Community focus

The Graduate Developer Community – a helping hand for London’s graduate developers

BarryCranford
GDC

London Java Community founder Barry Cranford talks about setting up the Graduate Developer Community, trying to instill change within the current developer job market by recruiting mentors for graduates

Over the last two months we have launched a new initiative in the software development industry. The goal of the scheme is to help more students understand what they want to do once they graduate. We have now had our first two events and have created an incredible sense of momentum, and perhaps the most rewarding events I have ever been involved in. Here is our story and how you may want to get involved.

I run a consultancy called RecWorks Ltd. We are trying to change the face of technical recruitment. Our business model does away with the traditional cold calling/short term recruitment approach and replaces it with a long term approach that is aimed at improving the entire industry. We are highly engaged in building free active communities, organising regular events and initiatives that connect people in new and unique ways, whilst building trusted relationships and sourcing the best talent on the industry to drive the revenue of the business.

We launched the London Java Community in 2007. The LJC, as it is better known, has grown to over 2000 members and has become one of the most influential Java User Groups in the world, having become involved in the JCP, won an open seat on the Java SE/EE executive committee and launched the international Adopt a JSR program.

We have always had an easy time attracting the most passionate experienced Java developers along to our group and events, although always struggled attracting the less experienced in the industry, students and graduates. After spending time speaking to people about this we became aware of a gap in the industry between the level students are at when they graduate, and where employers expect them to be. We felt there was an opportunity to create a community that filled this void.

In August 2009, I launched the Graduate Developer Community to bridge the gap between the academic and commercial worlds. Our goal was to create a community based around passion, preparation for the industry and my personal interest, giving them career direction.To inspire passion, we set up opportunities to engage with the wider community and run social events in parallel with the LJC known as the Developer Sessions. To help ensure they were more prepared for the industry, we give students an awareness of open source software and agile techniques through a series of presentations throughout UK universities. In terms of career direction, James Bowkett and myself set up GDC Careers, an online collection of interviews with people in industry who have documented their careers and offered advice. It is this that has lead to the latest initiative: the GDC Meet a Mentor programme in association with RecWorks.

The problem is that 95% of graduates do not have a clear career path in mind. They just are not aware of their options. The implication of this is that many use job applications and interviews as a way to find out what the industry is all about, we believe there is a better way.

We have set up a series of events, that will run in a ‘speed dating’ style with small groups of students each having one or two mentors speak to them as a group for 15 minutes before moving on to another group. The mentors will share their experiences of their careers in the hope that the students can start thinking about their options earlier on and get a clearer idea of what they want to do. It gives them the chance to get the right internships, find out about the companies they are interested in and start gaining the skills necessary to be successful.

The sessions are designed to be brief, engaging, 15 minutes is not long enough to give a complete idea as to what you want to do, but our intention is to spark a bit of inspiration for people to start doing their own research. They can then use the GDC as a support network to help them on their journey, coming along to more events and speaking to more mentors to build a deeper understanding.

We launched in February 2012 and have experienced great success. We are working with 4 universities already and have set up meetings with a number of others. We have over 60 mentors within our network and have an amazing selection of people including open source enthusiasts, senior developers, entrepreneurs, GDC Ambassadors and CTOs from a diverse range of companies including the BBC, Betfair, Ernst & Young, banks, startups, consultancies etc. But we definitely need more.

For the Meet a Mentor scheme to thrive, it relies on three things: Committed Organisers, an extensive network and a large diverse range of mentors. We, at RecWorks, are happy to organise the events and tie the whole thing together, it’s a lot of work but is part of our commitment to build a better industry. We have an extensive network through the LJC and other technical communities in London, but we need as much help as possible from experienced mentors.

If you are someone with a story to tell please let me know. We are not looking for hours of your time, just the commitment that once or twice a year you could spend a few hours talking to a few small groups of students to tell your story and answer any questions they may have. If you have any questions about this or would like to get involved please let me know on bc@recworks.co.uk

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