adlib-at-spark-skills-festivalAs recruitment partner of TechSPARK, we were invited to join some of our friends as exhibitors at the SPARK Skills Festival. More than 40 digital companies showcased the region’s innovations and opportunities to the future generation of tech talent.

It was definitely a celebration and get together of some key players that make our area the globally significant tech cluster it is.

We met hundreds of the next-gen robotics engineers, games developers, coders and entrepreneurs. Every business that decides to take on graduates helps build and maintain the strong pipeline of top talent we have in the South West.

attendees-at-the-spark-skills-festivalWhile there, we caught up with some fellow exhibitors at the event to ask them a few questions. Here are some insights for those of you considering to take on graduates, from those who have done it – and also some pointers for all you graduates wanting to get employed by cutting-edge tech companies….

ADLIB: What is the best part about taking on grads?

Ambrose Gladwell, Intern Developer at Sonocent:

It’s the innovation that grads bring. They provide access to new ideas and tech the business may not have played with before. There’s the huge benefit of new approaches to problems and, of course, their enthusiasm is always amazing.

Gill Hawkins, Marketing Director at Actual Experience: The energy and the enthusiasm. Everything with them is still to be learned and explored and that’s really refreshing. Being a start-up like us, you always need people that will want to push boundaries of what’s possible.

cloud-heroes-cathrine-svendsen-spark-skills-festivalCathrine Svendsen, Marketing Manager at Cloud Heroes (pictured left): They are eager to learn, so it’s easier to take them on early and train them internally than someone who has years of experience, but is much more set in their ways. We’ve found grads and apprentices to be flexible, highly adaptable and enthusiastic about new tech, which helps us stay ahead of industry developments.

Louise Robertson, Human Resources at Wazoku:

As an established start-up, we have a solid structure and processes in place, but we aren’t as rigid as bigger corporate companies and so we like to hire people who can bring new ideas, different perspectives and alternative ways of doing things. We find that grads very often bring the energy and enthusiasm required to help approach things differently, which is great for us.


ADLIB: What has been the biggest surprise about working with grads?

helm360-at-spark-skills-festivalBim Dave, Exec VP Products & Services at Helm360 (pictured on the right):

Their aptitude for learning. I came up through a grad program myself and they are hugely different these days. It’s a different breed of techie in the modern world, already having much better skills in general. It used to be that grads would just be sat down at their desk quietly, not getting involved and doing what they were told but now grads bring new energy and ideas in and are always excited to be part of the process. It’s really nice to see.

Louise Robertson, Human Resources at Wazoku:

Quite often, someone will start working for Wazoku in a certain area of the business and another part of the business will catch their eye once they’ve been with us a little while. We try to accommodate people moving around internally as this enables a broader understanding of the whole business and avoids departments becoming siloed.

ADLIB: What do you see is the biggest challenge grads often face when settling into “work life”?

Gill Hawkins, Marketing Director at Actual Experience:

Often it’s learning ‘how to go to work’. There’s a big switch between doing whatever you want, having the choice whether to go to that 9am lecture or not, and having the obligation and responsibility to the business and your colleagues to turn up and be actively involved.

Josh Edney, Solutions Architect at Cloud Heroes:

In the early days, perhaps committing to the new role and adapting to a 9-5 lifestyle. Many of their friends will still be out partying on week nights and it can be hard to resist the temptation. It’s important to demonstrate to the employer that you’re reliable and will be on time every morning and productive throughout the day.

Tracey Hatch, Operations Manager at Felinesoft:

Our biggest challenge when we’ve hired graduates is them knowing when to ask for help at an appropriate time. Sometimes they can either ask too soon or they try and figure it out for themselves and get lost completely. I think the best way of getting around this is to make sure you’re clear on how long it should take to do the task

Louise Robertson, Human Resources at Wazoku:

It can just be a huge shock to the system going into a full-time role after having had so much of your own time whilst studying. We try to help cushion the blow on this by building in flexi-hours  for people to build their day around when they work best.


ADLIB: What’s your top tip for grads that are applying?

Gill Hawkins, Marketing Director at Actual Experience:

Be curious. Have something to talk about. No matter how small, whether an app or a website or a blog, any project is important to be able to talk through in an interview to show your passion for the work.

Tracey Hatch, Operations Manager at Felinesoft:

Make sure that there are no grammatical or punctuation errors in the CV and that there’s plenty of working links to your work on your portfolio. The CV should be a maximum of 2 pages, ideally 1 page if you’re a graduate. It should be nicely formatted and free from errors.

wazuko-at-spark-skills-festivalLouise Robertson, Human Resources at Wazoku (pictured right, in the centre):

We are always interested in hiring interesting people who can demonstrate a clear passion in something.

If you can demonstrate that you’ve got a clear interest in a particular thing and are driven towards learning more about this – that will always catch our eye.


ADLIB: What’s your top tip for grads that are about to start?

Ambrose Gladwell, Intern Developer at Sonocent:

Find out everything you can. Ask if there’s anything you can do to prepare for your start. Try and get any practice in you can if possible. Be ready to hit the ground running.

Josh Edney, Solutions Architect & Cathrine Svendsen, Marketing Manager at Cloud Heroes:

For us, experience isn’t as important as your attitude. Demonstrating a willingness to learn, a genuine interest in working in tech and the ability to be a team player is much more important, especially within smaller companies. Be open-minded, don’t worry too much about what you don’t know, but focus instead on your potential. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Bim Dave, Exec VP Products & Services at Helm360:

Do your homework. Understand the business and know what you want to do. Understand your position and be prepared to do whatever you need to to make that a reality.

Louise Robertson, Human Resources at Wazoku:

I’d advise demonstrating enthusiasm as much as possible from day one. Do as much research as you can beforehand around the sector, the business, the product and this will help you with the steep learning curve ahead.

Lots in here! Thank you all for sharing. If you are a grad looking for work, don’t forget to check out the TechSPARK job board or get in contact with us at ADLIB. You can follow us on Twitter too: @AdLibRecruit