22 December 2016, by Andy Patterson
This summer we welcomed a number of work experience students to come and work at our office in Kentish Town. This year was our biggest intake yet: we worked with two separate charities (the Social Mobility Foundation, and Inspire!), to have a total of 20 students in our office over a 6 week period. Most of the students did a 2 week placement, and all of the placements overlapped with our summer interns (who’re mostly first and second year university students). All our placements were offered to students from underrepresented or underprivileged groups who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get work experience.
The SMF’s work experience programme is already well-established. They select really bright and enthusiastic young people from low-income backgrounds. We are one of the very first software development companies to participate in the programme.
It wasn’t all diagrams and marker pens; Softwire has a strong culture combining work with fun, and we wanted the students to experience this as well. We took them out for ice cream at Ruby Violet, played pool, used the office HTC Vive to play some (occasionally jumpy!) VR games, and made sure everyone had the option of a free lunch every day.
Two of the work experience students particularly impressed us; Tobi and Fuad from Inspire! were both smart, enthusiastic, and had a great working knowledge of programming. We felt that two weeks wasn’t enough for these two, so we invited them to join our 4 week training internship program. After gaining approval from their school, they worked alongside first and second year undergraduates on a harder range of problems, including computer vision and algorithmic problems. We made sure to pair them with undergraduates, both as a learning experience and to help them get some idea of what university life is like. Both Tobi and Fuad really enjoyed the experience, and are hopefully considering applying to Computer Science courses at respected UK universities.
We wish all of the students taking part in our work experience program the best of luck, and hope that we see some of them apply for full-time roles as they graduate university!
Photos courtesy of Charlotte King Photography.
1 December 2016, by Paulina Babol
The Do-it Trust promotes the use of social technologies to enable social action and volunteering. They are a digital social action charity behind Do It which is the UK’s digital home for volunteering. The Do-it Trust have been doing a great job promoting charity events – in just over 18 months they have registered 200,000 new volunteers.
We approached the CEO of the company, Jamie Ward-Smith, to ask whether they would like us to build a mobile app for them free of charge as a part of our summer intern’s training. We grouped the summer interns together, assigned them a senior developer as a full time trainer and they got to work on a real project and experienced the full lifecycle of a software project.
The aim of the mobile app is to make it easy for volunteers to apply for charity events based on their interests and skills they would like to gain.
One of the main features of the app is a built-in chat system which enables the event organiser to contact the participants to have a group chat about the event. We also made it simple for users to share the events they are interested in on various social media platforms to create more awareness about such events.
As a result of having a mobile app, Do-It will be able to reach more people and make participating in charity events more interactive via the built-in chat system and an option to share opportunities on various social media platforms.
To be able to use the app on various devices, we used the open-source mobile development framework Cordova.
About the project
The Do-It project provided the perfect balance of a meaningful real world project which would have real benefits for the users, contribute to our corporate goal of doing more pro-bono work and had relaxed deadlines to enable us to provide quality training.
The Do-it team gave us a lot of flexibility and they were open for suggestions and our ideas. This meant that interns could actively be involved in the decision making process which made everyone feel like a valuable part of the app development. We believe that the interns working on the mobile app got a fun and rewarding internship during which they learnt skills and gained valuable experience that they can take with them.
21 October 2016, by Anna Tindall
As a second year Computer Science student at Cambridge without much free time, I had learnt a lot of theory but had done surprisingly little useful programming. I therefore applied for a summer internship at Softwire to change this. I wanted to gain experience working a proper project from beginning to end and Softwire did not disappoint. I did a four-week training internship starting at the end of July.
4 September 2015, by Emily Fox
As I look at the calendar, I realise it’s a month to the day since I started my internship here at Softwire. Four short weeks later and I’m working on a software project using technologies I’d not really even touched before arriving here, and day by day as foreign web technologies start to make sense I grow a new found appreciation of the depth of what a job in software can lead you to.
The first few weeks
At the start of my time here we had two weeks of training. We started off with some exercises learning C# to help us get used to the language.
Having come from a Java background this was not too steep a learning curve for me, although my code was riddled with the artefacts of someone who’s clearly finding it difficult to leave Java habits behind (who declares all their variables with ‘var’ anyway?!), and like someone learning a foreign language, the statements were sometimes written in a rather interesting mix of the two…
Once those habits had been sufficiently suppressed, we were to learn the art of interacting with external APIs. We signed up to the TfL developer portal and were before long querying their site to find the movements of the local London buses. Unfortunately, after a few initial queries all working rather well, the TfL API went down and we were left with a day of coding for an API that was no longer functional… less than ideal, but we coped! By the end of the day we had a simple program working which would take your postcode, find your nearest two bus stops and give you the times of the next five buses for each.
