A-Z of Employers: IBM

Age: Over 40.

History: Although IBM was founded in the United States more than 60 years ago, it's been in the UK for only 40 or so years.

Now claiming the title of the world's largest information technology company, IBM has concerns in almost every area of the business; in the UK, it has a number of business units providing products, services and "industry solutions". In 1995 the company acquired Lotus, and a year later, Tivoli, which produces systems management products at the vanguard of the industry. It's also focusing its attention on helping companies convert to "e-businesses".

Address: In Britain alone, IBM has around 25 major sites, including London, Warwick, Manchester and Edinburgh, and a head office in Portsmouth.

There are offices in 130 countries around the world; the international headquarters is in New York.

Ambience: Employees wear smart-casual dress in open-plan, American-style offices, according to a spokeswoman. Operations are highly structured. "Our outlook is focused firmly on the customer. We've made our commitment to customers loud and clear. We make customer service and quality our obsession," says the company line.

Vital statistics: IBM serves more than a billion customers in around 160 countries, and its revenue last year exceeded $78bn, with net earnings of $6.1bn.

In the UK the company employs 18,000 people.

Lifestyle: Flexibility is the key: working hours and location will vary during a recruit's first few years, but there are also opportunities for foreign travel.

All graduates are invited to a three-day conference at least once a year, with seminars, sports activities and a gala dinner.

Easy to get into? This year, there are 400 vacancies in fields including technical consultancy, software development, information systems and analyst programming.

Intelligence, commitment and responsiveness are valued in applicants, says a spokeswoman.

"Although degrees with an element of computing experience are relevant for the more technical positions, many arts graduates prove to be just as successful in these areas."

For more information, see the company's website: http:// www.uk.ibm.com.

Pay: Graduates start on a standard salary of pounds 17,508, plus performance- and profit-related bonuses - there's a performance appraisal yearly.

Training: There's ongoing training for the first two years of a graduate's time at IBM. It kicks off with three weeks of intensive induction and training at Didcot in Oxfordshire, all within the first eight weeks of employment, and is followed by job-specific training, both technical and non-technical, sometimes classroom-based.

It's possible to specialise in areas such as Lotus Notes, AIX, Novell, application development and Windows NT, and to gain external accreditation and certification. There's also a mentoring scheme, and graduates who have completed their training are sent to an assessment centre so that bosses can identify their strengths for future employment.

Facilities: All IBM sites in the UK have subsidised canteens, and many have cash points. One training-site, Hursley Manor in Hampshire, also boasts a running track, a football pitch, a baseball diamond and a cricket field - plus a bar and shop.

Who's the boss? Carl G Symon, who joined IBM in 1969 in the States, became the UK's chief executive this year.

Rachelle Thackray