In the week leading up to the largest independent student and graduate recruitment event dedicated to the South West digital tech cluster (being held at Bristol’s Watershed at 11am on 1 December), an epic speaker line-up has been announced, ready to inspire the next generation of developers, robotics engineers, game designers and more.

Want to know how to become a games developer? Perhaps you see yourself as the next tech startup success of the West! Our speakers are sharing their experiences of everything from how to land your dream role in a startup to AI & chatbots.

Demos, tours & prizes

The Pervasive Media Studio will also be giving exclusive tours to attendees, showing you around its brilliant studios, which you can sign up for on the day.

There will be demos of some the latest cutting-edge innovations, across VR, gaming and robotics, coming out of the South West, such as the incredible ‘feeling without touch’ tech developed by Ultrahaptics.

Not only that but if you head over to Ben Paul’s talk on AI & Chatbots – you could be in with a chance of winning one of two Amazon Dots!

Tech take-over: These are just some of the companies who’ll be looking to recruit
new talent at SPARK Skills Festival


The SPARK Skills Festival isn’t just open to students and graduates, however. Experienced developers looking to seek out new opportunities or simply expand their knowledge and links within the fast-growing South West tech community are also welcome to come along, attend the talks and meet the brains behind some of the region’s most innovative tech and digital businesses.

Students, graduates, experienced developers and those interested in the South West digital tech cluster, sign up for a free ticket to the SPARK Skills Festival.

12:10pm Introduction and Welcome Nic Hemley, Bristech & Scott Logic
12:15 – 12:30pm Why Software Engineering is a great choice Joseph Woodward, JustEAT
12:30 – 1pm One young bloke and an old buzzard: how to land a role with the coolest startup in town Vince Lerigo-Smith and Tim Douglas, Actual Experience
1:00 – 1:15pm The role of a Project Manager Lily Smith, Memberoo
1:15 – 2pm AI & Chatbots: Conversations as a platform (Plus, win an Amazon Dot!) Ben Paul, JustEAT
2:00 – 2:30pm The Future is Open Source  Matt Bates, Jetstack
2:30 – 2:45pm Want to get into Robotics?  Samantha Payne, Open Bionics
3:00 – 3:15pm How I became a Games Developer Lukas Roper, Opposable Games
3:15 – 3:45pm System Outage! Tales from the shared end of computer system troubleshooting  Clive King, Oracle
3:45 – 4:30pm Panel: Startup to Corporate Hosted by: Rosie Bennett, University of Bath Innovation Centre & SETsquared


Introduction and Welcome

Nic Hemley: Scott Logic & Bristech

Nicholas-Hemley-bristechIntroducing the day of talks will be Nic Hemley (pictured left), Head of Development at IT Consultancy Scott Logic and Co-Founder of Bristech conference.

He’ll introduce TechSPARK, Bristech and the tech meetups that are joining up the South West tech cluster.

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Why Software Engineering is a great choice

Joseph Woodward, JustEAT


Joseph Woodward is a software engineer at JustEAT, open-source enthusiast, blogger and co-organiser of .NET South West.

He’ll talk us through why he chose software engineering as a career, what he’s learned after a decade of writing code, and why he thinks it’s an awesome career choice for the future.

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One young bloke and an old buzzard: how to land a role with the coolest startup in town

Vince Lerigo-Smith and Tim Douglas, Actual Experience

tim-douglas-actual-experienceTim (pictured left) turns coffee and javascript into exciting, fast web apps with pretty graphs and shiny visualisations for a tech startup.

vince-lerigo-smith-actual-experienceVince (pictured right) has worked on everything from missile guidance and flight recorders to network management and social housing systems. He now mentors a growing team of developers.

Their advice? Working in technology is about being super curious and grabbing opportunities. So, come along to find out Tim and Vince’s top ten tips on how to get ahead in your early career and land a role in a tech startup.

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The role of a Project Manager

Lily Smith, Memberoo

lily-smithLily Smith is VP Product at tech startup Memberoo. She will be talking about her journey from TV runner into tech, via a few unusual detours. She’ll also be talking about what makes a good Product Manager and providing some great resources to get started.

