An Insider’s Look into IBM’s Developer JumpStart program


There are many famous global companies, but when it comes to employee experience, large enterprise employers are definitely not created equal. IBM is one of those iconic brands that you’ve most likely heard about, but have you heard about their commitment to their employees? IBM prides itself by providing meaningful development and growth opportunities for both seasoned and new employees. IBM has taken a special focus on early career professionals with its New Grad Developer JumpStart program. Check out this inside look at the program to see if IBM can jumpstart your technology career!

Shane R Stratton
Shane R Stratton
Software Developer – SPSS Modeller
Markham, ON

Shane Stratton grew up in Mississauga and tried on many different hats prior to becoming a developer at IBM. He has a degree in Earth and Environmental Science from McMaster University and he taught English in Korea! His curiosity grew in the software development field, and began to apply to various companies. IBM stood out because it seemed more open-minded and focused on personal potential rather than experience in its candidates.

After applying online and taking a skill set test, Shane received an email inviting him to a coding challenge where he could demonstrate his developer capabilities. He then had a remote technical interview which assessed his overall background, personality, soft skills, and technical experience. The overall process took about two months and really focused on how a candidate thinks and learns. “For someone who got into software kind of late, IBM presented a perfect opportunity to break into the industry and learn along the way”, Shane says.   

New Grad Developer JumpStart program

All new graduate developers hired into IBM are automatically part of the IBM Developer JumpStart program. This program challenges new grads on the job to solve a problem for a business they are interested in. Associates get to work on it in addition to work responsibilities, which can be challenging to manage, but the benefits gained by participants make it well worth the extra effort. Teams get formed based on their interests, they collaborate over the course of three months, meeting every two weeks and, over time, develop a solution to the problem. “The conclusion everyone jumps to at the very beginning is that you have a solution right away. You don’t! The whole idea is to continually improve, change, and evolve your prototype”, Shane explains.

After intense preparation, the teams get to present their respective solutions to three senior leaders from IBM at an event where they can watch other teams present, listen to a keynote speaker, and potentially see their projects come to life!

Not only did Shane’s team win the Jumpstart Design Challenge, they also met the Director of IBM Design and got to work with him to make this project happen. Because the project continued after the program, Shane says it opened a lot of avenues to learn more about IBM. “When I started making the prototype, I realized this was the type of work I want to do. I talked to my manager and based on that conversation it opened the doors to new opportunities for me at IBM.

Going the Extra Mile

If you’re willing to put in the work, it won’t go unnoticed. Shane says when he’s accomplished a goal or does a great job on a project, he can count on getting a shout out from his managers, constructive and detailed feedback, and always feels comfortable approaching them for advice.

Shane recommends the following:

  • Find the time to do things outside of your current role

“You can get bogged down with day to day job. It’s important to be good at what you’re doing, but to also understand the company as a whole.”

  • Get away from your desk

“When you just start working, you might think that taking breaks isn’t allowed, that you shouldn’t get distracted, or even shouldn’t eat! That is not true — if you can handle your workload, do all the things that help you feel better. It is common to see people playing sports throughout the day, collaborating, or simply stepping outside of their cubicle to talk something out.”

Theresa Mammarella
Theresa Mammarella
J9VM Software Developer
Ottawa, ON

It didn’t take long for Theresa to discover she wanted to work at IBM. In fact, she says she knew almost immediately and made her mind up during the interview process that she’d found her dream job. She was initially part of the Extreme Blue Internship program at IBM and offered a permanent role after graduation as a Software Developer.

Typical Work Day

As a Developer, Theresa enjoys collaborative meetings with colleagues the most, where the team discusses the issues they’ve been facing and brainstorms various solutions. After her initial internship, she feels very passionate about mentoring Extreme Blue Interns — it reminds her about her own experience of being an intern not so long ago and how much she appreciated being mentored herself.

From the words of Maria Costabile (Program Manager, IBM Developer JumpStart):

Overcoming Fears and Learning New Skills

Throughout the New Grad Developer JumpStart program, Theresa blossomed as a professional and was able to develop public speaking skills, not just technical skills at IBM.

Even though Theresa works from the Ottawa location, she was given an opportunity to expand her network of colleagues at IBM by collaborating with Toronto new grads in the JumpStart program. For her project, Theresa worked on improving old code by creating a new one using open source software.

She was initially worried about her time management by taking on the extra work of the Jumpstart program, but she has no regrets! Theresa says that it took some planning and practice, but her managers were very supportive of the JumpStart initiative and helped along the way.

Maria Costabile commented from a manager’s perspective:

How to Excel at IBM

Theresa recommends these three things to be successful at IBM:

  • “Find mentors – there are people who are willing to help, you just need to ask!”
  • “It’s a very big company, it’s easy to get a bit lost; ask for opportunities if you want to grow quickly.”
  • “Have a good relationship with your manager — they can do so much for your career and progression.”

The IBM Finish Line event

The IBM Finish Line event is a two-day event that is part of the IBM hiring process. It allows candidates to connect with their peers and current IBM employees (IBMers) and learn about the type of work they do. During the event, candidates network with IBMers and fellow candidates, work on projects, and learn a whole lot while getting inspired by the IBM culture. Bryan Muscedere, IBM’s Software Developer – TM1 Server shared his experience during this outstanding event:

If you’re still not convinced that IBM is an awesome place to hatch your IT career, take an Inside Look at IBM’s culture on our website.