Softwire Blog


Softwire Comedy Night 2015


11 February 2015, by

A couple of weeks ago Softwire hosted their third annual charity comedy night and it was a rip-roaring success! In an attempt to brighten up blue Monday (the saddest day of the year apparently) and raise awareness of mental health issues, some of Softwire’s very brave staff took to the stage to try their hands at stand-up comedy.

We put on quite a show, which was followed by performances from three professional comedians – a great way to end the evening. This year featured the very witty Hari Sriskantha, hilarious pedant Matt Rees and the ever wonderful Bec Hill. It was a great chance for our amateur comedians to relax post performance.

The final act of the evening was a pie-ing of our Managing Director Zoe, who unfortunately lost a vote between her and two of our other directors, but in the processed helped us raise even money for mind. Between tickets, the voting and the professional comedians very kindly donating their fess we raised over £1000 for Mind. A great effort for a great cause! Well done Softwire! 

Training Internship Profile; Bingqian Liu


10 December 2014, by

BingThe 4-week training internship at Softwire was my first ever internship. It was a most unforgettable experience for the invaluable knowledge gained in software development through systematic training projects provided by the company.

The programme began with three coding challenges to get us familiar with C#, a programming language that is widely used in website development. Features of the tools to be used were introduced in mini-lectures by experienced software engineers and then practiced in the challenges and the subsequent web application project. We started developing the web application from the second week. Other elements of a .Net web app such as MVC, HTML, JavaScript and CSS also played important roles in the development, which required a lot of reading, practicing, trial-and-error along with help from our project managers. We were all also sent regular emails delivering more general information about software development.

All the interns divided into pairs to work on different but related tasks in the project. We swapped pairs regularly so that everyone got a chance to work with different people and share in their different backgrounds and experience. Our managers regularly reviewed our work allowing us to improve our code on as we progressed through the project. We also periodically tested the
features implemented by others in turn and gave feedback.

What impressed me most about Softwire was that all the people around us were ready to help with any problems, which made me feel less and less nervous day by day. At the end of the fourth week, the website was ready, and we launched it internally for the staff to use. After working on the project for the last month, I and the rest of the interns were also keen to use the product we had created.
It was great to finally see it in use, and it was lovely to be part of a group of such enthusiastic and innovative people from day one.

Internship Profile: David Edey


3 November 2014, by

I applied to Softwire in my second year of studying Maths at Cambridge. As I applied reasonably late, all the spots had been filled for 2013, and so an offer had to be postponed for a year till 2014. It was, however, well worth the wait!

Softwire is the kind of company that makes you feel welcome the moment you walk in the door. Everyone I had the pleasure to meet (which, over my 10 weeks, was the majority of the London office!) was kind, friendly, and helpful. Not only that, everyone had a pride, passion and enjoyment for/of their work which really shone through. Added to that, the almost completely flat management structure made everyone – even us interns – feel equally valued and respected.

The work itself I found really interesting – I was in a project with other interns creating a desktop application in C# from scratch. Despite the fact that the majority of the team had never programmed in C# before (or, for that matter, other object orientated C-style languages such as C++/Java), we were soon not only writing code at a blazing rate, but moving onto focusing on making it clean, readable and testable – all under the guidance of our fantastic technical lead, Jamie.

Whilst “clean, readable and testable” might sound a little dull, it actually made it fun: whilst writing code that works might be easy, writing code that makes logical sense and is easy to understand is just as important, and learning new ways to think about coding was really enjoyable.

If we were ever stuck, Jamie was just literally just behind us, ready to help with anything, and Ying (of intern-blog 2012 fame!) also did a fantastic job at helping us out. In fact, we all learnt so much that in my final week, I even had the opportunity to talk through some of the new stuff we’d learnt, and share the knowledge with other members of staff at Softwire, at a “Lunch and Learn” session. Go to a lunch and learn session, and you not only learn some interesting things, you also get free lunch on the company. It’s one of many initiatives that embody the passion for sharing, learning and self development shared by everyone at Softwire.

On the subject of lunch, the food was amazing and very reasonably priced, and cooked by Helen, the in-house chef. There is also a very large morale budget, meaning the cupboards are full of all sorts of snacks for the taking, and there are regular events (3-4 times a week), with food and/or drinks paid for by the company, and were definitely some of the highlights of my summer. Events ranged from various pub trips – through to rampaging dinosaurs across a city at Pizza and Board Games night – and an afternoon out of the office for the annual Hampstead Heath picnic, spontaneously attended by the one and only Ed Miliband!

