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The Graduate Developer Community was set up with the intention being able to inspire, guide and act as mentors for undergraduates with an interest in Software Development. The group has been running for the last 2 years and we have now got connections with many universities, technical societies and companies in London.

One of our main principals is in helping students to understand their options beyond University. We have found that there are many myths in this area and that many undergraduates are not always clear on their options once they leave university. We are involved in a number of initiatives to help students find their way through the industry including the GDC Careers website, which hosts interviews with many industry mentors and tells their story through software.

We are now in the process of setting up a program which we are branding as ‘Meet a mentor’ in association with RecWorks.

The goal of the program is to run a series of events within different universities. With inspiration from unconferences, the events will have a vibrant ‘speed dating’ style in which mentors will spend 10-15 minutes speaking to a set group of 5-10 students before moving on to another group. We believe this approach will be far more effective than a standard presentation in helping individuals feel more engaged with the mentors and ask questions relevant to their particular interests.

We are looking to build a network of ‘mentors’ that would be interested in speaking to students about their stories and answering their questions. All we are looking for at this point is someone that may be interested in spending 1-2 hours, once or twice a year (although there will be opportunity to go far beyond this). There is very little expectation of you, but a lot of opportunity.

The program will be promoted by the GDC in association with RecWorks, who will be responsible for co-ordinating and organising the events.

FAQs

What would constitute a mentor:

– Software developers, Testers, Business Analysts, CTOs, Trainers, Academics, PhDs, Development Managers, IT Managers. Seniority or experience level is not important, but passion is. Anyone with an ounce of passion for their discipline within software should apply
– Open Source Software developers, User Group leaders, Agile enthusiasts, Software Craftsmen, Opinionated technologists… the more opinionated the better

What would you have to do:

– Turn up at a university either inside or outside of core business hours (let us know your preference)
– Speak to a small groups of 5-10 students about your experiences and answer any questions that students may have

What would you get out of it

– An ability to tell the next generation of thought leaders about your story, company, product or open source project
– A chance to make a genuine impact on someone elses career.
– A chance to actually inspire a great many people to do the things you believe in (writing clean code, getting involved in Agile, considering testing as a career, get involved in open source software development etc.)
– A chance to say “in my day…”

How to get involved

– Just send me an email at bc@recworks.co.uk. I’ll add you onto a mailing list through which we will let you know about further opportunities to get involved.

We will take care of every other part of the organisation, you will be presented with a date, time and institution to get involved and all you have to do is let us know if you can make it. There will be no expectation of you, so if you’re just interested in getting involved directly or just to see what is going on then please let me know.

I’m really enthusiastic about this taking off and will keep the blog updated as soon as we have our first few events.

 

Barry Cranford

@bcrecworks

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Vithun Kumar Gajendra is a recent Masters Graduate. In this short post Vithun recounts how software went from being a skill to a passion. It is well worth a read to discover how all of a sudden things started to click and how that has already started to make a difference in his work.

Barry Cranford

My name is Vithun Kumar Gajendra. I am originally from India, and completed a Master’s course in UK under a student visa. Before coming to UK, I worked as a Software Engineer for about 15 months, and I was very much in the thick of action. This work experience would also go on to help me to understand the stuff I studied in the Master’s course even better. My experience here was like a typical recent graduate who enjoyed doing quick programming tasks at college level. I used to solve problems very quickly (I used to be the quickest in my batch at office!), and would go on accomplishing a lot of things within these 15 months. I worked on problems and mini-projects in fields ranging across Shell scripts, CSS, JSP, Servlets, Oracle PL-SQL, SOAP Web Services, a bit of Spring etc. I had a good time working as part of a team making use of tools like CVS, Bugzilla etc. I also got introduced to how tools like Eclipse, Maven, Ant, Hudson etc. were being used in a development environment (I had no idea about the existence of some of these tools before!). In short, this was a period where I was a really good jack of all trades, but unfortunately the master of none. I now look back at that time, and feel that my speed was actually a curse. I did not have the patience to stop and look in detail at some of the things I had done and understand them in depth. I just thought I could do anything and did not worry about how I did it.

I then came over to the UK to do my Master’s course. I did an MSc in Advanced Web Engineering in the University of Essex. It was here that I had my first “eureka” moment. I had this module called “Software Design and Architecture”. In this module, I was formally introduced to the concept of “coupling” in software engineering. And I suddenly realised that I had never thought about writing code in a clean way before. All that I focussed on before was to write code that would get the job done. Now I suddenly realised that there was a good (“artistic” if you might) way to write code. I suddenly realised what a fool I had been! And all of a sudden, I began realising the role of concepts like refactoring and design patterns. (I had been part of a “refactoring” team in my previous work experience without having this knowledge). And now, I turned wise. I realised there is always much more to learn (and apply).

