I worked at IBM Hursley, which is a research and development lab based in the Hampshire countryside. It is the home of development for CICS, a transaction server used by all major players in the financial services sector and the longest running product offered by IBM.
I worked in a specialised division of the CICS test team called Customer Service in Production, where I tested the relevance of the system to the requirements of large financial organisations.
Building on my skills
I learnt a lot of new skills during my placement, including how to debug a large distributed system and to diagnose problems in software that span multiple development technologies. This will be useful for any large-scale software systems I work on in the future, as well as my final year project.
Probably one of the most useful skills I developed is learning to apply the IBM Design Thinking process. This is extremely useful in every area of software development and the principles can be extended to any other discipline.
Developing a banking interface
The main product developed by the team was a scalable representation of a banking system, implemented with CICS. Dubbed the ‘Bank of Hursley Park’, this test environment is structured as a plex of connected CICS regions running on IBM mainframes.
My role was to create a Liberty web user interface interacting directly with the Bank of Hursley Park, similar to those created for internal administration staff at banking organisations.
Experiencing a ten year first for a placement student
In the first month of the placement I was given training in inventing and filing patents. I was encouraged to form a small team to generate and realise ideas, which I did with another placement student in my department. Together, we drafted an idea relevant to internet banking and mobile payments, which was submitted for review by master inventors.
We had an interview where we presented and explained our invention to senior technical staff members. This resulted in the invention being assigned priority and submitted for a prior art search by a specialist legal team. After all prior art claims were refuted we talked to a patent lawyer who helped us write up the draft into an official software patent.
I was delighted when our idea was successfully filed by the United States Patent Office. My manager told me that we were the first placement students to file a patent in 10 years! We also received IBM awards for our work.
A unique experience
Doing a placement at IBM was a great experience and I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it. I’ve applied to go back after I graduate and I’m hoping to head straight back into the same team.