All in all, the internship was a fantastic experience, and I would thoroughly recommend it!

Tea, cake, beer? Softwire are recruiting!


24 October 2014, by

A few weeks ago here at Softwire we had various media outlets banging on the doors keen to get a piece of Gareth, our colleague who became an overnight Twitter sensation after Ed Miliband repeatedly made reference to him in his party conference speech. It was however easy to miss in all of the excitement that Ed didn’t just have something to say about Gareth himself, but he also had some very kind words about Softwire and the team we employ here.

Ed said ‘I didn’t just meet him, I met his colleagues as well. And that software company, the thing that shines through about it for me is that it is full of bright savvy young people, full of great enthusiasm.’ Now Ed may have only bumped into us briefly at our annual picnic, but we’re definitely proud that he got that impression from us.

Softwire have always placed a great emphasis on employing the right people and building a great company full of friendly, smart people who really love their work. This means that our recruitment process involves properly getting to know the people who are applying to work here. Whilst that does include the usual interview processes, we believe a great place to start is with our recruitment events which this year we’ll be running at Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol and Bath Universities.

These include the traditional recruitment fairs thrown by many a university, but we don’t like to just turn up and hand out fliers, we like to offer potential recruits a chance to meet and talk with our current employees. This year we’ll be hosting open drinks evenings and Tea & Cake afternoons in Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol, so please come along and meet us!

The locations of this year’s events are listed below;

Oxford

Tea & Cake at The Art Café – Tuesday 11th November from 16:30 to 19:00

Drinks at The Mitre – Tuesday 11th November from 19:30 to 23:00

Cambridge

Tea & Cake at The Copper Kettle – Tuesday 18th November from 18:00 to 20:00

Drinks at The Maypole – Tuesday 18th November from 19:30 to 23:00

Bristol

Tea and cake at The Cosy Club – Tuesday 4th November from 16:30 to 21:00

Drinks at The Cosy Club – Tuesday 4th November from 19:00 to 22:00

Meet #Gareth – Star of the Softwire Office.


24 September 2014, by

GarethandEd
Softwire has a star in our midst… #Gareth, who became an internet sensation after being name-dropped repeatedly by Ed Miliband during his conference speech yesterday. Trending above Syria on Twitter, Gareth found himself at the centre of a media storm, culminating in a live interview from BBC’s Newsnight studio.

This whole story started a few weeks ago at the Softwire summer picnic, which just happened to be right next to a park bench on which Ed Miliband was sitting; writing a speech, he claims.  Gareth struck up a conversation and, among other things, voiced concerns about the unaffordability of London homes and how all but the richest are priced out of the market.

It turns out that Gareth must have made quite an impression.  During his speech to the labour party conference Ed repeatedly referenced Gareth’s comments to the point that, for many, Gareth was the only part of the speech that stuck in the mind.  Twitter and social media were flooded with speculation over Gareth’s whereabouts and it wasn’t too long before Gareth was identified as a Softwire employee, and tracked down by the media.

Talking to Gareth today he was keen to make his moment in the spotlight have a positive impact.  After discussing how best to do this, we settled on the idea of raising money for Shelter, the housing charity.  Shelter helps people with all sorts of issues relating to homelessness and its causes. Softwire has a long-standing policy of matching charitable donations made by employees and we have decided on this occasion to extend this to the general public. We will match any donations made up to a total of £5,000, which could see us sending £10,000 or more to this great cause.

You can make a donation here https://www.justgiving.com/Softwire-Ltd/.  Please help us make a real difference today!

Meet the team: Dani, Software Developer


19 September 2014, by

How long have you been working at Softwire?

I’ve been a developer at Softwire since last September, which I joined after graduating university in the summer.

What made you want to work at Softwire?

Doing my research at the end of university for a place to work, Softwire stood out for a number of reasons. I had a huge list of criteria, and Softwire was the only company that even came close! These included:

  • Small/ Medium company. I didn’t want to be a cog in a huge machine, and at Softwire your input is not only valued but also really visible from the very beginning.
  • Lots of different technologies. We learn new languages and technologies all the time here, varying from database work to service layer and even some front end web development meaning you’ll never get bored!
  • Lots of different projects. Our projects here tend to average at about 3 months. This gives you a great chance to get stuck into what you are doing, work with different people and see the whole lifecycle of the project
  • Company culture. It’s hard to describe our culture, but it’s by far the best thing about working at Softwire- something I hadn’t even anticipated when I applied. Everyone here is incredibly smart, really lovely and most of all, a good laugh.
  • Bristol! Bristol is a really great place to live, and our office is right in the centre.

