The Cool ICT Things Going On in Welsh Schools – 3 Interviews

( Post 17 of 25 )

ICT Steering Group report photoThe inspiration for this post comes from my last job. My boss at my last agency role was really passionate about improving the way that ICT (an extended synonym of IT to include Communications) is taught in the Welsh education sector, in primary and secondary schools. In fact, he co-chaired a Steering Group tasked with “[considering] the future of computer science and ICT in schools in Wales” – you can read their report here.

Inspired by this, I spoke to three sets of people who are closely involved with ICT in schools – two projects tasked with running workshops for pupils and a company that provides tech training for teachers. IT/ICT has come a long way since many of us reading this were in school, and some really cool things are going on these days…

Technocamps

Faron & Stewart of Technocamps photoTechnocamps is a project led by Swansea University – but also in partnership with Aberystwyth University, Bangor University and the University of South Wales – aimed at delivering workshops across Wales on programming, app development, games development, robotics and other computing-related subjects. I spoke to Professor Faron Moller (Director of Technocamps) and Stewart Powell (Workshop Developer) about the work that they do…

What is Technocamps?

Technocamps is a schools outreach programme based in the Computer Science Department at Swansea University. It was established in 2003, and through the years has received financial support from a variety of companies and organisations including Welsh Government (WG), European Social Fund (ESF), National Science Academy (NSA) and NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). In 2010 Technocamps established hubs at Aberystwyth University, Bangor University and the University of South Wales Glamorgan; and in 2014 added hubs at Glyndŵr University Wrexham and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

When and why was it conceived?

In the early 1980s, the BBC Micro was introduced to schools throughout Britain, and before long they were in 80% of UK classrooms. By encouraging young learners to experiment with computers, a generation of creative talent was spawned. Applications to study computer science at university hit a peak, and computer science graduates changed the world as they helped computers come to dominate every aspect of our lives.

65% of IT teachers in the UK do not have a relevant qualification but have slipped into the role of IT teacher simply by being digitally literate.

Fast forward 30 years and the situation could not be any more different. The computer is no longer a novelty. Children spend more time at home in front of a computer screen than a TV screen, but like the TV, their interest is restricted to using the computer, not in experimenting with it. Digital literacy is rightly emphasised throughout the school curriculum, but computer studies itself has evolved into IT studies with an emphasis on office skills – much duller than the social networking and gaming for which the pupils use their home computers. 65% of IT teachers in the UK do not have a relevant qualification but have slipped into the role of IT teacher simply by being digitally literate. Applications to study computer science at university slumped – especially amongst females – with a 40% drop in applicants over the first five years of the 21st century, and many of those who start a university computer science course drop out during the first year as they are unaware of what computer science is.

To address this dire situation, Technocamps was started in 2003 at Swansea University as an outreach programme for schools and colleges, with a grand political ambition of getting computer studies in schools back on track. As an active voluntary activity, it enjoyed great success, but only on a very small and very local scale. In order to expand its operation in scale and reach, a European Social Fund (ESF) project was created in partnership with the Universities of Aberystwyth and Bangor and the University of South Wales in Glamorgan. (The ambition was to include all of Wales, with hubs also in Wrexham and Cardiff, but ESF funding restrictions meant that this project could only be delivered in the Convergence area of Wales, as well as only to secondary school children.) This 4-year project ended in September 2014, having engaged with some 10,000 young people. During this period, various other Technocamps initiatives were started through other funding bodies, including Playground Computing (for primary schools) and Technoteach (for teachers at all levels).

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What Do 16 South Wales IT Employers Look For in an Employee?

( Post 16 of 25 )

WDYLF in an Employee montageWe decided to ask 16 South Wales-based employers of IT staff the following question: “what do you look for in an employee?” We’ve tried our best to cover a wide range of businesses, from small startups with a handful of staff to large household-name companies with dedicated teams, asking company founders as well as Heads of IT/Web/Development, respectively. We’re hoping that the answers will be helpful to IT jobseekers – not just based in South Wales but further afield as well.

We’re also going to publish a follow-up post doing the exact opposite: asking South Wales-based IT folk: “what do you look for in an employer?” Similarly, we’re hoping that the answers to that question may help South Wales-based businesses to cater more accordingly to the needs of potential employees. Be sure to keep an eye out for it over the rest of the month.

The answers are below, sorted alphabetically by surname. Right at the end of the post, we’ve summarised our findings based on the most commonly-given answers – a sort of roundup summary, if you will. Enjoy…!

Luke Cornish photoLuke Cornish, Director & Co-founder of Fundible
@LukeBCornish | @fundible

Fundible provides technology to retail merchants enabling their customers to collect money online from family, friends and social connections to make a purchase possible.

Attitude is probably the most important factor. Candidates will need to demonstrate that they enjoy solving problems, do whatever it takes to get a job done and proactively learn new skills.

Since Fundible is an early stage tech company, we like candidates who have the desire to achieve something big and are genuinely excited by the opportunity – this can be shown by the candidates researching the company or the sector before interview stages and also by their general interests in startups and tech. Ultimately we’re not really looking for people who just want a job, we’re looking for people who want to be part of creating a company and can actively help shape how we grow.

