Author: Skills Matter

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Caitlin Moran, Girls in Coding & the Future Workforce


This is a guest post from Sinead Bunting, Marketing Director at Monster and organiser of tomorrow evening’s Girls in Coding: How they will be critical to female roles in the future workforce event, being held at Skills Matter. The event is free though tickets are limited, so book now!

I used to be a bit of a blogger, and enjoyed nothing more, than regularly posting a good cathartic piece of my mind at the industry blog; But I stopped contributing about three years ago. Having moved media/solution side, I felt my thoughts wouldn’t be viewed as being as objective as perhaps they once were. Also, maybe nothing got me fired up enough to bother putting my tuppence worth out there in the blogosphere. Yet here I am today, fired up and ready to go!

So, What Happened?

In July last year I went to see Caitlin Moran launch her new book, How to Build a Girl in Union Chapel, Islington, London. I was pretty excited; I’m a big fan of Caitlin and I was also about to go on holiday to France, so was looking forward to a bit of downtime and a break from all things work.

That night however, rather un-expectantly, Caitlin said something that got me thinking all about work!

She said something that was so fundamentally important to the future of the workforce that I immediately thought to myself, ‘something has to be done about this’ and Monster and its mission of helping folks ‘Find Better’ in their career and its strength in connecting tech talent, has some role to play here…

This is what Caitlin said:

“If 90% of coders are men, developing and owning the language of the future, women won’t be part of the conversation”


This hit me like a bolt of lightning – well perhaps a slight exaggeration – but it did really hit home. I was worried. Whilst there is still some way to go in terms of true equality, whether it’s in equal pay or the low percentage of women in senior management positions, females have made some significant strides in the UK workforce in recent years. This has been to the benefit of all concerned with reports showing that companies who have more women on their boards and in their senior management teams aren’t just ‘doing the right thing’, they are generating greater profit. The prospect of this gender equality progress unravelling, due to females not being sufficiently skilled in tech to converse in a world where all things tech prevail, is hugely concerning. It’s also the wrong direction to go in for a stronger, fairer and more successful society. As Hilary Clinton stated last month at a conference for women in Silicon Valley; “We’re going backward in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward”.

Girls in Coding and the Future Workforce

Intuitively, the solution seems pretty clear; we need to show girls that a career in coding can be hugely interesting, rewarding and that coding and technology are fundamental skillsets required for any industry or role they hope to pursue in the future. Additionally we need to enable girls to learn these skills and also up-skill females (and males) who are currently in the workforce. So, by no means an easy or simple task. This is further compounded by worrying retention rates of women current working in tech, who are leaving the industry due to a chauvinist culture and female-unfriendly working environment. If we are building a pipeline of female tech talent but it goes into an environment that’s not accessible or sustainable, we have a ‘leaky bucket’ effect, which does not solve issues in the long-term.

The good news is that contrary to popular opinion, girls and women actually quite like technology with recent reports showing that there are now more women than men gamers in the UK. Having spoken to numerous women in and around the area of technology and ‘women in tech’ in last month or so, there is some fantastic work and initiatives already being done it this area. There is such an appetite and passion to help girls and women get into technology that the future is incredibly promising.

Next Steps – Working Together

Our goal at Monster is to raise awareness of the issue amongst talent acquisition and HR professionals and to show both current and future candidates the importance of coding skills in current and future careers.

Our first step towards raising awareness is to host a Monster #TechTalent event on April the 16th at Skills Matter eXchange, London: Girls in Coding: How they will be critical to female roles in the future workforce.

The event will consist of a series of interactive panel discussions with leading figures in this space discussing issues around the long, mid and shorter term areas and possible solutions to help girls get into coding and women into technology.

The event is open to all parties, and of course both genders.

