or to another secure and supported operating environment. If a move from Windows 7 cannot be undertaken in a timely manner, compensatory controls for example the use of virtual patching may add a layer of defence but that will very short lived. A move from the Windows 7 operating platform is the only outcome to maximise user and system security.
Next up, “connected things”. IOT is the collective term frequently used to describe connected devices, often without an interface for human input but “connected things” collect, process, transmit and sometimes store data. The sheer volume of connected things increases the security challenge with defenders requiring real time visibility, always on controls as they seek to minimise or eliminate the potential for attack. To make matters worse, many of the “things” become invisible to the human eye hidden in ceilings, behind walls or embedded in other devices. But they remain highly visible to attackers are easily located with simplistic scanning tools and can be used to launch highly damaging attacks (or as a beachhead to enter a networked environment). Visibility visibility visibility is everything – you can’t secure things you cannot digitally see. Connected device visibility platforms or advanced NAC systems help to determine the type, status, behaviour of all connected devices. This allows them to determine posture, grant and revoke access, supply data inputs to asset and CMDB databases but more importantly to help organisations to create and maintain a baseline of “normal or known good security”.
And last but not least, “the human vector” remains a key consideration in 2020. Un-informed users have the potential to become the weakest link in the security chain, but informed, engaged, security conscious users become one of the most significant elements of optimum security. Users have the power to make intellectual and dynamic decisions, interpreting situations in a way technology based controls cannot. With users as educated, security advocates and technical security controls working together in harmony, end to end optimum security becomes a reality not a dream.
As a recap, to maintain a security by design and by default in 2020 for users, business & consumers, three areas will be high on my list:
- Acceleration of the move from Windows 7 (or to secondary compensatory security deployed if a platform move is not possible)
- Optimum visibility of connected things (traditional connected devices and IOT) to ensure they can be located, patched, secured.
- Inspirational education of “the human” to intentionally become the strongest security link in the digital chain.
Through 2020 we must strive to make intentional security simple to consume, manage, operate and EFFECTIVE. This will help users, organisations and the industry to shift the current mindset and position security positively as the essential enabler of the digital world. Its time to start now, start today.
Until Next time.
Business Line CTO Networking and Security – Computacenter UK
Intel have for decades enjoyed near total domination of the Commercial PC market, providing the core components – CPUs and Chipsets to the OEMs and to their credit have continued to innovate. As they add more features and improve the performance of their silicon platforms enabling OEMs to innovate their PC design by making them thinner and lighter, there’s a feeling that this still doesn’t address the ever-increasing User Experience demands.
With the proliferation of consumer devices in the modern workplace (smartwatches, smartphones, tablets etc) there’s a concern that so much choice can both distract and even overwhelm users. The lack of time spent un-interrupted by these ‘skinny’ clients, whilst providing unrivaled connectivity can become a distraction to those who simply need to focus and concentrate on our business tasks. Research suggests that even in the face of so much choice the notebook PC continues to be the main go-to business device. During 2020 it is predicted that the ‘Millennial’ generation will become the dominant demographic group in the workforce. What organisations like Intel therefore need to ensure is that the needs of this generation are being addressed by their future technologies. Unsurprisingly the ‘User Experience’ and usability will play a big part.
User Experience Targets
Based on the User Experience targets above, I think it is safe to say that the notebook PC as a device is not going anywhere, but its usability and the experiences you get from it can be improved upon.
Intel recently released a high-level blueprint of how they and the PC OEMs are looking to deliver these experience improvements to users; its known in the industry as Project Athena.
Project Athena – Laptop Innovation Rooted in Human Understanding
It’s worth noting that Project Athena is a 2-3 year view so it’s not about dropping in a ton of new technologies in one hit, but we are already seeing some encouraging progress.
Project Athena focuses on three main areas – Always Ready, Adaptive and Focus.
CPU chipset efficiencies will continue to drive improvements in battery life but inbuilt AI capabilities will also help with this – The much heralded 5G and WIFI 6 or AX standards once they arrive ‘en masse’ and have greater coverage are expected to not only deliver faster speeds but be much more robust and reliable due to the increases in the available spectrum they operate in.
The 2-in-1 form factor which is the touchscreen notebook with near 360-degree hinge continues to gain share from the traditional simple clam-shell device as it offers the best user interaction – touch, pen, keyboard.
AI is going to play a part in improving such areas as voice recognition and enabling ‘Do not disturb’ features to ensure outside distractions are kept to a minimum. Monitoring when there’s a reduction in user interactions will enable the device to intelligently reduce or suspend power-states to those parts of the sub-systems that are not in use. This will result in power saving and improving battery life.
