Skills Matter

Caitlin Moran, Girls in Coding & the Future Workforce

caitlin-moran-girls-who-code

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; Digitalrecruiting.co.uk. 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”

monster-event-twitter-post

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 ElectronicsWeekly.com. 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

First class functions in Java 8

Raoul-Gabriel Urma

This is a guest post from Raoul-Gabriel Urma, a PhD candidate in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge. His research centers on programming languages and software engineering. Raoul has written over 10 peer-reviewed articles and given over 20 technical talks at international conferences. He has worked for large companies such as Google, eBay, Oracle, and Goldman Sachs, as well as for several startup projects – and has recently written a book on Java 8 in Action: Lambdas, Streams and functional-style programming by Manning.

Raoul also teaches a course on modern development with Java 8 at Skills Matter, alongside Jim Gough & Richard Warburton. 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!


Java 8 adds functions as a new form of value. What does this mean? Let’s look at a simple example.

Suppose you want to filter all the hidden files in a directory. You need to start writing a method that given a File will tell you whether it is hidden or not. Thankfully there’s such a method inside the File class called isHidden. It can be viewed as a function that takes a File and returns a boolean.

However, to use it you need to wrap it into a FileFilter object that you then pass to the File.listFiles method as follows:

File[] hiddenFiles = new File(".").listFiles(new FileFilter() {
   public boolean accept(File file) {
      return file.isHidden();
   }
});

Ouch, that’s pretty obscure! We already have a function isHidden that we could use, why do we have to wrap it up in a verbose FileFilter object?

In Java 8 you can rewrite that code as follows:

File[] hiddenFiles = new File(".").listFiles(File:: isHidden);

Wow! Isn’t that cool? We already have the function isHidden available so we just “pass” it to the listFiles method. Our code now reads closer to the problem statement.

The use of File::isHidden is a rather special case of a new feature called method references in Java 8. Given that methods contain code (the executable body of a method), then using methods as values is like passing code around.

I hope this brief post has sparked some interest in Java 8! You can find a longer explanation in this 10min animated video we put together:

 


 

This Week at Skills Matter: 26 – 29 August

The Open Tech School

The Open Tech School

As you read this we assume you’re asking the same question as us – can this really be the end of summer? But don’t be gloomy (even if this was the chilliest August Bank Holiday ever recorded), we’ve got six fantastic meetups this week, from Londroid looking at moving your app interface beyond 2D to an introduction to web programming with the Open Tech School. Check them all out below!


Tuesday:

The London Android User Group join us for another fully booked talk this evening, as they discuss Holo to Material Design. This is an open discussion around one question – what if an interface wasn’t just 2D? If app developers take advantage of virtual light sources, realtime shadows and put an emphasis on clean typographic layouts with rich animated touch feedback, can they transition their beloved Holo? And if so, should they? And when!?

In anticipation of the talk, you’re also invited to share your own examples and apps using #materialdesign. Find out more and see the full agenda on the group’s page.

Also joining us tonight, the Open Tech School return for the second part of their introduction to web programming using Javascript. Be sure to bring a laptop!

Wednesday:

The Neo4j User Group bring along speaker Rik Van Bruggen – regional territory manager for Neo Technology for the BeNeLux, UK, and Nordics – for a talk on importing data into Neo4j. With examples, strategies and live demos Rik will demonstrate the advantage of using a graph database to represent complex relationships between pieces of data directly, covering the various aspects of the data import process for Neo4j and present the existing procedures and tools.

Thursday:

Get hands-on with FParsec on Thursday as Phil Trelford and the F#unctional Londoners, as they introduce parsing domain-specific and general purpose languages using FParsec. Along the way you’ll cover creating a simple Abstract Syntax Tree (AST) with discriminated unions, and interpreting or compiling the language using pattern matching.

