As Scott Logic is a member of Dynamo North East and benefits from its vast network and industry insights, I attended the Dynamo16 conference at Northumbria University’s Business School as a first timer last month. There has been so much happening in the UK over the last couple of weeks, and the conference gave me much food for thought.
Dynamo is an organisation focusing on growing the IT economy in the region, but much of its wisdom applies equally to other locations. The key call to action was for business to collaborate more widely, and more effectively, something Scott Logic subscribes and aspires to.
We can’t manage what we can’t measure
In the first breakout session I attended there was a series of presentations attempting to define the North East’s IT economy. Janine Docherty from Durham County Council explained her frustration (that I share) over the lack of real data on the size and depth of our industry. One of my favourite sayings is we can’t manage what we can’t measure! However, Geek Talent detailed their ambition to map skills across all career areas in tech, which could help with this.
Ed Vaizey, the Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, offered reassurance that the Northern Powerhouse is not just about Manchester and explained how the North East needs to realise just how good its tech sector is. I also attended a thought-provoking panel hosted by Sage Group about big employers and why they should collaborate, strengthen and help grow the North East tech economy.
However, my two highlights were listening to both Dame Stephanie Shirley and Alex Depledge, the founder of Hassle.com. Dame Shirley shared her inspirational story about how she started her women-only software business (until the law changed to make that illegal). I learnt that the software for the black box recorders for Concorde was written by women in their kitchens! What both women have in common is they not only have great drive, determination and energy to change things for the better, but they demonstrate real Leadership by taking action to achieve that change too.
Actions speak louder than words
Everyone is struggling for talented individuals - there is a global shortage; we know this, we hear it all the time. Let's take a leaf from Dame Stephanie and Alex’s book and stop talking about it. Instead, let’s start collaborating with each other to grow our own talent in the regions, not just the North East. We can’t expect to be consumers of graduates that universities deliver as project-ready, client-savvy consultants with an understanding of all the latest technologies, as this is simply not realistic. Education can only keep up with industry with its input. So, if we as businesses want this, let’s help make it happen.
Here at Scott Logic, at all four of our city centre locations, we attract and nurture our own talent - we look for excellent problem solving skills, brain power, a passion for technology and the desire and ability to continuously learn. We then take this raw talent and train our people in the use and application of modern technologies, which we use to service our clients.
We employ a large number of graduates, with two intakes per year and we also offer paid summer internships for students considering careers as software developers and testers. We encourage colleagues at all levels to continuously learn and share that learning, both internally and externally, through mentoring, speaking at conferences and meetups, blogging and getting involved in the open source community. We are also exploring opportunities and partnerships that could see us dipping our toes into the world of degree apprenticeships in the future.
Our teams work closely with universities in the North East, South West, Scotland and beyond, and we are always looking to contribute more to our communities through such partnerships, and those outside academia. This is a particular area of focus for us. In Bristol, we have come together with other tech organisations in the community to start the Bristech monthly meetup group, which has grown into an annual conference. It is run for developers, by developers and boasts 1,255 active Bristechnologists.
We run hack days, sponsor and attend meetups and conferences, we have STEM ambassadors and contribute volunteers to school code clubs. We’d like to do far more, but as an SME in a competitive environment, this can be a challenge. However, collaboration can help address this challenge.
Collaboration starts with us
Let’s all get involved in our schools and colleges, to show parents, teachers and students themselves the incredible possibilities presented by a career in technology. Let’s grow and shape our own talent. We can all be ambassadors for our industry, and help dispel the stereotypes, myths and confusion that lingers unnecessarily around its careers.
We need to work together as a business community with the education sector, quangos and public sector organisations, to showcase the regions as realistic options for businesses and viable alternatives to London for tech talent.
In the North East we are very fortunate to have representation and relationships with the likes of Tech North, Dynamo North East, Campus North and Sunderland Software City, and in other regions Tech City UK, TechSpark, Hi-Tech Bristol and Bath, and countless others. Together, let’s keep building!