Well I did it. I popped my cherry and gave my first careers talk. Even as a former Stand up Comedian, I was a tad nervous.
The event formed part of a career’s fair at Bury comprehensive school, St Gabriel’s RC, and a visit from a Tech professional was almost unprecedented – in a context where the focus is often on the public sector.
Wanting to make a strong impression and represent the sector well, I took the occasion very seriously. As a seasoned performer, I over prepared and anticipated an audience not dissimilar to a drunken crowd in a weekend club: short attention spans, chatty, hyper – but alas, it was not to be.
This collection of 25, 13 year olds, conducted themselves very well. They came in, sat down and listened with all the focus and attention you’d expect from a room full of high paid professionals.
My talk The Technology Sector: Embrace the Future was designed to inspire and enthuse the pupils about the burgeoning Tech industry, which is relatively on their doorstep. According to Tech Nation, there were approx 60k digital/tech jobs in Manchester (2017), generating almost 3 billion in turnover. It’s clearly an industry that warrants excitement.
I moved onto introduce Dream Agility’s role within the sector, delicately explaining our AI platform, which optimises search terms for digital advertisers. This effectively opened out the wider debate about Artificial Intelligence’s increasing role within our lives. At this point I realised I had under-estimated them, as they revealed how au fait they were about AI.
I struggled to subdue their excitement at the wonders of Amazon’s Alexa:
DID YOU KNOW, YOU CAN PLAY HANGMAN WITH HER?
No, neither did I!
The presentation ended with a description of my career to date. From an average student at a school in Bolton, up to being Marketing Manager at a local award-winning AdTech. Truly demonstrating that they needn’t look far for interesting and fulfilling career opportunities.
It was also interesting to see it resonate when I spoke of the diversity of roles within Tech, revealing it’s accommodation of a broad range of skills and interests. Not just for the IT enthusiasts.
The conclusive Q&A part of the session continued to remind me that I was dealing with a group that would be more accurately regarded as young people rather than children. Direct questions were quickly fired at me:
DO YOU HAVE APPRENTICESHIP SCHEMES?
HOW MUCH DO YOU EARN?
The latter question would not die off quickly. In my futile attempt to shrug it off comes the follow up:
WHAT CAR DO YOU DRIVE?
Endearingly honest and cheeky. I gave in.
A Peugeot 207
I don’t think it was the answer he was looking for. However, I was quick to highlight that if I was a millionaire then I’d still be driving a Peugeot 207.
The hugely disproportionate gender representation was unfortunate, and a reminder that our unusual preconception that ‘Tech is for boys’ has been inherited. But hopefully, as we continue to challenge that notion that will soon be a thing of the past.
Strengthening the relationship between businesses and schools should be an important part of our role within our communities. Raising awareness of kids’ options helps both parties, and creates a more inclusive perception of the routes into a good career – moving away from a university centric vision.
As Dream Agility continues to grow, embracing local talent seems logical as we open up the dialogue between education and business. Much gratitude to Bury Council for seizing the initiative and establishing the Employers in Education platform.
Other Technology companies should follow suit to break down those barriers and modernise the perception of apprenticeships.
Given the turnout, knowledge, and attitude of the pupils I interacted with, the future looks bright for Tech talent, which can only be good for Greater Manchester and more specifically, for Silicon Rammy.