The following panellists have been confirmed:

  • Amali de Alwis, CEO and Executive Board, Code First: Girls
  • Ruth Nicholls, Managing Director, Young Rewired State
  • Amelia Humfress, Founder and CEO, Steer
  • Anne-Marie Imafidon, Founder, STEMettes
  • Marily Nika, Co-ambassador, London Geekettes
  • Debbie Forster, UK Managing Director, CDI Apps for Good
  • Gina Jackson, Managing Director, Next Gen Skills Academy
  • Graeme Goulden, Senior Product Lead, Monster Worldwide
  • Alexa Glick, Global Diversity Program Manager, Microsoft
  • Wendy Devolder, CEO, Skills Matter

Role Models

Additionally, what we know is that ‘people buy people’ and girls are hugely influenced by roles models and their peer group. Monster is working with the London Met Film School to film a selection of women in tech, as role models to show girls just how rewarding and successful a career in and around technology can be. We will be distributing this content online with the aim of influencing not only girls but their parents who as gatekeepers are hugely influential when it comes to subject and career choice.

Plug the Digital skills Gap & Fuel Economic Growth

It’s estimated that the UK requires an additional 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017and 77% of firms within Tech City in London say they could grow faster if they had access to better skilled digital staff. All too many studies highlight that in tech, its men who are leading the way in this crucial aspect of the workforce. To ensure we meet this tech talent challenge, plug the digital skills gap, as well as develop tech that meets the needs and requirements of both genders, this needs to change.

Having spoken to many industry figures and women in technology in the last few months, it’s fantastic to know that there are many great initiatives and passionate professionals out there wanting to and already making a difference in this key area. We’re looking forward to marking the start of our Girls In Coding campaign with our upcoming event and believe that, by raising further awareness of the issue amongst the HR and talent acquisition community, we can work collaboratively to really make a difference to the amount of girls and women considering coding as an exciting and rewarding career option.

Watch this space…..

For more information on the Girls in Coding: How they will be critical to female roles in the future workforce event, or to register, click here.


Dear next PM: Stem the tide of our worsening tech skills gap!

This open letter to the next Prime Minister from Skills Matter CEO Wendy Devolder first appeared on It is reprinted here with permission.

wendy-devolder-1200px-webDear next P.M.,

You will know that London is now the undisputed home to Europe’s fastest growing tech cluster.

It’s not clear, however, if you or your main challengers intend to take action to deal with the crisis in which our capital’s tech businesses find themselves.

They can not find the talent to keep up with their own growth. So you and your government must take action.

Tech is a golden place to work right now according to all the most recent research. The Business Growth Fund and Barclays say 27% of all job growth in London is generated by the tech and digital sector. And businesses questioned by the latest Barclays’ Fast Growth Tech survey predict they will grow by 11 percent on average over the course of the year, which is more than four times faster than the UK’s 2015 GDP forecast (2.6 percent).

Technology professionals are also receiving more pay rises than pay cuts. The Technology Industry 2015 Report by Mortimer Spinks and Computer Weekly reveals the proportion of permanently employed technology professionals getting pay rises has continued to rise from 57% in 2013 through to 64% in 2015.

And yet 80% of data-intensive businesses still struggle to find the skills they need, suggests research co-produced by the Royal Statistical Society.

The current Home Secretary Theresa May’s response: a proposal in December, 2014 to immediately kick out foreign, highly-skilled technology graduates from British universities after they complete their studies, preventing them from entering the UK’s technology job market.

May’s proposal was widely criticised by the tech sector and ultimately blocked by Chancellor George Osborne. Yet the growing negative rhetoric in the UK around immigration is badly hurting our tech sector. Compounded by the UK’s visa restrictions, it’s now harder than ever to find highly-trained international talent, let alone experienced and highly skilled local talent that is up to speed with the needs of our world-class tech firms. And let’s not forget all the other industry sectors, whether banking or retail or publishing, for whom technical talent and expertise are vital for developing and maintaining a competitive advantage.

T​he solution to our tech skills gap is to attract the very best tech talent from around the world to our capital. But little is being done to make this happen.