Go back to basics for WebGL Workshop London’s talk on WebGL, Three.js and Babylon.js. This month they finish the rotating dice in raw WebGL, then do the same in Three.js and Babylon.js for comparison. This is the second part of this talk, the first of which you can watch here.

Finishing off the week the London Java Community bring us their Java 8 Roadshow. Join speakers Tori Wieldt, Raoul-Gabriel Urma and Richard Warburton as they take you through the great new features on Java 8!

This Week at Skills Matter: 28 July – 01 August

giovanni-asproni

In The Brain of Giovanni Asproni, Tuesday


Monday:

We begin the week with an In The Brain talk from Melanie Diepenbeck, who is exploring an improved Behaviour Driven Development. Using ideas from her own research on Behaviour Driven Development for System Design at the University of Bremen, Melanie will show us a new (enhanced) BDD flow will be presented that includes verification right from the start. In this new flow the behaviour of a system is expressed in a more flexible way using properties and scenarios.

We got the chance to interview Melanie last week, which you can read here.

Tuesday:

Our second In The Brain talk of the week will be with Giovanni Asproni, an independent consultant specialised in helping companies and teams to become more effective at producing and delivering high quality software. Would you like to learn how to employ design for testability in the software domain to improve code quality and delivery time as well as cost? Join us tonight to find out how.

Sticking with the testing theme, Tuesday also sees Infracoders London join us for a discussion on testing servers like software. In this talk, developer turned operations person Peter Morley-Souter will explore some of the tools and approaches to use to test your configuration automation tool of choice.

Wednesday:

The Neo4J User Group return on Wednesday to look at some real world Neo4J use cases with Matt Stephens and Tareq Abedrabbo. Find out what lessons Matt learned creating Inkflash.com, chatting about lessons learned, things he would approach differently in retrospect, and giving a quick demo of the site.

Tareq will then share his real world experiences on two interesting use cases, around Impact Analysis and Network Optimisation.This talk will explore these use cases detailing the approach, the rationale and the outcome of each one in a way that is applicable within a wider context.

London Storm will be here for their third part in a series exploring scalable real-time analytics with Storm Trident. Focussing on productionalisation of Storm/Trident solutions you will learn how to prepare a Storm cluster, integrate Storm with ‘real’ message queues & databases and deploy and monitor solutions.

Thursday:

We’re delighted to be hosting the inaugural meetup of the Chef Users London group, an informal group for folks to gather and talk about using Chef for Infrastructure as Code, IT Automation, and Continuous Delivery. At this first meetup they welcome Harry Thompson from Kurtosys and Steven Danna of Chef, who will be discussing what Devops means to Kurtosys and a more technical talk from Steven.

The Limited WIP Society want to hear more from the practitioners and people in the group on how they have changed the way they work in their organisation at their meetup on Thursday. This is an opportunity for everyone in the group to come and tell their stories, specially of interest is hearing about what didn’t work or didn’t work the way you expected it.

Finally on Thursday, and rounding off our week of free events, the WebGL Workshop will be going back-to-basics with a meetup aimed at those who have no experience of WebGL. This session will cover the WebGL basics – setting-up, debugging, basic interaction and simple animation and, time permitting, the same with Three.js – a JavaScript 3D Library which makes WebGL simpler.


Droidcon 2014 line-up to be announced this week!

droidcon-london

The Droidcon London 2014 lineup will be announced this Friday, including our signature community Barcamp feature and old friends from last year like Chris Bridges, Al Sutton, and Cyanogen.

The Barcamp is our community-focused feature that gives the Android developer community the opportunity to decide the direction of the day! Barcamp takes up most of the first day – developers have 5 minutes to propose their own talks or presentations on whatever they think is interesting and will interest others. Everyone else votes on which talks they’d most like to hear, and the presentations with the most votes get a room and a time slot. Democracy at work!

Be sure to keep an eye on our Twitter feed for the latest announcements on all things Droidcon, or head on over to the Droidcon page now to book your early-bird ticket!