Fast Track: A-Z of employers - EDS

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The Independent Culture
Age: 14 in the UK.

History: The parent company, Electronic Data Systems, was established in 1962, near Dallas, Texas; the corporation is now based there, in a huge, futuristic headquarters resembling St Paul's Cathedral in size and grandeur. It is also the largest professional and IT services company in the UK, gaining ground when it purchased SD-Scion in 1991. Growth has come with outsourcing of IT and processing functions of large public and private organisations; the company has contracts with the Inland Revenue, Rolls-Royce Aerospace, General Motors, Bechtel and the Department of Social Security, among others.

Address: The company's UK arm is based in the giant Stockley Park near Heathrow. It also has 120 other offices in the UK, including major sites at Telford, Derby and Swansea.

Ambience: Small teams are the norm, and work is deadline-driven and focused on project delivery. Office atmospheres vary from being competitive to relaxed, although free-thinkers should be warned that a degree of conformity is expected; under former owner Ross Perot, beards were banned, and staff are still occasionally reminded of what constitutes appropriate behaviour.

Vital statistics: Turnover in the UK last year was more than pounds 1bn - ahead of IBM, CSC, ICL and Andersen Consulting - and growth is more than 30 per cent per year. The company now has 12,000 employees; more than 60 per cent of them are in technical jobs.

Lifestyle: Can be demanding, with employees working long and hard, and sometimes travelling, to satisfy customers on time. The company calls it a "challenging but rewarding" culture. Commitment, it says, is highly valued and recognised.

Easy to get into? Prospects for graduates are bright: the company has already recruited more than 1,100 employees since January, and is looking for 800 graduates this year. It claims to welcome those with the right skills and aptitudes, which include strong "interpersonal" qualities. There are two training schemes: one technical, one non-technical. Even those with just GCSEs and A-levels can apply for the modern apprenticeship scheme, which has 200 places this year.

Glittering alumni: None to boast about, although the company points out that its turnover rate - in a fiercely competitive employee market - is just 11 per cent, set against an industry average of 18 per cent.

Pay: Discretionary bonuses are available for high achievers, and starting salaries are dependent on qualifications and experience. Graduates can earn more than pounds 25,000 within two years, if they're valuable enough.

Training: The company has its own 18- to 24-month training programme, including classroom, computer-based and on-the-job training. Trainees can become chartered engineers with either the British Computer Society or the Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Canteen: Most sites have subsidised restaurants, open for breakfast and lunch.

Who's the boss? UK chief executive is Alan Stevens. David Courtley - who joined as a graduate - is managing director.