Despite initiatives like Mayor Boris Johnson’s talent visa to attract the best and brightest in tech from around the world to London, the UK’s visa restrictions remain unnecessarily bureaucratic and the quotas are too low and too narrow.

We have so many successful homegrown innovators to celebrate, including companies like Mind Candy, Huddle, and Novoda, all based and founded in London. And the capital’s digital scene continues to enjoy fantastic growth. According to The Tech Nation Report by Tech City, there’s been a 92% increase in new digital companies incorporated between 2010 and 2013 and there are now more than 250,000 jobs digital jobs in London.

This means the urgent need for the very best talent to design, develop and grow products and services is stronger than ever – something we see first hand evidence of at Skills Matter, with daily requests from companies across all sectors about how and where to find skilled people to fill vacancies.

We help by working with companies and communities to inspire and develop talent and skills, connecting software engineers with world renowned experts to develop technical, behavioural and process capabilities. I’ve also long campaigned for easing visa restrictions through my engagement with No 10’s Tech City initiative, UKTI, Tech London Advocates and the House of Lords.

But of course as our tech sector grows, the problem will only get worse. So if our capital city wants to continue generating quality jobs and remain a leader in burgeoning sectors such as fintech, dealing with the technology ‘skills-gap’ is imperative now.

​Future Prime Minister, this topic’s a winner for you. You need to spell out now what you’ll do to support London’s continued growth into a world-class tech hub.

Wendy Devolder, CEO of Skills Matter

FullStack 2015: Call for Papers

FullStack 2015

Our second edition of FullStack – the conference for JavaScript, Node & IoT developers – returns June 25th-27th. The conference is independently organised for and by the community.

Following the tremendous response to our Call For Thoughts, and with support from Cian O’Maidin (nearForm), Rob Moran (ARM), Robert Rees (Guardian), Sarah Clarke (Google) and members of our JavaScript, Node & Angular community, we have been able to identify some key themes for this year’s conference:

  • ES6 and io.js
  • App Architectures for Performance, Maintainability, etc.
  • Software rendering
  • Virtual DOM (e.g. React)
  • NodeJS and associated technologies
  • Implementation stories and soft skills
  • Dev Ops/NoOps
  • Microservices
  • AngularJS 2.0 and related topics
  • Hardware
  • Internet of Things

To submit your proposal, head over to the Call for Papers page. We’re especially keen to hear from people who haven’t spoken at the conference before. If you’re worried about presenting alone, feel free to pair with someone on your team. The community is very friendly and this is a safe way to dip your toes in the public speaking arena. If you need some help a great place to start it here.

If you have any questions then please contact us at

The CfP will close on March 20th. All presenters will be contacted the week commencing April 6th. 

Please be sure to read the Skills Matter Code of Conduct. It outlines what we expect from our speakers and guests so that we can continue to provide a fantastic environment to learn and share skills for everyone.

Unit Testing Lambda Expressions & Streams

Richard Warburton

This is a guest post from Richard Warburton, who has worked as a developer across varied areas including Statistical Analytics, Static Analysis, Compilers and Networking. He is a leader in the London Java Community and runs OpenJDK Hackdays.

Richard also teaches a course on modern development with Java 8 at Skills Matter, alongside Jim Gough & Raoul-Gabriel Urma. At the end of this course, you will be ready to use Java 8 on your day job and be familiar with the cutting edge programming approaches which allow you to write more flexible and concise code. You can find out more information about the course here, or head to the Skills Matter page to book your place now!

Usually, when writing a unit test you call a method in your test code that gets called in your application. Given some inputs and possibly test doubles, you call these methods to test a certain behavior happening and then specify the changes you expect to result from this behavior.

Lambda expressions pose a slightly different challenge when unit testing code. Because they don’t have a name, it’s impossible to directly call them in your test code. You could choose to copy the body of the lambda expression into your test and then test that copy, but this approach has the unfortunate side effect of not actually testing the behavior of your implementation. If you change the implementation code, your test will still pass even though the implementation is performing a different task.

