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Remote work experience

While the economic fallout of COVID-19 and the logistical challenges of social distancing have led many firms to suspend their career outreach schemes, Softwire was determined to continue to deliver a rewarding insight into software development for GCSE and A-Level students. So, in the October half-term, we were thrilled to welcome nine young coders for our first all-remote work experience week.

The project

The students were set the task of building an online, multiplayer app for the dice game Yahtzee, guided by group tutorials on web development and hands-on mentoring. The challenges of adapting to a remote-only setup drove us to make the project more collaborative than ever. We shared a single codebase and students worked on tasks in pairs and threes, with each group taking responsibility for different features of the app. While many of our students had previously coded at school or undertaken personal hobby projects, most had not previously worked within a development team. This is the most invaluable aspect of the week, offering a genuine flavour of life as a professional developer.

A course for everyone

We’re proud that our work experience scheme is open to students with any level of prior experience—whether they’ve never coded before or they’re a seasoned hacker—and work hard to ensure that the week will be insightful, enjoyable and challenging for everyone. Some of our students had their first taste of Html, CSS and JavaScript, quickly learning how to combine these technologies to create awesome-looking and responsive web pages. For more experienced programmers, the week enabled them to add a new language to their repertoire or to finetune their existing coding skills.

Key talks

During the week, we were treated to talks and presentations by various members of the Softwire team, covering technical topics as well as career skills. Sarah Binney gave us a sneak peek of some cutting-edge work we’ve been doing with the BBC, helping journalists to analyse breaking news, using Elasticsearch and AWS Transcribe. One of Softwire’s principal consultants, Gareth Edwards, offered advice on interview skills and cultivating your CV to boost employment chances in the software industry. And our DevOps lead, Usman Iqbal, delivered a wide-ranging introduction to the world of DevOps, including how it can present parallel career opportunities to ordinary software developer roles.

‘The next generation of developers’

We didn’t quite have time to complete all the features of the Yahtzee app by the end of the week, but the students were able to fork their own version of the codebase and finish the game in their own time. In a way, this was a happy accident, as the most important aim of the programme is to give students the skills and confidence to continue to develop their skills independently and hopefully go on to build their own exciting apps. My first coding hobby project was a command-line Yahtzee game I wrote in a Python REPL, so it was a privilege for me to recreate that project in a new form and share my passion with the next generation of developers