Every graduate from the first cohort at EyUp has now found a tech job. The award-winning Yorkshire tech skills academy is good for students keen to develop rewarding careers – and it’s great for software companies hungry for tech talent.
We spoke to Drew McLaughlin, director of engineering at WANdisco plc, about why EyUp works for employers after he hired two of Ey Up’s graduates, Jess Hamby and Jake Rooms, as junior developers. They are now working on world-leading software that helps farmers plough fields, healthcare companies predict diseases and astronomers find new exoplanets.
Drew said: “EyUp isn’t just about learning how to code. It’s about learning how to behave like a software engineer in a team of software engineers.”
EyUp teaches people everything they need to know to get a job as a software developer within 16 week and offers a guarantee to its students – a tech job within six months or their money back.
Drew added: “I knew coding academies could be good and you could get good people out of them but I didn’t realise how good until I watched the first cohort’s sprint review in EyUp and the way they were behaving was like watching a software team in action. I wanted to be part of it. The way they interact with their adopted teams at WANdisco is just the same.
“Only 50 per cent of being a software engineer is about writing code. The rest is about communication, time management and soft skills. Some of my best hires are exes – an ex-chef, an ex-social worker and an ex-charge nurse – and they are all top-notch software engineers.
“The reason is they have interpersonal skills and can communicate with people and extract or share information when there is a problem. Because the EyUp syllabus is so team based and all these people come from various backgrounds and already have life skills, when the coding and its practical application are layered on top, you get an actual software engineer after 16 weeks.”
The EyUp course revolves around learning weeks and project weeks. Students learn how to code and practice how to solve problems and then tackle projects as part of a scrum team. The team goes through the industry process of requirements, estimation, doing the work, tracking burn-down charts, doing code reviews and tests and then demoing the customer product at the end.
Drew said: “That’s the real difference. You don’t get that level of team experience with a university degree. If you graduate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you might have scratched the surface about how software teams work and the tools and technologies used to produce software but when you come out of EyUp, you will have done five, six or seven projects practising all of those skills.
“If a computer science graduate comes out of university, there is no guarantee they know anything about the scrum development process other than maybe the theory or they have done any code reviews. Usually they will have done some testing but they would not have had the opportunity to run multiple projects as a scrum team and learn the industry best practice. And unless they were lucky, they would not have had a lecturer who knows what it’s like to be in a software team.”
WANdisco tends not to hire graduates straight from university but instead uses a placement programme for people in the second year of their computer science or related degree courses who are slowly integrated into teams.
Drew said: “You can see the level of complexity they are faced with is just huge. They don’t understand the full system. Things like code reviews and the scrum process are all new to them. After a month, they are starting to do the basic things but are still finding their feet. Between two to six months, they start to become independent developers. After six months, the best ones are almost fully fledged junior engineers.
“The timeframe is compressed with our EyUp graduates Jess and Jake who are doing really high levels of work within weeks. They are asking really sensible questions and showing a level of understanding way ahead of where placement students would be. The value for us as an employer is in finding talented people with the aptitude to do software engineering. Knowing they have been through a system which teaches them to be a software engineer in a holistic sense makes them good hires. They can come on board quickly and understand the game of software engineering.
“The feedback from our hiring partners Affecto was great: the EyUp graduates are really sellable because they can talk, converse and enthuse about the job and their prospects. When Jess and Jake interviewed, they already had a really good way of presenting themselves to an employer. It was impressive.”
EyUp is recruiting for its third cohort to start in September 2022. Eight places are available, including two places funded by a bursary scheme for people from disadvantaged backgrounds or who are under-represented in the tech sector. The money-back pledge is for any graduates who complete the course and fail to land a tech job within six months.