Tech Industry Gold students delight employers at Degrees North event

A blog by Craig Hurring, Communications Director at the Tech Partnership

The Tech Partnership welcomed over 300 students and course leaders from 13 universities who teach our Tech Industry Gold employer-accredited programmes, IT Management for Business (ITMB) and Software Engineering for Business (SEfB), to our annual student and employer North event in Manchester.

At this developmental event, unique to Tech Industry Gold programmes, students from universities across the UK benefit from coming together with tech employers from all sectors in the UK digital economy to discuss the skills most sought in industry from today’s graduates. This year, alongside leading employers, we were delighted to welcome entrepreneurs and alumni of Tech Partnership degrees, now returning to our events as employers.

The following organisations exhibited at the graduate recruitment fair which forms part of the event:

Accenture Acquledge Arup
Barclays Capgemini GSK
IBM Informed Solutions Lloyds Banking Group
P&G RBS UK Cloud

Morning welcome and addresses

The day began with a welcome address from Karen Price, CEO of the Tech Partnership, who urged students to make the most of the incredible opportunity they had that day to impress employers looking for talented students, and, in the words of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, to “lean in” – to be assertive, and take a leading role while given the unique opportunity the event offers.

Lean-in behaviour was then demonstrably shown to students by two former alumni of the ITMB programme, Ryan Clifford, a 2016 graduate from Queen Mary University now working as a Corporate Banking Graduate Analyst for Barclays, and Jon Carman, a 2013 graduate from the University of West England, now a Technology Business Partner at GSK.

They spoke passionately about the “unfair advantage” they felt they had been given through Tech Industry Gold, and how they had engaged with employers, key note speakers, alumni and mentors to make the most of the opportunity these degrees provided. They also announced the launch of the “Tech Allies Network”, a new movement to advance the digital skills gap, powered by the Tech Partnership Alumni Network.

Students then heard an inspirational key note address from Spencer Ayres, CEO of, who talked about the challenge businesses face solving “big, hairy, audacious problems” and how some of the most complex business goals are best achieved indirectly, by not being too focused on revenue, but instead on a more oblique and aspirational target – for instance, Facebook’s quest to make the world more open and connected.

Spencer also explained how the most talented employees today seek balance in their lives to achieve wellbeing, and explained the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which looks at contentment through bringing together what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for and what you are good at.

Midday recruitment fair and competitions

Students were then divided up into groups, with some attending the Recruitment Fair to speak with our guest employers about careers for graduates within their organisations, and others working on a highly interactive creative challenge, working with to develop an App mash-up, taking some of the best functionality from standalone apps and thinking about how to build something new by bringing them together. In the spirit of Tech Industry Gold’s focus on developing broad marketable skills, the students not only designed an app concept, they made videos and pitched it to the audience to demonstrate their soft skills too. These groups then swapped over.

Meanwhile, groups of students who had entered the Tech Partnership’s competition ahead of the event were able to present their ideas to leading employers on topics that are affecting business today.

First year students were asked to consider “How you can use Artificial Intelligence to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges?”, and the judges were astonished at the level of skill shown, particularly given that the students have only been at university a matter of weeks. The winners were as follows, with an exceptional contribution award for a particularly outstanding speaker:

  • 1s t- Glasgow Caledonian
  • 2nd- Aston
  • 3rd- Queen Mary
  • Exceptional Contribution: Maxim Olivson (Loughborough)

Second and Final year teams were asked to consider a different problem: “How can you use technology to address a healthcare challenge in the UK?”, with a collection of cross-industry healthcare experts again hugely impressed at the calibre of thinking and presenting they experienced. After some intense debate, the winners of this challenge were confirmed as follows:

  • 1st Queen Mary ITMB
  • 2nd UWL
  • Exceptional Contributions: Adam Hazem (UWL)
  • Thomas Chalmers (Queen Mary)
  • Maria Sabatini (Glasgow Caledonian)
  • William Stewart (UWE Bristol)

Afternoon industry insights and interview masterclass

Students were then divided by year groups again to consider specific industry perspectives and challenges in smaller groups. First year students attended a presentation from Sam Latif, Special Consultant for Inclusive Design of Procter & Gamble, who explained the importance of “Falling in love with the consumer”, and showed students how consumer thinking transforms P&G’s product development and use of technology. Sam also gave some fascinating insights of her own experiences, since she is partially sighted and has been able to use her own challenges with existing product design and packaging for P&Gs benefit, for instance developing widely understood icons to replace complex, small print, multi-lingual packaging instructions on globally purchased products.

Second and Final Year students then had the opportunity to either attend a Tech Innovators Panel or an Interview Masterclass. The Tech Innovators Panel gave students and university lecturers the chance to ask leading employers from across the tech sector about their current challenges, priorities and the way technology is deployed across their business. In a fascinating discussion, attendees were asked some very intelligent questions, and were rewarded with very honest perspectives about the challenges posed by regulation, internet security, Brexit and the pace of technological change. The panel was as follows:

  • Martin Blakely, Global Digital Commerce Content, GSK (Chair)
  • Ricardo Gomez, Director, Regeneris
  • Nick Frost, Payments Portfolio Director, Barclays
  • Lynne Makinson-Walsh, Head of Culture, Dreamr
  • Matt Haworth, Co-founder, Reason Digital

The Interview Masterclass was led by Sally Rhodes, Business Services Resourcing Partner of Arup, who explained to students how the graduate recruitment process was changing, and what really made candidates stand out in the selection process. This was an understandably well-attended session!

Final presentations and close of day

The greatest example of lean in behaviour was saved until last. Faced with an unavoidable last-minute cancellation of a key note speaker from industry, ITMB student and IBM placement student, David Sint volunteered to address the whole audience, without a presentation or any preparation, on his own experiences. David spoke passionately about IBM’s Extreme Blue summer scheme, Placement Year opportunities and Graduate Schemes, before explaining the work he is now doing with IBM Watson on the Internet of Things. To present to such a high standard at such short notice was hugely impressive.

Finally, the room watched the App mash-up pitch finalists and voted on their winner. By a narrow margin glory was earned by team ‘Format’, for their innovative app concept, designed to make the process of capturing conversations around graduate employment easier – so a both relevant and practical implementation of skills learned during the day!

Many thanks again to all our students, academic staff, employers and exhibitors who came to a hugely satisfying and successful day. It was a terrific event, perfectly summed up in a tweet we received from a student: “The Tech Partnership North Event provides such an opportunity to hear from industry keynote speakers to gain that crucial knowledge”- Thomas Chalmers, ITMB student, Queen Mary, University of London.

Next event is in the South of England on 7 March 2018

The Tech Industry Gold degrees South event for students and employers will take place on March 7th 2018 at CA Technologies, Datchet. Registrations for the next event will follow shortly, but employers interested in getting involved should book early. Not only will you make a real difference to the development of students from universities across the UK, you will also have early sight of a lot of exceptional talent!

Please contact [email protected] for any queries regarding the next student/employer event.

Click here for photos of the Manchester event.

Other spot prizes given on the day:

  • Tweet of the day: Thomas Chalmers (Queen Mary)
  • P&G Insight: Jack Sams (UWE)