There are two viable solutions to this problem. The first is to view the lambda expression as a block of code within its surrounding method. If you take this approach, you should be testing the behavior of the surrounding method, not the lambda expression itself.

Here’s an example method for converting a list of strings into their uppercase equivalents.

public static List allToUpperCase(List words) {
                .map(string -> string.toUpperCase())

The only thing that the lambda expression in this body of code does is directly call a core Java method. It’s really not worth the effort of testing this lambda expression as an independent unit of code at all, since the behavior is so simple.

If I were to unit test this code, I would focus on the behavior of the method. For example, here is a test that if there are multiple words in the stream, they are all converted to their uppercase equivalents.

public void multipleWordsToUppercase() {
    List input = Arrays.asList("a", "b", "hello");
    List result = allToUpperCase(input);
    assertEquals(asList("A", "B", "HELLO"), result);

Sometimes you want to use a lambda expression that exhibits complex functionality. Perhaps it has a number of corner cases or a role involving calculating a highly important function in your domain. You really want to test for behavior specific to that body of code, but it’s in a lambda expression and you’ve got no way of referencing it.

As an example problem, let’s look at a method that is slightly more complex than converting a list of strings to uppercase. Instead, we’ll be converting the first character of a string to uppercase and leaving the rest as is. If we were to write this using streams and lambda expressions, we might write something like the following.

public static List uppercaseFirstChar(List words) {
                .map(value -> {
                    char firstChar = value.charAt(0);
    firstChar = toUpperCase(firstChar);
                    return firstChar + value.substring(1);

Should we want to test this, we’d need to fire in a list and test the output for every single
example we wanted to test. The test below provides an example of how cumbersome this
approach becomes. Don’t worry—there is a solution!

public void twoLetterStringConvertedToUppercaseLambdas() {
    List input = Arrays.asList("ab");
    List result = uppercaseFirstChar(input);
    assertEquals(Arrays.asList("Ab"), result);

Don’t use a lambda expression! I know that might appear to be strange advice in an article about lambda expressions, but square pegs don’t fit into round holes very well. Having accepted this, we’re bound to ask how we can still unit test our code and have the benefit of lambda-enabled libraries.

Do use method references. Any method that would have been written as a lambda expression can also be written as a normal method and then directly referenced elsewhere in code using method references. In the code below I’ve refactored out the lambda expression into its own method. This is then used by the main method, which deals with converting the list of strings.

public static List uppercaseFirstChar(List words) {

public static String firstToUppercase(String value) {
    char firstChar = value.charAt(0);
    firstChar = toUpperCase(firstChar);
    return firstChar + value.substring(1);

Having extracted the method that actually performs string processing, we can cover all the corner cases by testing that method on its own. The same test case in its new, simplified form is shown here:

public void twoLetterStringConvertedToUppercase() {
    String input = "ab";
    String result = firstToUppercase(input);
    assertEquals("Ab", result);

The key takeaway here is that if you want to unit test a lambda expression of serious complexity, extract it to a regular method first. You can then use method references to treat it like a first-class function.

There’s a buzz in the air… or is it on your arm?

Can you feel it yet?

Apple Watch

This is a guest post by Boisy Pitre, Mobile Visionary and lead iOS developer at Affectiva. You can find him on Twitter here, and see his previous guest posts here.

It is the imminent release of Apple’s latest gadget-wonder… the long awaited Apple Watch. Announced last year, the wearable device is due to hit stores in a few months; its launch, sale price, and subsequent success or failure is the basis for immense speculation in and around the techno news websites and journals.

Last Fall’s announcement of the eagerly anticipated watch was true to Apple’s style of introducing something new: bold yet gentle, glamorous yet modest, confident yet demure. Touted as something truly personal to the wearer, the Apple Watch wooed and wowed the event’s audience and the wider general public. It was easy to see that this wasn’t just another technology device trying to act like a watch, but perhaps the very redefinition of the watch itself.

