The Fellowship: how can I get professional experience in tech?

Almost half of the students completing the Apps for Good course say afterwards that they are interested in a technology focused career. Apps for Good students and teachers alike tell us that real-world experience is essential, and many employers feel the same. This blog is part of our latest project with Monster to provide high-quality content and support for Apps for Good Students and Fellows keen to find out more about careers in tech.

In 2012, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills cited “lack of experience” as the number one reason employers gave for turning young applicants away. At the same time, students and teaches tell tell us that formal work experience placements are increasingly difficult to find.

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There’s no reason to fear! Here are some helpful ways to get out there, get experience and get a taste of what the tech industry is really like.

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Taking Apps for Good to the next level (aka Global Domination for Good)

Many of you will have shared in our celebrations last year of 5 years of Apps for Good. When we first launched, we were sometimes asked what our ultimate goal was. Iris would say immediately, “Global domination.” I would laugh nervously and add, “For good, of course.”  Back then, with only 50 students at one London school, it seemed a wildly ambitious dream, but one we both believed in, knowing that the first step was to get things working in the UK.

Now five years later, we are not only established in the UK, but also growing in Portugal, Spain, Poland and most recently, the US.  I’ve been to New York, Minnesota, Maine and Arkansas and we now have 40 schools across the US, reaching around 1000 students this year.

As I bounce back and forth across the Atlantic, and Iris around Europe, we’ve realised we need someone to focus on leading our efforts in the UK, as our ambition remains equally great here. So, we’re recruiting a new UK Managing Director who can build on our strong foundation, leading the UK forward on its next phase of growth and innovating on our successful programme.  The new MD, working with the enthusiastic UK Apps for Good team, will have the chance to help us implement our new Internet of Things course, expand on our Fellowship Programme for former Apps for Good students and reach even more young people across the whole of the UK. They will be supported by Iris and I and our experienced Global Team. I will continue to oversee Apps for Good’s efforts both in the US and UK, while Iris guides our work in Portugal, Spain, Poland and our emerging partnerships around the world.
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Celebrating diversity in tech

In our latest blog Arfah Farooq shares her experiences of working to improve diversity within the tech sect. Arfah leads on the various marketing campaigns to get people excited about Makers Academy, a 12 week coding course! She is passionate about changing lives and empowering more minorities and women into technology. She has set up MuslamicMakers a meetup for Muslims working in tech and is a Youth Trustee of charity Spark+Mettle.  You can follow her on Twitter to keep up to date with her work.

I am a British Muslim Pakistani woman who has been working in technology for 3 years. In this respect, I am unusual –  only 15% of the UK technology workforce are female, and even fewer are Muslim. For the last 2 years I’ve been working at Makers Academy where I’ve met an incredible diverse amount of women from a variety of backgrounds who have learnt to code.

My journey into technology was a bit of an accident and I often found myself suffering imposter syndrome where I feel like I don’t quite belong or I don’t deserve to be there because no one really looked like me or came from the same background. This is why it’s great that Apps for Good is pushing more women to take the role of expert to inspire more girls to consider a career in technology.  By encouraging women to become experts it helps women realise that they are an expert, but also it helps inspire the girls who can look up to these women are role models.

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Afrah Farooq is passionate about encouraging diversity in tech. 

 

Having role models is super important and it was one of the reasons my friend Murtaza and I, set up “Muslamic Makers” – a community for Muslims working in technology. A question we often get asked is why? There’s poor ethnic representation in the tech startup world, there are barriers such as traditional upbringing, lack of opportunity, education and resourcse.  There is also a huge gap in confidence especially as the technology world can be overwhelmingly white and middle class. Me and Murtaza however knew of a handful of Muslims working in and around technology so the mission was simple: to bring them together to create a community and create a safe space for guys & girls who wouldn’t attend the usual tech events due cultural barriers like not drinking alcohol. A simple space space to inspire, network and create future role models to contribute to a much more inclusive technology world.