There are also a number of other factors that need to be traded off against one another – for example the candidates technical ability and skill set, experience – professional and personal, communication skills, interests and so on.

We have just appointed a back-end developer and are seeking a front-end dev, so if you know someone who might be interested then please share this link – www.fundible.co.uk/home/career/ – and candidates can apply direct via careers@fundible.com.

Ian Daniels photoIan Daniels, Head of Digital at Yard Digital
@surfpunkian | @YardDigital

Yard Digital is a digital consultancy specialising in web analytics and also offering SEO and social media marketing services.

Whilst skills and experience are desirable for more senior roles, we are increasingly recruiting staff that have the right stuff character-wise. With Yard having such strong training support from Yard Academy, our digital skills training arm, we can quickly and efficiently upskill candidates that show the aptitude and drive to learn web analytics and have a robust, vocational induction to provide real experience to validate that learning. With the current digital skills gap only getting wider, fostering a hard-working, can-do attitude will make you far more attractive to employers in digital.

Warren Fauvel photoWarren Fauvel, CEO & Founder of Nudjed
@WarrenOF | @nudjed

Nudjed is digital service that offers tailored health advice based on the user’s fitness goals and lifestyle.

As Nudjed is a small but fast growing team, we hire for attitude over technical skill. We particularly like people who take ownership of problems and display drive to create things outside of work. Being open to collaboration is also important.

We also really like people who have actively sought out experience in a relevant field. Even if it’s outside of a formal work environment.

[Learn more about Nudjed – their processes, their favourite tools, etc. – in this earlier CR 25 post]

Stephen Gardener photoStephen Gardener, Co-founder of Noddlepod
@stephengardener | @Noddlepod

Noddlepod is an online social learning tool that allows collaboration and content organisation within companies.

When looking for a developer, I would say there are 3 main things I would be looking for:

1. Fit

Creating a friendly environment is super important to us – we want Noddlepod to be a place where people enjoy working, not just because they enjoy the work itself, but also because they like being in everyone’s company. So we would be looking for someone who is considerate, relaxed and friendly.

2. Technical skills

Technical details can be learnt, but the love of coding has to be there.

Someone that cares about the code they write, someone that enjoys creating stuff. Technical details can be learnt, but the love of coding has to be there. Closely related to this is a love of learning. Any potential candidate would be expected to take charge of their own learning, and would be encouraged to find courses, books, classes etc. that could help them improve their knowledge, and in turn, make Noddlepod better.

3. Self-reliance

Independence, an ability to take responsibility for their work, and to work independently is crucial. Working in a small startup means having to take ownership of your work and your learning, as there will be fewer formal structures in place to manage everything. On the other side, the employee will also have much more of a say in how their role develops.

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How To Get Your First Web Developer Job – For Graduates & Non-Graduates

( Post 15 of 25 )

Cheralyn Nadal photoToday’s post for CR 25 is a guest blog contribution – a South Wales-based web developer who is doing well in her career despite no university qualifications and people telling her that she wouldn’t be able to do it. Advice on how to do well career-wise is always so much more substantial and impactful when it’s from someone with first-hand experience, who’s been-there-and-done-that – and we really appreciate that Cheralyn has recounted her experiences in order to help others who might be in a situation similar to where she was years ago. Over to you, Cher…

With web development being such a broad sector with fast growing technology and competitive job requirements, it’s safe to say that new starters are having a bit of a tough time getting their foot in the door. In order to get into the field and create a career, it’s really important for aspiring developers to know what’s needed to get into the field, regardless of their background.

The Technical Basics

I can’t vouch for what you did and didn’t learn in university (if it applies), but from working with other developers and from personal experience, it seems that a lot of applicants aren’t aware of some of the basic skills companies look for when hiring junior developers. This isn’t to say that you’ve not worked hard enough; this is just down to not knowing because you probably just haven’t yet experienced it.

As I didn’t go to university, I mainly discovered what basics I needed by finding out in interviews (ouch) and articles online. Some of these discoveries included:

  • Setting up localhost / test environments – If you don’t know what this is, take a look at XAMPP (OS X, Windows and Linux) or WebMatrix (Windows).
  • How to install and set up open-source CMS platforms (such as WordP­­ress, Drupal, Umbraco, etc.) – All of which come with instructions and thousands of tutorials online. Some companies have their own Content Management Systems, but a lot of agencies use these open-source frameworks when building websites for clients.
  • Using version control (SVN, GIT, etc.) – See GitHub.
  • How to change DNS records to point to a server (and vice versa) – If you haven’t yet set up your online portfolio, you can use this as your practice.

