CBS students are driving IBM wild

Skrevet af Jannick Friis ChristensenJesper Snedker Adamsen, (versioning) - Foto: Henriette Frausing - 18. september 2014 - 10:340 kommentarer
Three students who hold positions as student assistants at IBM: CBS students Nicolai Sorner and Martin Wendel, also IBM University Ambassador to CBS, and Liv Okkels, psychology student at CPHU.

CBS students are highly valued at IBM where they constitute almost half of all student assistants. The students too seem to have a preference for the IT consulting firm, whose vision it is to become the preferred workplace for students in Denmark. 

Denmark’s best student workplace

CBS students are driving IBM wild and the same seems to be the case the other way around.

Of IBM’s 230 student assistants almost half – or 104 of them to be exact – are CBS students.

And there is a reason for that. As the attentive reader might already know, IBM has student assistants not student workers.

A simple rhetorical difference some might say, but at IBM it is part of the vision to be the best student workplace in Denmark; and nothing short of that.

Talent development is a win-win situation

Martin Wendel, IBM University Ambassador to CBS for the past three years, does not doubt that IBM is an attractive employer, or that they have the upper hand:

- There is a persistent gap in the perception of qualification between the academic world and the corporate sector. At IBM we successfully inform our student assistants about the expectations of the labor market, and at the same time we are constantly updating our knowledge of movements at the universities, says Martin Wendel.

It is nothing but a win-win situation, says Liv Okkels, Student Focal Point and Employer Branding Assistant with IBM. As the first part of her job title clearly indicates, student assistants represent a sought-after resource in a large multinational organization such as IBM.

- As a company we have a societal obligation to involve the labor force of tomorrow by offering part time jobs to students, says Liv Okkels and continues:

- It provides us with a unique opportunity to contribute to the education and development of talents as the value of theoretical knowledge is negligible if you do not know how to apply it practically.

CBS students aware of needs of corporations

Liv Okkels is convinced that IBM contributes to teaching students how to apply the tools they have been equipped with at their respective universities.

Thus, as a student assistant at IBM you are presented with the same complex tasks as full-time employees are. You are granted freedom under responsibility; the only difference is that you are not a full-time employee.

However, some academic tools are more useful to IBM than others, which can help explain why CBS students are so popular at IBM.

- CBS students possess a broad variety of competencies, which increases their ability to solve a variety of different tasks, says Liv Okkels.

She studies psychology at the University of Copenhagen and it has been necessary for her to increase her knowledge on the subject of organizational theory, among other subjects, in order to perform her job at IBM in a satisfactory fashion.

However, she believes that her colleagues from CBS are able to excel from day one as they have been taught by their lecturers to always take into consideration the needs of the private sector.

Study-related job a clear advantage

Thus, the tale of IBM’s many student assistants from CBS fits perfectly into the reoccurring debate on labor market relevance of academic programs, a debate which was picked up earlier this year by The Expert Committee on Quality in Higher Education in Denmark, as CBS focuses significantly on the link between education and employment, which is revealed in the unemployment statistics: in 2012, CBS graduates represented an unemployment rate of just 4.75 percent.

However, the tale of IBM is also about offering student assistant positions that are relevant to the students, thereby turning the debate on relevance upside down in order to make student assistants realize their full potential for the benefit of the organization.

Benefits from student expertise

Nicolai Sorner, studying MSc in Economics and Business Administration, is in the midst of writing a research paper on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A subject closely related to his area of responsibility at IBM, where he is the project coordinator of CSR initiatives.

In other words, he has excellent opportunity to apply his knowledge on this subject in relation to his student position at IBM, which he believes is one of the things that makes IBM a great place to work.

- You really feel that you can contribute and you are also recognized for the ideas you bring forward, says Nicolai Sorner and continues:

- If you start to feel that a specific area of your work is becoming increasingly trivial, IBM offers rich opportunity for new challenges.

Student network and professional experience

That is why it is hardly a surprise that more than 95 percent of student assistants are pleased with their position at IBM.

The survey was conducted internally and therefore CBS OBSERVER has not been able to review it, but Liv Okkels is happy to explain the positive results. As part of the vision to become the best student workplace she manages IBM’s student network, which seeks to create balance between work-related activities and social activities in the organization.

- The student network contributes to making IBM a flat organization, which benefits both professional and private interaction, says Liv Okkels.

The network represents student assistant interests by organizing everything from Christmas parties to Excel courses. However, being a student is the overall priority:

- You cannot hold a student assistant position at IBM without being enrolled in an academic program. But we do believe, that it is of the essence that students obtain professional experience during the course of their education, says Liv Okkels.