Softwire Blog


What I did on my volunteering day – Jenny


20 March 2017, by

I had the privilege of being part of the Inspire! iDiscover week at Carlton Primary School in Gospel Oak.

Volunteering at a primary school with Inspire

Inspire! are an Education Business Partnership working in Hackney, Camden and Islington. They enable young people to learn about work and gain practical experience of the skills and attributes they need for employment, in particular working with young people from less advantaged backgrounds or who are at risk of being excluded from mainstream education or who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

iDiscover is an initiative which introduces Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers to local primary school children. The week-long programme provides schools with work-related STEM activities with the aim of encouraging more girls and non-white students to consider a career in these industries.

I was part of an afternoon session with two Year 1 classes where they get to meet real-life people working in engineering careers. Aside from me, there were people from the Institute of Engineering and Technology, an energy engineering and consultancy firm, and an architect.

Volunteering at a primary school with InspireEach of the engineers ran short sessions with the children in small groups – things like building a torch or a Lego tower. I wanted to explain to the kids what a software engineer does in really simple terms (we give instructions to computers to make them do things) so I set up a very simple Scratch project. When the children pressed specific buttons on the keyboard they could make a cat sprite move around the screen, change colour or say hello to them, and I tried to get across the message that these were all instructions I had given to the computer to make it do these things.

Although some of them had never used a computer before they all got the hang of it pretty quickly and came up with ideas for other things we could make the cat do. They’ll learn more about Scratch in the later years of primary school but for now, I was just keen for them to learn that software engineering is another type of engineering, and understand that it has something to do with playing with computers!

In summary, I would like to think that I spent my volunteering day helping some kids take a small early step towards a STEM career.

Photos by Inspire! EBP

How to become a supplier for the public sector


9 November 2016, by

Have you ever wanted to work for the public sector, but didn’t think that as an SME you would have the same opportunities as a large supplier?  Softwire’s experience as a software supplier to the public sector has shown us that this is not the case. In this blog post we explore why bespoke software developers, design agencies, cloud product vendors or freelancers should consider working for the public sector.

  1. Firstly, the Government has a genuine commitment to increase public sector spend with SME’s. The target for 2020 is 33% * this follows an upward trend of 25% in 2015.
  1. Even if you have no experience in the public sector this should not detract you from applying. Softwire had little experience in the public sector but we have recently been able to win multiple varied and exciting projects. Experience in the private sector is extremely valid along as long as you can demonstrate your expertise through case studies and testimonials.
  1. There are procurement portals which list all the current opportunities available. Some good starting points are:

Explore all the frameworks on offer  http://ccs-agreements.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/

Freelancers, bespoke providers, cloud product providers and cloud consultants should head to the digital marketplace https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/ and to search for larger digital projects from across the EU: http://ted.europa.eu/TED/misc/chooseLanguage.do=

  1. In most cases the projects have been scoped and funded in advance of selecting a supplier, mitigating your risk. Requirements and budgets are usually stated upfront allowing you to assess which projects would be a good fit for your organisation and there’s a clear and open process for asking questions.
  1. The scope and range of public sector work is very diverse. It’s not just local authorities and large public bodies. Public sector includes research institutions, infrastructure providers, regulators and many more.
  1. There is a strong government directive for digital transformation and you could be working on projects using leading-edge technologies, methodologies and design techniques. The Government Digital Service manual explains and encourages best practice to ensure project success. https://www.gov.uk/service-manual
  1. Public sector projects have a strong social impact. Through digital transformation the Government wants to push the boundaries of technology to improve and make public services more effective and efficient.
  1. The government mystery shopper portal ensures that the procurement process is fair to SME’s. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mystery-shopper-results-2016
  1. techUK works with the Government on behalf of the industry and is an advocate for the needs of small and medium sized tech companies.
  1. With the Government digital transformation budget expected to be around £1.8bn next year – what are you waiting for?

*https://www.nao.org.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Governments-spending-with-small-and-medium-sizes-enterprises.pdf

Encouraging women in(to) technology


16 February 2016, by

IMG_7268Following on from our managing director Zoe Cunningham’s blog post on getting more women into technology, I thought I’d share some of my own recent experiences around encouraging women in, and into, technology.

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Charity Saturday


4 July 2013, by

Enjoying some food at the end of Charity SaturdayOn 1st June Softwire held its inaugural Charity Saturday. This brilliant idea was dreamt up by one of our directors, Dan, who was one of twenty-five Softwire employees who gave up their Saturday to work for free for charity.