Getting The Experience

  • Persistence and patience: Granted, this is probably one of the last things you want to hear if you are passionate and eager. It’s not something you want to hear if you’ve been knocked back a million times already either; but it is an absolute necessity. It took me years to get my foot in the door – it quite literally took dole, sweat and tears; but I got there and so will you.
  • Example Tumblr theme image

    An example of a Tumblr theme
    (Click to enlarge)

    Freelance – but quite literally: I’m not saying to sell yourself short but if you want to learn and you have a friend of a friend who wants a Tumblr layout made for their band then offer it. Suck it up and do it for free. Chances are, if you haven’t quite got there yet then you could maybe do with that extra bit of experience that would benefit your portfolio anyway. By doing all these little free gigs, you could build up a clientele and gain experience in various frameworks and practices without even realising how much you’re learning along the way. Don’t be frightened to take on more advanced projects either – when first starting out, learning may be the main reason for your freelancing. Plus, the joy about giving something away for free is that the person you’re doing it for can’t really complain about timescale. Haven’t got time? Make time. If you’re passionate, you’ll probably already be staying up half the night getting excited over width percentages and Dreamweaver anyway.

  • Collaborate: Preferably with an established developer. If you don’t know where to find these mystical creatures or how to get their attention then look online for local development meet-ups (if you’re local to Cardiff, check out Unified Diff and CR 25’s events post). Look on social media; ask people. Chances are, even if they aren’t available to collaborate, you could build up some strong connections. I was lucky enough in my early stages to work with a senior front-end developer based in London. He discovered me on Facebook and I learnt more in two months working on a big project with him than I did in a year by myself and as a result gained the vital skills that I needed to progress. Granted, some people won’t want to know but you’ll be surprised how many friendly devs there are out there willing to give you some free and decent advice on how they became Jedi Masters.

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3 Factors For Successful SEO Job Interviews

( Post 14 of 25 )

This post was first published on a site called Daily SEO Tip. However as the site went offline back in 2014, we have decided to republish the content here instead!

During my SEO career, I’ve sat at both sides of the interview table: I’ve been a candidate applying for a job at agencies or in-house roles, and I’ve also helped with the hiring process at an agency, sitting in on interviews and helping to choose which candidates to hire. It’s amazing how much your eyes are opened when you are involved on both sides, not just one or the other, and how your knowledge of one aspect greatly improves the other.

I’m self-employed these days, so my job interview days (in either situation) are done for the time being, but looking back at my experiences, I wanted to relay some points that I thought would help employers to make sure that they’re hiring the best SEOs for their business.

In my opinion these are the three most important factors when it comes to holding SEO job interviews:

1) Make sure that at least one interviewer has technical knowledge of SEO

Whiteboard photoThis may be a “well, duh!” point to many people, but you’d be surprised. It’s especially the case for people who are building an SEO department from scratch (to add to an agency that’s already successful in other areas of tech and/or marketing) – if your company has never done SEO before but you’re hoping to start doing so, then the people holding the interview may not have any SEO experience, and therefore they may not be able to truly test the mettle of the candidates that they’re considering.

In fact, a few years ago, I applied for a job in this situation, and although I was interviewed by the company’s top managers, I wasn’t asked any technical SEO questions, not even the basics (e.g. “what is Google PageRank?”). The problem here is that they could’ve interviewed a complete blagger with zero technical experience and they would’ve been none the wiser. Now imagine if they hired someone who fit that profile… It wouldn’t do wonders for their new department, would it!

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The Top 5 Careercake.com Videos for Jobseekers

( Post 13 of 25 )

Careercake logo
Aimee Bateman photoIt’s a great pleasure to publish this post, which is being published in conjunction with Aimee Bateman of Careercake.com. Aimee offers advice to UK jobseekers via the videos on her excellent YouTube channel. Having personally seen Aimee present at the Foundersconf Conference in Cardiff back in July 2013, I could see just how caring, genuine and passionate a person she is when it comes to trying to help people to land the job of their dreams. With that in mind, we asked Aimee to hand-pick her personal top 5 videos for jobseekers. Here they are…

1) Warning: Employers Read Your Tweets

A fairly recent video (uploaded in November), Aimee has a little “rant” about social media usage on the jobseeking front. While Twitter can be really good to use to connect and network with potential employers and to get onto their radar (and Aimee recommends keeping your tweets public, not private), it’s important not to send out negative tweets as it can scupper your jobseeking chances. She gives an example of someone who tweeted saying that they blagged in an interview, which can really be off-putting – not only if the interviewer read it, but to any and all potential employers.

[Want to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of social media and jobseeking? We conducted an interview with a social media consultant (who’s had a few jobseeking/social media success stories herself in the past) earlier in the month – check it out here!]

2) Top Tips for Networking or Careers Events

In my experience, networking is hugely underutilised on the jobseeking front – I wish that I’d networked more when I was trying to get a job out of uni years ago. Aimee recommends doing your research beforehand (find out who’s there), take business cards and/or a CV with you and not to be afraid about going it alone…

I especially like the “do your research” advice – I remember going to a career events and approached a company that I thought offered events management services (a career that I wanted to get into at the time) but found out that they actually offered financial services. D’oh! Not a good first impression and rather embarrassing…!

3) Interview Tip: Tell Me About Yourself?

Currently Aimee’s most popular video on YouTube to date (with over 300,000 views), Aimee argues that this is often the first question asked at a job interview, yet it often trips people up, as it isn’t one that people traditionally prepare for.

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