Just in case you don’t take our word for how good a place Softwire is to work, find out what some of our employees think.
“Softwire caught my eye because they put such an emphasis on problem solving and aptitude as opposed to plain experience…”
It took me a few years and a few different jobs out of university to decide I wanted to pursue a career in software development. I had studied mathematics at university and had relatively little programming experience so found the idea of applying to graduate schemes somewhat daunting. Softwire caught my eye because they put such an emphasis on problem solving and aptitude opposed to plain experience. That and their promise of on-the-job training and support, plus a lot of very friendly people, and I knew I wanted to work there.
Most of the work is project-based so you’re likely to find yourself part of a relatively small team. This gives a great support network and means that there’s always someone on hand to talk through problems and answer questions. The work itself is enjoyable and challenging – whether it’s design, programming or support work there are always clear goals and a real sense of achievement in meeting them. You have to use your brain a lot which, though tiring, adds to the sense of satisfaction when you work something out. The teams are pretty fluid too and there’s quite a bit of variety in the type of work you might be doing, which is great for keeping you on your toes.
Despite the team-based structure, the company is small and close-knit enough for there to be a lot of information sharing and support between the teams. There are also a number of responsibilities which are shared around the office, such as conducting interviews, organising morale-boosting events and sourcing new ‘accessories’ for the chill-out area in the office… this all adds to the community feeling which exists at Softwire and makes for a great working environment.
It’s not just the work that’s fun, though. Softwire puts a huge emphasis on morale so there’s always a variety of events being organised – from pub trips and poker nights to paintballing and picnics, there’s definitely something for everyone. The office has a very inclusive atmosphere and there are regular unofficial social events that everyone’s invited to as well as the official ones; in fact there’s a real danger of filling up your entire social calendar if you’re not careful!
I’ve yet to find a downside to working at Softwire, and I honestly don’t think there is one. I was happy enough to find a career that I was excited about following, but to find a company that I’m so excited about working for – it really can’t get much better!
“Softwire is somewhere rather special, full of genuinely friendly people…”
“I remember feeling a little uncomfortable as I navigated my way around an industrial-feeling complex in Kentish Town, in search of my first job. Fresh from the spires of Oxford it seemed like an unusual move to work in a smaller company, especially as many of my university friends were off to work in large and fancy offices in the city. However, it became clear during my interview that Softwire is somewhere rather special, and now I am especially glad that I found it.
One of the best things about Softwire is that it is full of genuinely friendly people. There’s always someone to have a nice chat with in the kitchen, and people often seem to be positively itching for the opportunity to help each other out. Email a technical question around the office and you’ll find yourself flooded with thoughtful replies in minutes. Start a crossword at lunch and you’ll soon find yourself fielding suggestions from a small army of helpers. As well as this simply being fun, it creates a great learning environment too – you’ll never be short of valuable feedback.
Another thing that is immediately obvious is that Softwire does not have some of the traditional restrictions that you would expect in a corporate environment. Dress is (almost always!) informal, working times are relaxed and flexible, games lie scattered around the office, and you are unlikely to tread on someone’s toes by doing something unconventional. Despite all this though, things are definitely not out of control either. In fact, there is a strong sense of rationale and transparency across the whole company, making sure that the business runs smoothly. Everyone’s viewpoint is welcomed and taken seriously. Being primarily made up of software developers, it is perhaps not surprising that there is a strong logical foundation to the company!
I have really enjoyed the breadth of experience that Softwire has offered me, and I think it is a great place to develop as a software professional. With each year that passes I am amazed when I look back and see just how many new technologies and skills I have got to grips with. Only last week I had my first taste of the programming language Ruby. A couple of weeks before that I was introduced to Java Enterprise Edition. There’s also a real sense in which the company as a whole is learning too – we regularly try out new technologies and methodologies, and the results of these trials are fed back to everyone. I look forward to seeing where we go next!”
“Every day that I come to work, I do so looking forward to what I do…”
I’ve been at Softwire for exactly three years now, and it’s astonishing looking back to think how much I’ve learned. I arrived fairly green in terms of programming experience. I’d done a bit of MatLab and an introduction to C while studying for a PhD, and some ActionScript for university-related websites, but my only exposure to proper development work had been seven years earlier writing air defence prototypes for the navy in Visual Basic. My background is in psychology – I definitely didn’t have the maths or computer science degree that so many places seem to insist on.