How has Softwire helped you to grow as a developer?

I joined Softwire with minimal experience, but now I can confidently tackle any problems thrown at me. Being on real projects from day one means you get to learn pretty quickly the kind of code we expect here. I’m supported greatly by my colleagues and managers meaning if there is anything new I want to learn I only have to ask. Another vital part of my “growth” as a developer is that all of your work is reviewed thoroughly so you get almost continuous feedback to help you improve.  We’re also encouraged and helped to work on our own personal projects – whether it’s some software we think would make our lives better, or just an excuse to learn some new tech.

What do your friends think about Softwire?

I think most of my friend think that they would like to work at Softwire! I have a lot of friends in more corporate environments who are amazed by some of the things we get up to – whether it’s the copious amount of snacks in the kitchen or the fun events we do (we’re going to laser quest next week!). A lot of my friends are also really impressed by the charity support we get here too. I help at the Code Club the Bristol office runs, and we also have any holiday we take for volunteering matched, meaning I can take the Guide unit I run to camp!

If you could install any extra feature to our offices what would it be?

A zip line/ pulley system between our office and the brilliant sandwich shop down the hill!

Small Software Association raises doubts about government SME initiative


24 July 2014, by

In 2011 the government launched a new initiative to allocate 25% of procurement spending to SMEs. This move was made in recognition of the impact which SMEs (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) have within the UK economy. Figures from 2013 suggest that SMEs make up 99% of the 4.9million businesses in the UK, providing 14.4 million jobs – an equivalent to 59.3% of private sector employment.

When the coalition entered power in 2010 just 6.5% of government spending was going to these businesses. In a strong move aimed at raising the amount of business awarded to SMEs they set about making changes to the procurement process, to make government contracts more accessible to these smaller companies. The end result, they hope, will be one of raising expenditure on SMEs to 25% by 2015.

One sector which has seen a specific rise in government attention has been that of software and development. In 2013 the government raised its initial 25% spending target for SMEs in this sector to 50% by year end 2015. As hopeful as this may seem, doubts have been raised about the government’s capacity to reach such an ambitious target. Zoe Cunningham, Managing Director of Softwire, doesn’t believe that this target is realistic. ‘The government is not backing up the 25 percent target with engagement with SMEs. We haven’t seen much progress with it and they are being very overambitious with the 50 percent target’, said Cunningham at a meeting of 20 SMEs with the Shadow minister in May, adding that ‘SMEs are being put off bidding for government work, and they are not being listened to. It’s still much easier for us to work with private businesses than government.’

Zoe is an active and vocal member of the technology community in the UK and her concern about the hope of success for the new 50% spending target led her to found the Small Software Association. At present the association represents 60 of the UK’s smaller software companies, and they’re campaigning to get the government to truly achieve its SME quotas in the sector.  One of the key issues Zoe believes that SMEs face in this scenario is the government sub-contracting to small companies though larger IT suppliers. She claims that ‘small company spend is going to 500-employee companies and large outsourcers, who promise to flow the work down, but don’t deliver.’ The association is launching its campaign in Bristol on 29th July with a meeting between representatives from local software companies. Their hopes are to promote software best practice within UK SMEs and raise awareness of the issues they face when applying for government tenders.

Softwire voted best IT employer for graduates!


20 June 2014, by

Me (on the left) getting very excited about meeting Alex HorneRecently I had the pleasure of attending the JobCrowd 2014 awards for Best Graduate Employers on behalf of Softwire. Now Softwire have won their fair share of awards, including coming in the top 25 of the Sunday Times’ Best Small Companies to Work For Award for the last four years running, but as a graduate working for them I was excited to find out where we’d place in this one.

I can now happily announce that Softwire came top of their category! That’s right, out of all IT companies with a “smaller graduate intake”, Softwire were voted the best for graduates to work at! Across all sectors, we placed 8th overall.

I’d certainly say that it’s worth a pat on the back for all the people here who put so much effort into looking after our graduates. Speaking from personal experience I can only really sing Softwire’s praises. I’ve had all manner of jobs – from selling sofas to cheffing in London restaurants – and I have never before come across a place that cares so deeply about the welfare, training and progression of its employees.