Once I completed my Master’s, I had to wait a few months. I could not find a job as I was still under student visa. And I wouldn’t get my work visa until I got my degree results. So it was in this period that I decided to have a look at Spring. You might ask: Why Spring? I had been introduced to Spring at Mformation. I was required to rewrite existing DAOs using Spring templates and thereby eliminate boilerplate code. I just followed the instructions of my team lead: “Rewrite the code using Spring methods. Declare something in some XMLs and it would work.” It did work, and I did not care at that time how it worked. For some reason, after my Master’s, I thought I’ll have a look at how this worked. And then another eureka moment struck me. Spring was not something that just helped in simplifying DAOs. It was LOTS more than that. I began studying it in detail from the basics(Dependency Injection, Aspect Oriented Programming). The more I read about it, the more I started getting excited.

By this time, I got an internship offer. They required someone with HTML and MySQL skills, and although I wanted to work with Java, I tried to keep myself occupied until I got my work visa. But my interview here went rather well, which in turn made them think about my position as being somewhat permanent and not just an intern. However I joined on a temporary contract (as I still had just a student visa). I was given an in-house problem (of reasonable complexity) to solve. I came up with a concept, which I thought would work. I wrote a proposal, and my manager suggested me to implement it using PHP. I requested him if I could do it in Java, and after a bit of reluctance (because PHP was used mainly for development within the company) he agreed. I now got the platform to use my Spring knowledge (gained mainly by reading and doing small examples). I developed a proof-of-concept within 7 days. Through this course, I made use of Spring, Hibernate, Maven and Eclipse. I created a well-structured and organized code-base. My manager was impressed with the solution and the speed at which I implemented it. He considered it an “elegant” solution to the problem. And this time I was satisfied that my speed had not come at the cost of learning. I understood more about Spring and my interest in Spring has increased even more. I informed the management that I did not intend to take up a permanent position (because they were looking for someone who would do more with PHP, and I did not want to give up Java and Spring, and I also wanted to relocate to London). So towards the end of my tenure, I had to explain the application I had created to a colleague who had a good understanding of Java, but no knowledge of Spring/Hibernate. Within the next couple of days, I managed to impress her with what all Spring had to offer. She was also able to easily pick up the code I had written (and the best practices I had followed). She also decided to use my proof-of-concept as the base and extend it to completely satisfy the requirements. I left the place with a very good feeling and a sense of accomplishment, and with good relationships forged.

Vithun Kumar Gajendra

Earlier this year we started running a free service to graduates whereby we will give free interview advice. It has been very successful and we have had a lot of positive feedback from it including this today from Pedro Francis:

“I would like to thank Barry and his team for all their help and advice, which has resulted in me having been offered a Junior Java Developer job. All the great interview advice and the telephone advice sessions have been so useful in my interviews”

One thing we were frequently asked about was help in putting together a CV. It can be very tricky knowing what people expect to see in your CV so we have teamed up with several graduate employers from a variety of industries to put together what we consider to be a fine example of a Graduate CV. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/gradcv

Please feel free to use it for inspiration or as a template for your own CV. It is worth considering that you should take the time to adjust your CV to make it suitable for each and every application you send, but this should serve as a good starting point when putting together your applications.

We would love to hear from you as to your thoughts and any success you have when using it.

Barry Cranford
Barry Cranford runs ClearView IT Recruitment Solutions Ltd: A recruitment consultancy specialising in the Java Development industry.

It’s difficult to know exactly the right way to prepare for an interview. I have successfully coached many graduates and developers to new jobs and preparation is essential to succeed in any interview. The question is what should you prepare and how much? Read the website? Check the latest news articles? Speak to people who currently work there? Download accounts for the last 5 years? It’s hard to know what information and how much to prepare on, and essentially how to use that preparation to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the company. I am going to offer my opinion and some thoughts on this subject.

Yesterday I had a meeting with several technical members of a top London Consultancy. Each have been involved in interviewing graduates so I was keen to know what they look for and what makes Grads stand out to them. What was quite interesting about our conversation was that it started to help me deconstruct something that I have long thought about. How can you measure how bright someone is?

Most companies recruiting Graduates are looking for a ‘bright’ candidate… but what is ‘bright’? What does it mean? It is an ambiguous word that I have found hard to measure. In the past I have relied on my gut instinct when speaking to someone to decide if I feel they are bright enough for a job. Speaking to the consultancy yesterday helped me to start breaking this trait down into measurable qualities.

They spoke a lot about good questioning skills, candidates that could ask the right questions, listen to the answers and were able to process the information. I believe the raw skill here is in being inquisitive. Some people are naturally inquisitive – they naturally know how to ask the right questions, but many people simply aren’t sure what they should be asking. I believe simply by being honestly interested in the opportunity it’s possible to demonstrate these skills in an interview, whether it comes naturally to you or not, which brings us back to the preparation necessary for an interview.