Despite that lack of initial experience, Softwire has really helped me to become a much better programmer, and has been willing – eager even – to give me positions of responsibility. I’ve been customer manager for our largest long-term customers and technical lead for a complex, high-profile piece of work… there’s definitely no feeling that just because I haven’t been here as long as some other people, I’m somehow more ‘junior’ than them. If you prove yourself, then you will rapidly be given opportunities to prove yourself further.
Softwire’s approach to training is one that I think really works. I’ve never been one for book-learning, and from the moment I arrived I was put into a real project, writing real code. Obviously I made mistakes to begin with (and still do!), but the whole system is designed to allow for that, to make you feel useful while you improve and to provide lots of support to help you do so. I’m sure that other people will be more attuned to learning things from documentation before getting stuck in – and it’s perfectly possible to do it that way – but there’s nothing that can replace actual programming.
The atmosphere away from your desk is great – whether in the office, or out and about. It’s a really relaxed place to work, and the people here are all pretty relaxed to go with that. There’s always social events in the pipeline, and generally they are ones that you’d actually consider doing rather than just away-days and team-building.
The thing that really excites me about the work we do is the real sense of ongoing achievement. Whatever the problem that needs to be solved, it’s fairly safe to say that it will be possible to find a solution. In the end the computer will do what you want it to, not vice-versa, and I still get a genuine sense of accomplishment when I finish a piece of code or fix a bug. Every day that I come to work, I do so looking forward to what I do – and I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people here would say the same thing.
“Personally, I really value the chance to vary my routine a bit from day to day…”
Having studied Psychology at university, people are often surprised when I tell them I work in software development – it seems quite a radical sideways jump. And yet at Softwire this is far from unusual; the vast majority of our employees studied subjects other than Computer Science at university. As it says in our recruitment literature, Softwire are far more interested in the potential that applicants display for learning how to program than in their prior experience.
That was just one of the things that attracted me to Softwire when considering my career after graduation. The others may well have caught your attention too while you’ve been browsing these profiles – but I’ll highlight my personal favourites anyway, just in case you’ve missed them.
Softwire is still relatively small, at around eighty people, which makes it a very exciting organisation to be part of. It naturally means that new employees make a real difference very early on in their careers, with plenty of opportunity to take on positions of responsibility and be a significant part of development teams (which typically consist of around 2-5 people). I also like the size because it’s large enough to avoid feeling claustrophobic, but still small enough that I don’t feel swamped or insignificant.
In addition, there’s a wide variety of work to fill the day since most of the non-technical tasks are carried out by employees on a part-time basis. This means lots of opportunities to get involved in non-development work, such as recruitment, technical support, organising morale events, or reorganising and updating our chill-out area (all of which I’ve been involved in). Personally, I really value the chance to vary my routine a bit from day to day.
We’re also a very employee-focussed company, putting a lot of effort into our employees’ happiness and their personal development. The work ethic is based on having employees that feel valued and supported by their company, and challenged by and interested in their work – and this is certainly what I’ve experienced. The directors are very open about company policy, and they always consult the employees about decisions which affect us all.
And a big part of Softwire’s appeal is the social side. I’ve made some very good friends here at Softwire, and we’re all encouraged to socialise together and enjoy each other’s company away from our desks – be that at a lunch trip, the pub on Friday evening, or the annual company conference. Of course, the “good social atmosphere” card is an easy one for a company to play and it’s impossible to prove one way or the other on a website. But I can honestly say that it’s brilliant. You’ll just have to take my word for it – or come and see for yourself!
“There’s a real sense of community and togetherness at Softwire that larger companies often lack…”
Joining Softwire was a big move for me. From working for a number of years in a non-IT role at a large and well-established corporation, I was about to join a much smaller company to pursue a testing role – an area in which I had very little experience and had studied only briefly as part of my degree course. With Softwire growing by the day so was their need for testing skills and I was excited to discover that I was to be Softwire’s first full-time, dedicated tester.
From the outset I was given a mentor to guide me in the right direction and help alleviate any concerns I had during my induction. The support I received during those first few months was invaluable as I broadened my knowledge, skills and experience. As my abilities developed, I was able to see many of my ideas put into practice – a source of real job satisfaction. There has been a lot of scope to tweak the role and responsibilities to match my preferences; consequently I feel very much in control over my career prospects and progression.