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The Future is Open Source

Matt Bates, Jetstack

matthew-bates-jetstackWith almost 40k commits and now close to 1000 contributors from across industry and the community, Kubernetes is truly growing up.

Once a secret infrastructure technology only available within the walls of Google data centres, as open source it is now being widely adopted to deploy and manage containers in the cloud – everything from tech-savvy startups to the largest of enterprises.

In this talk, Matt will introduce the core concepts needed to deploy scalable and resilient containerised services to Kubernetes in the cloud.

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Want to get into Robotics?

Samantha Payne, Open Bionics

samantha-payne-open-bionics-spark-skillsLooking for your dream job in robotics? Sammy is going to talk to you about how she co-founded Open Bionics, a multi-award-winning robotics startup that has designed the world’s first custom 3D printed bionic hand for amputees.

She’ll talk you through her incredible journey, which has seen her taking part in TechStars, the Disney Accelerator, UC Berkeley’s Business Accelerator and becoming a WIRED fellow. Hear what inspired her to take a leap into robotics and her advice on how to get a foot in on this booming industry.

Oh and, did we mention, Open Bionics are hiring right now! Chat to Sammy after the talk if you’re interested in finding out more.

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AI & Chatbots: Conversations as a platform

Ben Paul, JustEAT

benjamin-paul-justeatVoice and conversation are becoming more and more prominent within our homes and lives as we start to see digital assistants like Cortana, Alexa, Siri and Google Now, as well as messaging platforms like Skype, Slack and SMS.

Your apps and platforms now need to know how to react and respond in a conversational manner!

Learn how to use the Microsoft Bot Framework, Machine Learning, LUIS and the Bot Connector to connect your apps and services to conversational platforms and meet Jammy 5 – the AI chat bot who can order your takeaway, start a party for you and your friends and use cognitive services to recognise photos of food and find nearby restaurants that serve it… all while staying cheeky!

Ben also has a couple of Amazon Dots that he will be giving as prize during his talk – exciting stuff!

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How I became a Games Developer

Lukas Roper, Opposable Games

lukas-roper-opposable-groupLukas is the lead developer at Opposable Group, having worked on a wide variety of games and experiences for clients including Channel 4, Cartoon Network and the Watershed.  Lukas will be talking about his experiences of entering the industry and will explain how to ensure you are able to stand out from the crowd.

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System Outage! 300,000 people unable to work – you have to work out why and fix it. Tales from the shared end of computer system troubleshooting.

Clive King, Oracle


We all experience, or read in The Register, the high profile I.T. systems outages that stop people working, taking money out of the bank or when their favourite social media outlet goes A.W.O.L.. The I.T. industry calls it a ‘CNN moment’.

But, what is it like to make a career out of sorting these types of problems out, be they security or system failure?

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Panel: Startup to Corporate

Hosted by: Rosie Bennett, University of Bath Innovation Centre & SETsquared

rosie-bennett (1)There are so many roles within tech & digital that it’s hard to know which to choose.

Furthermore, each of the companies is so different. So, how do you know which company will be right for you? What size of company should you look for? What is it like to work for a startup with only a couple of people compared to a corporate with lots of large tech teams working in parallel?

Our panel, hosted by Rosie Bennett, an Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Bath Innovation Centre and SETsquared mentor, brings together tech team leaders from a range of companies across the size spectrum for a lively discussion!

The panel:

becky Becky Sage, Managing Director at Interactive Scientific Pre-commercial startup
yellowdog-gareth-williams Gareth Williams, Founder of Yellowdog Commercial startup
academy-mike Mike Oram, Lead Trainer and Software Developer at Mayden Established business
graham-weekes Graham Weekes, Senior Technologist at OVO Energy Scale-up

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Students, graduates, experienced developers and those interested in the South West digital tech cluster, sign up for a free ticket to the SPARK Skills Festival.

To stay in the know, follow us on Twitter: @TechSPARKuk and check out the hashtag: #SPARKSkillsFest. Whilst you’re at it, join the TechSPARK mailing list to stay up-to-date on the latest news, events and jobs in the South West tech cluster.