This year we’ve been raising money for two charities: SCI, who provide cost-effective treatment to eradicate debilitating parasites in the world’s poorest countries, and Ashanti Development, through whom we plan to sponsor a village in Ghana, starting by providing household latrines and basic sanitation. So far Softwirians have organised various fund-raising (and morale-raising!) events such as a pub quiz and a comedy night, which have got our charitable fundraising off to a great start.

The great thing about Charity Saturday, however, was that just by doing a normal day’s work, we could raise thousands of pounds for charity, because Softwire donates all the money we earned. So no need for 117-mile slogs from Bristol to London, or scary throwing ourselves out of planes; we just spend an extra day doing the jobs that we enjoy, and the charities benefit!

On the day itself everyone turned up bright and early (ok, rolled in at their usual hour…) and got down to business. Our extra day in the office was made much more enjoyable both by Dan, whose role in the process was to buy lunch and generally wait on us hand and foot (although any overly taxing requests incurred an additional fee going to the charities), and Zoe, who kindly kept us well-supplied with pastries and chocolates during the day. Personally, I found Charity Saturday provided extra motivation to be productive – since I was giving up my weekend, then I had better make it worthwhile!

Once we’d done our day’s hard work, some of us also went to dinner at the nearby Shaolin Temple restaurant, where the merriment and charitable spirit continued into the evening.

Overall, we raised around £15 000 for Ashanti and SCI – a fantastic result!

Softwire Charity Cycle II: Cycle harder!


17 August 2012, by

After the success of our London to Brighton cycle last year fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust, Softwire’s intrepid cyclists have decided to go even further this year. On the 26th August we will be cycling all the way from Bristol to London, in aid of Action Medical Research, raising money for their crucial work funding and supporting medical research aiming to prevent and treat diseases and disability in children and babies. The route this time is 117 miles long – twice as far as London to Brighton!

The team coming from London is (from left to right) Rupert, Jonathan, Rob D, Jenny, Michael and Simon, plus Tim.

The team

Ric, head of the new Bristol office, will also be joining us from there – he was also the one who sorted out the stylish Softwire cycling jerseys you see in the picture above!

As per last year, the group is quite a mixed-ability group, from those who compete in triathlons on a regular basis, to those who are pushing their own limits and wondering whether they are going to make it all that long way in one day… So please sponsor us for Action Medical Research, at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/softwire-bristol-2012. Softwire will match every penny raised by Softwire employees, up to £500 per employee. This means that, up to our target of £4000, donations count for double, so even a small amount given makes a real difference to sick children’s lives.

Thanks – wish us luck, and we’ll report back in a few weeks!

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We made it to Brighton!


18 November 2011, by

In my last blog post I told you that a number of Softwire employees and friends were preparing to cycle 60 miles to Brighton on a sponsored ride for Teenage Cancer Trust (here’s our sponsorship page).

The good news

Our running total for sponsorship raised is nearly at £2000 at the time of writing, including Gift Aid. The money raised by Softwire employees from our Brighton cycle ride will be matched by an equal donation from Softwire. This will be added to the total (currently around £1750) from our other fundraising activities throughout the year, such as an on-the door collection at our annual party, making over  £5000 (and counting) raised by Softwire for Teenage Cancer Trust in 2011.

The other good news is that we did all make it to Brighton somehow!
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Softwire cycle to Brighton for Teenage Cancer Trust


25 October 2011, by

Nine Softwire employees (from left to right – Rob D, Luci, Tim, JennyChris H, Simon W, Phil and Dezzy plus Iain) are going to be cycling from the Softwire office in Kentish Town to Brighton this Saturday (29th October 2011) for the charity which Softwire are supporting this year – the Teenage Cancer Trust. Friends and family are welcome and there are approximately 15 people altogether doing the trip.

Softwire Brighton cycling team

The route is around 60 miles long and apparently quite hilly, as it goes over the South Downs. The group is of mixed ability, with a few very keen cyclists and some newcomers to long distances, who are pushing new boundaries (and crossing their fingers that they will make it all the way!)

Hopefully the late October weather will be kind to us and it won’t be too wet or windy…

Wish us all luck and please sponsor us at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Softwire. Softwire have promised to match donations up to £3000. Teenage Cancer Trust fund and build specialised cancer units for teenagers in NHS hospitals across the UK, giving a better living environment which has been proven to improve recovery chances. It would be absolutely fantastic if we were able to hit this target to support their great work.