 

 

Inspired by what I was doing and their own experiences in technology, two amazing Makers Academy graduates, Chuka Ebi and Adil Ali, decided to set up “Black Techies”, a community for black professionals working in technology. As Adil says “I came up with the idea of black techies when I realised that one of my only black role models in tech was Chuka. The first time I met him was at a party during my second week at Makers, and he was working at Fjord. He was someone that I could look up to, and aspire to be like, and he gave me a lot of great advice that night and thereafter.”

Adil continues, “Black Techies was created to make a community of black developers and hopeful developers, so that we could support, inspire, and collaborate with one another. It’s not hard to be different, nor is it a curse (as a lot of people seem to assume), but being alone is extremely difficult, and sometimes very disheartening. Black Techies was made so that black developers could have a place where they weren’t alone.”

My own passion for diversity in technology is continuing to grow stronger! I now curate a Snapchat account celebrating #DiversityInTech. My hope is that the account will be taken over by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone else who works in technology and wants to celebrate diversity. I’m excited about the Apps for Good’s fellows who will be taking it over at some point! If you’re interested in taking over just send me your details here and be sure to add the account!
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Apps for Good nominated for a GamesAid grant – Voting now open!

We are very pleased to announce that Apps for Good has been nominated for a GamesAid grant!

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Between the 15th of August and 5th of September this year, games industry professionals and affiliates will be voting to decide if Apps for Good will receive a GamesAid grant. GamesAid is a UK charitable organisation that seeks to harness the talents, creativity and enthusiasm of games industry professionals to raise money for a number of smaller charities that are working to help children and young people.

Each year GamesAid members come together to select grant recipients from a group of shortlisted charities. Apps for Good has been selected alongside 18 other worthy causes to be in with a chance to receive a GamesAid grant to support our work. Apps for Good has a strong track record of working with the games industry, and the impact that we make through schools is helping to create a pool of talent which can support the work of a thriving global games industry. By opening the eyes of students to the wealth of opportunity in the technology and entrepreneurship fields, it is lighting the path for young people  to move into industries such as gaming while simultaneously helping them to develop the skills, knowledge and opportunity required to succeed in an increasingly tech driven world.

A popular creative direction taken by students studying our course is to create games with a social purpose, for example helping others learn through gaming. Apps for Good Award winners CryptoConnex (2014)  and My World of Atoms (2015) are both excellent examples of fantastic student apps in this area. CryptoConnex was created by a team from Hymers College, Hull to help people learn cryptography and code-breaking. My World of Atoms, the brainchild of brother-sister team Ben and Rebecca Jilks from The Boswells School, Chelmsford, helps students learn about the periodic table through a fun adventure game based on finding and combining elements to complete a collection. With inspiration from Minecraft and Pokemon, Ben and Rebecca won Gold in the Mobile App category at the 2016 Essex Digital awards for their efforts.

Ben and Rebecca Gilks, creators of My World of Atoms

Ben and Rebecca, creators of My World of Atoms

Students from our growing Fellowship Community are already using the skills and experience to pursue careers in gaming. 16 year-old Jashvanth from London is one of our most active Fellows and has taken advantage of what the Fellowship has to offer in order to learn from industry professionals.. Last summer  the skills Jashvanth gained as an Apps for Good student and Fellows helped him secure work experience with a games development company and learn more about the industry.

Jashvanth (left) answers questions on a panel with other Fellows at the 2016 Apps for Good Awards.

Jashvanth (left) answers questions on a panel with other Fellows at the Apps for Good Awards 2016

Ensuring that all of our former students have the opportunities available to them to follow their interests, expand their skills and inspire others is the central goal we are trying to achieve via the Fellowship Community. If we’re lucky enough to receive a GamesAid grant we will use it to focus resources on strengthening the impact that we have on our Fellows. It would allow us to leverage the great connection we have with tech firms and industry professionals, to build a varied and interesting pipeline of activities for students, continue building their skills,  find mentors and gain valuable experience.

If you or someone you know is a games industry professional or affiliate who would like to support us over the coming weeks, go ahead and sign up to GamesAid! A polling card will be sent afterwards via email where you can find more information. Voting closes on September 5th 2016, so stay tuned for more updates over the next few weeks.