Although some people have reservations about working for a smaller company, the advantages really do outweigh any disadvantages. At Softwire your ideas, thoughts and opinions are valued and you’re able to have a greater impact on the company’s direction and future plans. There’s a real sense of community and togetherness at Softwire that larger companies often lack. We all take it in turns to organise fun activities throughout the year – and our friends are welcome too! One example is the annual company picnic on Hampstead Heath, where we spend the afternoon soaking up the sun and playing field games. The breadth of activities available to staff reflects not only the company’s strong commitment to work-life balance but also to inclusivity.
The working atmosphere at Softwire is very chilled out. Softwire operates flexi-time, which means I can get in after the rush hour commuters and feel more relaxed and ready to start work. There’s an awesome games room, which all my friends are jealous of, and which can be used at our leisure throughout the day (once any urgent work has been completed of course).
Working at Softwire has certainly changed my opinion of smaller companies – or at least of this smaller company! If you are open to new challenges and are motivated in your work you can progress extremely well here, surrounded by a team that genuinely cares about you and your career development.
“I was looking for a career change that would be interesting, challenging and rewarding…”
I’ve been at Softwire now for just under two years after being a full-time musician for a while. I’d done very little computer science work except making some web pages in PHP, but it was something that I had enjoyed doing, and I was looking for a career change that would be interesting, challenging and rewarding. I had recently completed a Masters’ degree in Mathematics, and computer science was one of the careers I was looking into.
On my first day of joining, I had to set up my new development machine. Softwire is a pretty hands-on company, and this was a good way to ease into life at Softwire. At the end of the first day, a bunch of colleagues took me out to the local boozer, and the local curry house, thus making my second day of work that much more difficult through a combination of beer and Sambuca.
With no formal training in computing, and little experience in programming, I was quite nervous joining Softwire. Whilst nerves like this are completely understandable, with the mentoring that Softwire provided and the fact that all my new colleagues were extremely helpful and approachable, I was pretty much up to speed in C#, SQL and MVC within a couple of months. Before the year was up, I was put in charge of one of Softwire’s biggest customers, and now I’m still feeling that I’m learning at quite a rate.
The atmosphere at Softwire is tremendous. There is a variety of games (including table football, pool and table tennis), a gym, regular cooked subsidised lunches and an eight-seater cinema in which my colleagues play games from times of yore. All this helps to add to a relaxed atmosphere that is both pleasant to be in and is (surprisingly, sometimes) conducive to hard work. And, speaking of hard work, there’s plenty of that to go around: a working atmosphere where the unexpected quickly becomes the norm for you. Sometimes, it’s a little frustrating, but that is more than made up for by the satisfaction of solving the problems that working at Softwire throws at you.
Oh: and the parties. And the picnics. The endless trips to the pub. Cinema trips; ice-skating; manicures; office massages; paint balling; project events. All fantastic.
Softwire is looking for people with a penchant for solving problems, and a clear ability to do so. The interview process is challenging, and is designed to pick out precisely those people. Even with such a lack of experience, in my case, Softwire’s interview process seems to have been a good indicator. If you want to work with a variety of programming languages and technologies, and never to stop learning, you should give careful consideration to applying to Softwire.
“The relaxed atmosphere suits me perfectly, and there is challenging work and the opportunity to take on responsibility…”
I took a year out to travel after finishing university, and thought returning to the world of work would be a real chore. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, I would probably rather be on a beach on the other side of the world, but since no one would pay me for that, working at Softwire is the best realistic option!
As well as technical work, you can also take on plenty of responsibility early on here, if you want to. There is usually a lot of contact with customers, and you can volunteer to do interviews too. Of course, if you’re not interested in taking on management responsibility you don’t have to – you can focus solely on technical excellence.
There’s no shortage of things to do at work when you need a break – from table tennis, pool and table football to a lunchtime round on the Playstation, or just sitting around in the chill out area to chat. As a bonus, we’ve got a pretty good coffee machine too, if you’re into that, and plenty of other drinks and snacks – all completely free!
Outside work there are plenty of opportunities to socialise, with various morale events organised on a fairly regular basis. The two big events on this year’s calendar are the almost legendary “Softwire birthday party”, and the company conference, to be held in Barcelona. There are also regular smaller events – only shortly after starting did I find myself heading to Thorpe Park instead of going to work on a Thursday morning, and we don’t need much of an excuse to go out to the pub and then for dinner – we always welcome our new starters with a curry.
So far I’ve had a fantastic time working at Softwire. The relaxed atmosphere suits me perfectly, and there is challenging work and the opportunity to take on responsibility to keep things interesting – hopefully for many years to come.