A more ‘Tablet-like’ experience in a package that delivers enhanced performance is the target with features that include a < 1 sec from lid up to login time, whilst utilising Intel’s next generation mobile CPU core technologies. Persistent memory provided by Intel’s Optane technology also plays a big part in improving performance and decreasing wait times.
Whilst Project Athena maybe a 2-3 year vision its far from being pure ‘vapour-ware’ today. HP Inc has recently announced the first to market Athena v1 commercial product with their Elite Dragonfly notebook.
All notebook PCs that conform to the Project Athena specification will feature the Intel distinguishing label, shown to the right.
The design criteria from Intel to conform to the Athena standard is expected to evolve as the supporting technologies develop. Version 1 is believed to be based roughly on the following target criteria –
- Chassis Design – 15mm Z height (allow 17mm this year under right conditions)
- <1 second from lid up to logon
- No performance degradation when unplugged from power cord
- >16 hours of battery in video playback mode
- >9 hours continuous intensive browser usage
- 4 hours of battery charged in 30 mins
The Benefits of Project Athena
With the goal of Project Athena being to drive the next wave of innovation into notebook PCs we can expect to realise the following benefits and improvements over traditional Notebook PCs –
- Improved productivity and User Experience
- Usability – All day battery-life with rapid charging and intelligent use of AI
- Connectivity – Provided by Thunderbolt 3, WiFi 6 and 5G
- Performance – Latest CPU and next generation Optane storage
- Design – Thinner, lighter designs that feature multiple input methods
- User satisfaction – A more responsive ‘without delay’ user experience
What Next ?
The other leading commercial PC OEMs are expected to follow HP Inc’s lead in releasing Athena v1 class devices so I would urge you to take a look at the Dragonfly to judge it for yourself.
Contact your Computacenter Account Manager to find out ways we can help you understand more about Project Athena.
Last week, Citrix announced their revamped Workspace app had made it to general availability. The release brings with it our first view of personalised workflows, showing how they have integrated last year’s acquisition of Sapho and gives us a clear view on how Citrix see the future of the workspace and ITs role in delivering business value. So why do Citrix and others believe this is so important? What benefits will it bring your users and ultimately your business.
Strap lines offering the ability to access to applications, desktops and data from anywhere no longer garner much interest. We’ve been saying it for so long that the Leonard Rossiter Cinzano reference is almost entirely unknown to the audiences that I present to and I have promised never mention it again. The problem users are wrestling with now is managing the bombardment of information that they now receive from an increasing number of platforms that were meant to make our lives easier. Citrix Workspaces approaches this by filtering relevant information in their Intelligent Feed and using personalised workflows that can automate complex tasks across multiple applications into a single click. Solve this ‘Digital Interference’ problem and you go a long way to making the user experience better and so ultimately more productive.
By 2021, IDC Predicts that 60 percent of Global 2000 companies will have adopted a future-workspace model — a flexible, intelligent, collaborative virtual/physical work environment. That seems to support the move to unified endpoint management delivering fluidity across devices and the reduction in reliance on the operating system, even from Microsoft. At the launch of the new Surface Duo and Neo back in October Satya Nadella said, “The operating system is no longer the most important layer for us”. It’s obviously a multi-billion-dollar business, so still quite important, but their future will be in the applications and services they deliver. As well as the APIs they produce to enable other software vendors to integrate with them.
So, what does this mean to users? Booking time off for many people means SAP. Opening a web page, logging in (not forgetting this requires a different username and password from your windows one), navigating the menus to the right area and requesting the dates you want. Closing the page, checking emails to see it’s been approved, noticing that a team member has requested their own holiday that you need to approve, back into the web page you go. Now what if that process could be provided via a micro app? You never need leave your workspace, never need to re-authenticate. Any approvals you need to do are also presented in here. As your Workspace is independent of device approve them from your phone on the way home. This is one example. Citrix Workspaces have integrations into hundreds of Enterprise applications. If they don’t, you can create your own.
It would be remis of me to talk about workspaces without mentioning VMware. Workspace One Intelligence has the same data-driven ethos to focus information for you. It allows the ability to automate processes that you find yourself doing repeatedly and has created an impressive eco-system of security vendors that can integrate to offer the Zero Trust architecture that will be key to securing an increasingly diverse device estate. I’m sure it won’t be long before Microsoft enter this market as well. The next iteration of Microsoft Teams could well deliver that. Whichever vendor you choose to deliver your future workspace with it’s clear that this is another change in the role of IT. One that continues to morph from worrying about locking down and controlling what users can do to one that needs to understand the business and work with users to deliver what they want.