Very early in my career, when I used to prepare for interviews I’d rack by brain trying to think of a question to ask at the end. I would think I don’t want to ask anything obvious because they will think I should know that already. Preparing for an interview you should not be thinking “What will make me look good” or I’ll learn the website inside out – that will show my enthusiasm”. You should be asking yourself questions that you really care about. The fact is that you may actually get a job at this company…  If you get this job it will make a difference on the rest of your career and life. Hopefully you will be looking to stay with this company for at least a few years, you may even want to stay with them for the rest of your career. If you get the job it will occupy most of your time, these people will become your friends. When you start thinking about the opportunity in this way the preparation becomes far more focused around “what do you want to know” instead of “what could you tell them to show you’ve prepared”. If you really think about it you should already have an honest interest in them and the questions will be obvious. These are good starting points.

–          What will I be doing Monday to Friday? What is a typical day?

–          What are they really like to work for?

–          What is the industry like? Who are their competitors and what makes this company better than them?

–          What is progression like in the company – What will I be doing in 3 months, 6 months, 2 years or 5 years? What have previous grads gone on to do?

–          What is the team like? Is it a big team? Are they young/old? Social? Will I fit in?

–          Etc…

A lot of the answers to your questions you will find on the internet from reading their website, industry news, google, blogs from other members that have worked at the company etc. but you should be left with a long list of questions that you can ask at the interview. Interviews will be a lot easier as they become more of a fact-finding meeting.

The strategy is to start developing an ‘honest’ interest in your career. Don’t think “I just want to get a job”, think “I want to get the right job for me”. Remember interviews are a two-way exercise and it is important to treat them as such. When you get further through the process to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th round interviews, a lot of your initial questions will have been answered but this is an opportunity to meet and question even more people within the organization to get an even better feel for what the company will be like to work for.

–          How did they get into the organization? As a Grad or with experience?

–          How quickly have they progressed through the ranks?

–          What is their personal perspective on where the company is going over the next 2-5 years?

–          What are they looking for in their next recruit?

–          Etc…

If you use this strategy properly, not only will it enable you to make the right choice in your career but it also carries many other benefits.

–          It will ensure you come across as bright because of your ability to ask the right questions and be interested in the answers.

–          It will ensure you come across as enthusiastic because of the effort you have already put into finding out about the company.

–          It will help with interview nerves as you should be excited about going in to an interview to find more out about the job instead of trying as hard as possible about making a good impression.

–          It will help build rapport with everyone you interview with as it will enable them to speak about themselves and their company – effectively selling it back to you…

I am keen to hear feedback from you. Perhaps you approach every interview like this already or perhaps you have a completely different strategy when it comes to preparation. I am not advocating that you do no other preparation than this, merely that you take an ‘honest’ interest in every opportunity and use that as a starting point.

 Good luck to you all.

 Barry Cranford

So what is the GDC, and what is it all about?

Learning new technologies, Career development, Recruitment advice, Networking….

The GDC or Graduate Development Community is a social network for degree students & recent graduates to come together in one place.

If you are not already aware, the London Technical Community is positively buzzing with a large number of users’ groups aimed at pretty much any technology you could be interested in, specialist or general. Users’ groups started in the early days of mainframe computers, as a way to share sometimes hard-won knowledge and useful software and have thrived ever since.

As an example I run a user group aimed at Java developers (it’s called the LJC, you can find out more at www.londonjavacommunity.co.uk) through this community we organise regular presentations for Java developers of all levels from Graduates to Senior Technical Architects and Development Managers to get free introductions to the latest technologies from key figures in the industry. The LJC acts as a platform to assist people in learning, networking & career development, feel free to read our members feedback: http://www.meetup.com/Londonjavacommunity/about/comments/?op=all

My background is in technical recruitment. I have many connections with UK based companies and have throughout my career spent a lot of time trying to understand the technical recruitment process and what companies are looking for from candidates of every level. Much of the feedback I have had when it comes to Graduates is that there is a gap between what is taught in Universities and what is used in Industry. I am hoping to use a combination of my industry connections and personal experience to help bridge that gap through anyway possible.

To become a member please visit our official Community site – http://www.meetup.com/Graduate-Undergraduate-Development-Community/

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

Barry Cranford

b.cranford@clearview-itrs.co.uk

What is the GDC?

The GDC, or Graduate Development Community is an independent community of undergraduate software developers. Our goal is to bridge the gap between the worlds of Academia and Business. We organise and host presentations and events with senior members of the development community as well as offering advice, guidance, internships and jobs through our community site.