6 things we learnt from supporting the next generation in tech

by Lydia Kennedy, Paul Parker and Callum Martin

Last month, Deep3 opened their offices to Wyedean School, offering work experience to two groups of students thinking about a career in software development. Here, our engineers share what they discovered teaching the next generation in tech.

Callum Martin and Paul Parker, both software engineers at Deep3, led this new challenge with our student teams for a week in our Cheltenham office. Inspired by the positive feedback we received, they took time to reflect on their own experiences.

So, what did they learn after a week with our techie teenagers?

1. Work experience is part of our job description

"As a software developer, it's inherently part of our job description to continuously improve or learn new skills," says Paul. He explains it felt like a natural experience to design a week of learning that would challenge and improve the students' experience in tech. "As such, we wanted to create a goal or specification that closely relates to an ongoing real-world project."

2. Students are more able than you might think

Callum was surprised by the technical ability of both the Year 10 and 12 students. "Shy at first, they all steadily grew more comfortable in their new surroundings," he says. "It was very much a learning experience for all involved."

3. Continual communication and improvement is the best approach

In a mission to give the students real-world experience and a project they could get their teeth into, Paul created an approach that was "part-lesson plan in the form of project tickets and self-directed learning, while also promoting discussion in the daily stand-ups". Daily feedback was crucial to ensure engagement and improvement of future work experience projects, he says, and making sure the students got the most out of it. "Effectively the students took on the role of our customer."

4. The groups thrived with autonomy

While the students needed more guidance at first, they soon developed a good level of autonomy, explains Callum. "They tackled problems together and incorporated all the new tools we'd thrown at them. As I came to learn quite quickly, they weren't at all shy asking for help and were receptive to feedback and direction." This independent learning approach meant by the end of the experience they were very confident in presenting their week's work with technical demos to our Directors. "They happily answered questions about the work they'd done that week and how it affected their career outlooks," Callum says.

5. We can show students a career in software development is fun

While work experience is challenging for the both the students and the teachers, Deep3 are committed to developing programmes that encourages our engineers to pass on their skills and shows students a career in tech is accessible and enjoyable. "The feedback we received was excellent," says Paul, "I'm glad to hear the students' experience has shown a career in software development is a rewarding and fun experience."

6. A week is long enough for a formative experience

After a week, our students managed to handle every piece of new software and every challenge thrown at them, and found the confidence to present their learnings, too. This transformation from a group of aspiring software developers was a huge learning curve, not just for the students. "To think that one week could shape a student's aspirations was eye-opening," says Callum. "It made me realise the importance of formative professional experiences like the ones they'd been afforded."

Our first experience of offering work experience was incredibly rewarding. Although we have as much to learn from the week as our students, we wanted to provide an experience that young people could thrive in, and thanks to Paul and Callum we made it happen. If at the end of the experience, we've given them the confidence to take on a career in tech, then we've done our best work.

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