Many of our customers are still wrestling with the challenges of delivering and keeping supported on Windows 10. To them, I’m sure, talk of the operating system becomes less relevant will seem like an oxymoron but once the dust has settled on Windows 7 your people will be working in the same way they always have. ‘Digital Interference’ is a real problem in all our working lives. These workspace solutions will start to solve that and hopefully in the near-future rather than a distant one.
Earlier this week, we were lucky enough to be joined by some of our fantastic apprenticeship partners in hosting an Apprenticeships Roadshow at our Hatfield office.
The event was hugely successful, providing a great opportunity for staff who are interested in developing their skills to meet with our apprenticeship experts.
Following on from this fantastic event, we take a look at some of the many incredible benefits of doing an apprenticeship.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are a form of learning that combine study with a full time job.
While studying for a formal qualification, you’ll gain valuable experience and skills by working in a real job for a real company. From here, you are able to progress onto the next stage of your chosen career.
Who can apply for apprenticeships?
Despite the common misconception that apprenticeships are only available to people of school leaving age, they are actually open to those aged 16 or over living in England and not in full-time education.
Entry requirements for apprenticeships
Each apprenticeship opportunity is different, and vacancies will specify the different entry requirements and professional qualities that your employer is looking for.
Remember to check the job description to ensure you have the necessary skills that are required.
What are the benefits of apprenticeships?
Apprenticeships can often be seen as being for people who ‘didn’t do well at school’ or can’t get into University, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are a fantastic way to learn new skills, grow as a person and give yourself a brilliant start to your career.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the many benefits of enrolling in an apprenticeship:
1. Earn while you learn
Doing an apprenticeship is a unique opportunity, allowing you to start earning your own money, while also expanding your knowledge and helping you learn plenty of new skills.
While you may start out on minimum wage or a basic rate of pay initially, your employer should review this as you progress through your employment with them.
2. Discover new passions and interests
You’ll be learning every day, and with this comes a fantastic way to discover new things that might interest you.
It’ll also help you decide if your chosen career path is actually right for you or not.
3. Gain real life experience
In a recent study by UCAS, one third of employers felt that job applicants did not have a satisfactory level of knowledge about the job they’ve applied for.
Working in your role will equip you with invaluable knowledge and experience that will set you apart from other applicants for future job roles, who may not have these same skills.
Academic achievements are absolutely wonderful, however where some may have a degree, apprentices have real life exposure and an increased understanding into the day to day of your chosen job role or career path.
4. Get valuable qualifications
At the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll not only have work experience within an organisation, you’ll have qualifications too.
Apprenticeship qualification levels
There are different levels of apprenticeships that you can take part in, which are equivalent to the different qualifications you would receive if in full-time education.
|Apprenticeship Name||Level||Equivalent Qualification|
|Higher||4 and 5||Foundation Degree|
|Degree||6 and 7||Degree|
5. Start to build your professional network
You’ve probably heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
This is often very true in the world of work.
Building your professional network can be a fantastic way to strengthen your career. It can be a great way to exchange ideas with others in your sector, can help to raise your own personal profile, and can open up a world of potential opportunities in the future be it job roles, speaking slots or freelance work.
Starting this early can be invaluable; you never know where a new relationship or connection may lead!
6. Increase your earning potential
Having a degree can be hugely beneficial in the workplace, however it isn’t the only deciding factor in how much you eventually go on to earn.
A recent study actually found that apprentices often earn more than graduates, with the amount apprentices earning over the course of their lives outstripping that of graduates by up to 270 percent!
7. Receive one-to-one support
You’ll receive personal support from your training provider, who will be on hand whenever you have questions, worries or concerns.
8. Improve your employability
Having an apprenticeship on your CV shows your potential future employers that you’ve got the necessary skills to complete a qualification while juggling the responsibilities of a full time job.
It shows your dedication to your chosen field and your ability to build knowledge from the ground up.
9. Make new friends
Apprenticeships are a great way to meet new people and make friends with people from a range of different generations, backgrounds and cultures.
10. Develop as an individual
As well as earning a wage and learning valuable skills, an apprenticeship will also help you develop as an individual.
A successful apprenticeship programme will help increase your confidence, give you more independence and improve your understanding about yourself and how you work. Your communication skills will develop along with your time management and relationship skills.
Apprenticeships at Computacenter
Our apprentice numbers have grown from 5 to 70 in just over two years, with each individual developing their knowledge and gaining qualifications through work based learning. We offer apprenticeships throughout the UK, and have a real passion for developing young people in our business.
You can choose between a variety of different entry options depending on your level of educational achievement and abilities. With dedicated staff and structured programmes available, there is no better time to become an apprentice at Computacenter.