Energy and Excitement at the Apps for Good Awards 2016

A few weeks have passed since this year’s Apps for Good Awards but we still haven’t gotten over the excitement of meeting amazing student teams from across the UK. In our latest blog Apps for Good Expert Claire Unwin, from Atos, looks back at the evening of the Awards and some of the fantastic teams she met.

It’s over three weeks since the Apps for Good Awards took place at the Barbican in London, but I’m still buzzing from the energy and enthusiasm that was generated on that Monday evening when England were still in Euro 2016.

Stepping into the Gallery space at the Barbican centre, I was hit by a wall of noise. When I’ve attended conferences and trade fairs, there’s a subdued mumble in comparison. Here, when I tried to listen to the children promoting their app, some of the younger team members literally had to shout to be heard!

Fifteen finalists each had their own pitch on a stand and the invited guests circulated around the teams in the ‘Marketplace’, discovering the story behind each App. There was a healthy element of competition. This year, as well as the winners chosen by the ‘Dragons’, there would be a winner for People’s Choice. This year hundreds of  app ideas had been submitted to the final selection by schools across the UK who are delivering the Apps for Good course. I was thrilled to see three of the teams that I’d helped in my role as volunteer ‘expert’ had made it to the final.

Each of the finalist teams had to present their ‘pitch’ to the Dragons in the afternoon. There are five categories of awards, all of course with the theme of benefiting people rather than being for profit: Accessibility, Information, Connected Communities, Sustainable Communities and Productivity.

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Team DiPloy from Denbigh present their app

But this is now the fifth year of Apps for Good and not only has the number of entries grown, but the ways in which those involved can be recognised has also grown. This year, the awards ceremony was run by ‘Fellows’ i.e. school children who had been through the Apps for Good programme. There was an award for Expert of the Year, which deservedly went to Sandra Gonzalez, as founder of UX for Change and the person who first introduced me to Apps for Good.The Employability awards recognise the teams who may have done the best market research or the best marketing and SEO practices.

I spoke with the team for Rocket Code, a computer ‘game’ where you are lost in space and have to code a spaceship to get you home. If you want to travel faster in space, you code yourself a booster charger! The team were so passionate about their project, they said they’d be progressing it even if they didn’t win. Other apps I loved were Lillies, for children having to deal with bereavement, who had contacted 100 charities involved in the area as part of their research. Then there was DiPloy which is an app to support people with disabilities get into employment and where the team had gone into partnership with an existing Luton based charity to provide a service to generate CVs and run a job portal. Finally, Changes won the People’s Choice award and is an app for children dealing with going through puberty. All teams had found a problem to be solved, researched the market and were passionate about their project.

Leaving the Barbican, I was reflecting on what I love about Apps for Good? I love that it inspires everyone. I love that it’s such a simple model but with structure and purpose. (It’s effectively an MBA course for 12 year olds!) It’s a course where you learn to research, market, promote, present, pitch, problem solve, design, prototype and even code. I loved that one of the teams I’d helped had been brave enough to abandon their initial idea and were here in the final with a fresh new idea. I love that 50% of team members are girls and I love that nearly 50% of volunteers are women in tech.

If you asked me to take charge of the recent cabinet reshuffle, I’d propose a Minister for Entrepreneurism impose a tax on tech companies to support Apps for Good who are making such a huge contribution to training our next generation of employees!

To close the evening, Debbie Forster, CEO of Apps for Good, stood on stage with the finalists and once the applause died down, said simply “I defy anyone here tonight, not to feel inspired!”

It was a great night and great cause and I look forward to supporting Apps for Good in their sixth year.

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All the finalist from the Apps for Good Awards 2016

 

Apps for Good Fellows get a digital marketing masterclass from the experts at 123-Reg

On Monday 20th of June Apps for Good held our annual Awards ceremony at the Barbican Centre in London in order to recognise the work of some of the most innovative and inspiring student teams we have seen since the organisation was founded.

The event was a resounding success. Our students, educators, experts corporate partners and staff all came together for a celebration of digital talent and one of the reasons the day went so well was because of the tireless volunteer support that we received from another key community – our all important Fellows.

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