A real project
It is usual for interns to work on an internal project during their time at Softwire, but we were lucky enough to be offered the chance to work on an actual commercial project, which was exciting! I was to be part of the front end team, and my first tasks were creating some social media widgets for the websites we would be making. By doing this I got to put into practice using the aforementioned web technologies, as well as getting to grips with the software (Umbraco) we are extending for our purposes.
Having eight of us relative newbies working on a single project has its own problems; our Git repository is looking a little reminiscent of tangled spaghetti and a smooth working process has yet to be fully developed, but I like to believe we’re making good progress. One of the things I have enjoyed most so far is the fact that when you have a good number of people working on a single project, although you only contribute a relatively small part, you can see advancements fairly quickly with lots being achieved in a relatively short time.
You can also split responsibilities to allow each person to have their area of expertise on the project. For example, while I was writing my widgets for the front end I had to rely on calls to the API that the back end team had written using technologies such as SQL and C#. So although I had a weaker knowledge of the how the database functioned on a micro level, I could still use what they had written and vice versa.
Currently I am working on some more widgets which will be part of the integral functionality of the software, and we are hoping to have a simple prototype version working by the end of the week, so I’m looking forward to that. I am only half way through my time here at Softwire, but I think the most important thing I have learned so far is a bit of what it’s really like to work in the industry and I have to say it doesn’t disappoint!
27 April 2015, by Amy Wood
Last week Softwire held their first external event of the year at Shoreditch House, focusing on how to attract and retain the best developers. During our 15 years as a company, Softwire have always placed a great emphasis on attracting the most talented developers to the company and we’ve learnt a lot about how to do this. So we decided that it was time to share some of our knowledge with other tech leaders in the industry.
Zoe our talented MD joined our expert panel with Bill Thompson from BBC Radio’s Click and Daria Taylor co-founder of Talented Heads, to offer some input and advice on how to get the attention of the best developers from the Millennial generation. Softwire are fortunate enough to enjoy a 95% year on year staff retention rate so Zoe was well equipped to offer advice on keeping developers engaged. Daria, who heads up Talented Heads offered input on how to attract newer graduate developers in an increasingly competitive recruitment market, whilst Bill Thompson spoke about what the BBC are currently doing around encouraging younger people to take an interest in careers in technology.
The first of four software development related events this year, the afternoon went well with IT Managers from a great variety of sectors offering their input on the topic. The next event will focus on Project Management and how to create efficient teams of those developers everyone works so hard to attract in the first place.
18 February 2015, by Jiang Yingxin
Last summer, our training interns built a website for running Battleships tournaments. It allows players to upload a bot, which the website then runs against all the other uploaded bots to generate a league table.
The idea was inspired by a tournament we ran a couple years ago. Since then, we’ve asked new starters to write a Battleships bot as a training exercise, but this year, we decided to take the idea a step further and also write a website we could use to run the tournament! The first group of 6 training interns – most of whom had very little experience of programming before they got here – started with just one week of introductory exercises, and over the next couple of weeks wrote the website from scratch. By their final week they had completed enough functionality to run their own tournament, and even had time to add some creative touches – such as an animated gif of a battleship firing cannons as the “loading spinner” image while the match was running. The intern whose ship emerged the victor and took home the coveted prize of … a little T-Rex plushie!
The next group of five interns was faced with the perhaps even more daunting task of picking up where the others left off. They fixed some bugs, improved the efficiency of the league runner, and polished the user interface. The finished product is still being used to run bots written by new starters!
3 November 2014, by Amy Wood
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!
24 October 2014, by Amy Wood
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;
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
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
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
20 June 2014, by Amy Wood
Recently 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!
18 January 2014, by Dan Shavick
Softwire is up to #282 in the Guardian UK 300.
This list of the most popular graduate employers in the UK is voted for by students and graduates. 282nd place might not sound like much but when you consider that the list is almost exclusively populated by large companies and household names, we’re actually very proud of our achievement. For a young company with fewer than 100 employees, we’ve obviously made a big impression on prospective employees.
This year, as with every year, we’re aiming to grow by around 20%. This means we’re need to recruit around 15-20 new starters. If you want to be one of them, start our application process today!