Predictably, it didn’t take long after the announcement for the questions to follow. How briskly will it sell? Who will buy it? And who wears a watch anymore?

What’s Old is New Again

The concept of wearable devices isn’t necessarily new; it’s been around for some time and has existed in various incarnations. Thinking back 15 years ago, I can distinctly remember attending PalmSource (yes, I’m talking about the Palm Pilot for those of you who can remember) in 2000, and witnessing an attendee walking around the show floor with Palm devices strapped to his forearms. It was reminiscent of Locutus of Borg in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Thankfully, we’ve come a bit farther in style today. From arm bands with iPods to smartwatches like the Pebble and offerings from Samsung, you don’t have to look like a cyborg to have technology up close and personal to your body. And all indications are that with its myriad of colors, band styles, and body types, the Apple Watch will be as much of a fashion statement as a technology wearable.

Of course, as developers we are the spark and fuel that moves the pistons of Apple’s engines. Seeking new opportunities and pathways for our work is a constant motivation. So what does the Apple Watch mean for the developer?

A Totally New Platform

Just like the iPhone spurred the creation of the amazing “app economy” in 2008 with the release of the native iPhone SDK, the debut of the Apple Watch brings a whole new set of creative potential to the table. Although it has some utility on its own as a timepiece, where the Apple Watch really shines is its integration with the iPhone itself. The Apple Watch is really complete when it can pair up with an iPhone. The iPhone acts as a deliverer of both content and apps to the watch via Bluetooth. In essence, your Apple Watch becomes an extensible and conveniently accessible accessory to your iPhone.

This means if you have an iOS app already written, you can extend it to bring its functionality to the Apple Watch (assuming that there is some aspect of your app that makes sense appearing on someone’s wrist). Your iPhone is the “carrier” of the smarts that your Apple Watch will use; and in doing so, you have whole new ways to extend the usefulness of your iOS apps.

Think Different

A watch is not a phone, and a phone is not a watch. We carry our phones in our pockets and on our hips, but our watches adorn our wrists. As something that you will wear on your arm, the Apple Watch becomes a very convenient, immediate, and intimate place to view and interact with data. It opens up a whole new world of ideas for apps.

Not only is the Apple Watch as a platform more physically accessible, but its screen is considerably smaller in size than any previous iOS device. Given that the largest Apple Watch is 42mm tall (the other option is an even smaller 38mm in height), you have to carefully think about your app idea, and how it will “fit” onto such a targeted space.

The smaller design space of the Apple Watch, along with the intimacy and complete accessibility that it offers, is certain to inspire creative app extensions. It’s going to be interesting to see where developers will lay stake in this brave new world.

And It Will Get Better

Like all technology, the Apple Watch is bound to get “smarter” over subsequent revisions and generations. The perceived limitation of its tethering to the iPhone will become less and less pronounced, eventually to the point where Apple Watch may become a truly stand-alone, Dick Tracy type futuristic device. Think full audio and video interaction… a complete communications experience right on your wrist.

Challenges certainly remain to get there. Increased processing horsepower and capacity required to drive more features will require more battery life, and that will challenge Apple in interesting ways. There’s not a lot of room to put larger and larger batteries on your wrist.

Are You Ready?

Wearables are about to get a lot more popular, and the apps that will empower them are going to be more and more in demand. If you’re an iOS developer with an existing app, I encourage you to look at how your app might be able to augment your user’s experience on their wrist with their Apple Watch. Not all apps may be able to find that crossover, but many will, and with it will come the opportunity for you to become more familiar and close to your users.

Swift London Are you interested in iOS development? Swift London is a group for iOS and OS X developers of all abilities who want to learn how to use it, who meet regularly at Skills Matter. You can join them for their next meetup on Tuesday 17 February – full details here.

The organisers of the Swift London Meetup group have also put together an impressive line-up for a two-day Swift Summit which is taking place in London on 21 & 22 March. The programme includes speakers such as Chris Eidhof, Daniel Steinberg & Ayaka Nonaka. See the full agenda here.