If it wasn’t already enough that I get to work for such a great company, they then sent me and a colleague along to collect our award at a ceremony presented by Alex Horne (presenter of The Horne Section on BBC Radio 4 and as it happens one of my favourite comedians). It was a lovely evening and made me even prouder of this great company. So well done to everyone, for all of your effort, all of your care and dedication. It’s definitely a hard-earned and well deserved trophy for the cabinet!

Softwire Tenants Update: Park At My House


10 June 2014, by

For the past year or two, Softwire has been providing office space for a number of start-ups. This has helped both us and them to keep costs down, and resulted in some useful cross-pollination of ideas. We’ve shared not only space, but also plenty of perks such as regular massages, our company chef and delicious coffee. We thought you might like to know what some of these tenants are up to – and who better to start us off than Corissa Nunn of Park at my House, themeselves experts in the “sharing economy”:

“When is a car not a car?

When it turns into a garage.”

Chortle. It’s all well and good if you’re the lucky owner of a garage, and if the place you’re driving to comes complete with a comfortable abundance of parking. For the majority of frustrated folks out there with a set of wheels to find a home for, however, parking is no laughing matter.

At ParkatmyHouse.com, we help drivers at the end of their tether to tap into parking spaces that they never knew existed – spots that are often a flabbergastingly small fraction of the price of commercial parking. From the residential driveways of homeowners to underused spaces at churches and hotels, they’re just round the corner, and bookable in the blink of an eyelid. Want to park your car right next to London Euston station for £8 a day? Sure, why not?

Half a million people already use our service to park smarter, faster and cheaper when they go shopping or attend a sporting event, and also for longer-term arrangements, such as the daily commute, a holiday or the school run.

On the flipside, we’re helping thousands of people turn the dead space they lay claim to into significant extra income. You (yes, you there, clutching the half-eaten Digestive biscuit) might be sitting on a patch of spare land that could be worth thousands of pounds a year. All you need to do is create an account on ParkatmyHouse.com, decide how much you want for your parking space, publish a listing for free, and wait for the bookings to roll in.

So why do we do what we do? Basically, we believe in the power of sharing (the Barney the Dinosaur bit) and cold hard economics. The maths behind our business model is a no-brainer: the number of people on this planet is increasing, but the resources available to us are decreasing. People share stuff all the time; as it happens, we share office space with Softwire. We’re literally breathing the same air and and using the same toilets and fighting over the same coffee mugs and – believe it or not – nobody has been given a restraining order. Yet. We even get to learn the odd nifty fact about software solutions, and they get to play with our Scalextric.

Anyway, whether you’re a homeowner with a parking space you don’t use, or a driver who’s fed up to the back teeth of going round in circles hunting for parking and wasting your precious time and money, ParkatmyHouse.com can sort you out. We’re taking the pain out of parking, because no journey should go unmade. Bon voyage!

Whisky & Chocolate Networking Event


25 April 2014, by

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/lobsterstew/1121769641/In March Softwire threw their first official networking event at Shoreditch House for people in the technology industry. The event was aimed at IT professionals from big companies across London – as an opportunity to network with each other, but also to meet some of Softwire’s fantastic team.

One of the things we’re most proud of here at Softwire is our company culture. We place a huge emphasis on making Softwire a great place to work, and that’s something which isn’t just relevant to candidates applying for a career here, but also to clients who want to work with us. It’s the simple mind-set of happy staff equals happy customers and we thought our first networking event was a great forum to get this message across.

The event itself centred on a whisky and chocolate tasting, led by world renowned whisky expert Colin Dunn and our very own ex-pastry chef Amy – now a member of our sales team. Colin, a performer through and through, led the crowd through a selection of four whiskies ranging from the well rounded, mellow Singleton Sunray to the peaty, fruity punch of a Talisker Port Ruighe. Each whisky was paired with an artisanal chocolate: two from the world renowned masters Valrhona and Amedei alongside exciting bars from their more recently established British counterparts Artisan du Chocolat and Duffy Red Star.

The entertainment definitely offered some great talking points, and the whisky itself certainly made that often fearsome practice of networking a little easier. There was a great variety of companies present on the evening, from international banks like Barclays to media moguls like the BBC and people stayed late into the night enjoying the spread laid on by Pizza East and taking the opportunity to chat with other people from the technology industry.

The aim of the evening was to show off Softwire’s incredible company culture and we certainly pulled it off. Everyone from our own developers to our wonderful guests left with a smile of their face, and some warm whisky in their belly. Plans are already underway to throw a second, bigger and even better event later in the year!