Posts Tagged ‘recruitment’

5
Jul
2016

Enough about Diversity

by Amy Crimmens

This morning Becca and I went to a breakfast briefing on diversity. I’m not usually up for breakfast events as I’m grumpy in the morning but I was interested to see if there was anything different being said after hearing Dave, our COO speak at a diversity meetup last week.

There were 3 speakers on the line up; each covered a lot of the stuff that is often discussed at these events like “your team makeup should reflect the makeup of society” and “put yourself in a situation where you are in a minority and you’ll understand how it feels”. All very valid points and great things to be reminded of but not necessarily anything new. They also slipped in a few stereotypes and assumptions, for example a girl will feel excluded amongst a group of guys if they talk about football (Becca and I both raised our eyebrows at this) or that we need to hire more female designers (6 out of 8 of our digital designers are female- we almost have the opposite issue). The main focus of the event was gender diversity and in my mind when we talk about gender diversity we should talk about exactly that- and not simply focus on whether women are adequately represented.

Anyhoo..a nice point came from Mike Islip CEO at Digitas Lbi, he talked about helping women come back into work after having children and told us that Digitas has just signed its 1st term-time only contract. Now that I’ve heard Mike talk about this type of contract, it seems like common sense and a bit daft that it isn’t a more of a common occurrence (maybe it is and I just don’t know about it). I could definitely see Red Badger considering offering this in future if someone needed it, hats off to Digitas for leading the way.

I listened to a lot of the talks and kept thinking it was all a bit unnecessary; and then during the discussion panel my feelings were summed up nicely by one of the audience members. Maybe the point is that it’s not about focusing on gender diversity after all; instead we should focus on being a good and responsible company. Simple as that.

badger-team
 

At Red Badger we don’t need to make rules about things like only having meetings scheduled  from 10-4 and banning emails from 8pm – 8am because we have a culture where we talk openly about important things and we respect each other. We don’t expect colleagues to respond to emails in the evenings and if there is someone who needs to work certain hours due to child care (or any other legit reason actually) we talk about it and make a plan that works. We like each other and recognise the contribution each of our colleagues brings to the company so why would we want to exclude someone or disregard their childcare responsibilities?

I am aware that we are a company of 70ish people (& 1 dog) at the moment and already we are finding we need to formalise our stance on more things as we grow. However, we are also very focused on maintaining the culture we have worked hard to foster and which I would say has led to us organically building a team which is very diverse on many fronts.

There is space for one or two more friendly faces on our team. If you would like to join us check out our vacancies here and get in touch so we can talk about the important stuff.

 

8
Mar
2016

Gender equality at Red Badger

by David Wynne

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the progress made in regards to gender equality and to highlight where progress still needs to be made.

IWD

 

Equality, in all its forms, is often a tricky thing to discuss without sounding patronising and I am acutely aware that I am a man talking about gender equality at a company setup and run by 3 men. When the subject came up on our #general channel in Slack last week some very interesting debate was had and some valid concerns raised, not least around positive discrimination:

Since “women in tech” is such a big THING now, I will always and forever be wondering if I’m hired/invited to give a talk/whatever because I’m good at what I do or because I happen to be a girl. Unfair and bullshit. No one ever thinks about that.

So I’m going to try and tread carefully, but I do want to talk about it because: a) it’s important and; b) I’m very proud of what we have achieved in an industry that often doesn’t always do itself any favours on equality.

Gender equality at Red Badger

So what are our stats? As of right now they look like this:

54% male
46% female
3% pay gap, in favour of males

To put that into context, according to the Office for National Statistics in November 2015 the gender pay gap for earnings of full-time employees was 9% in favour of males (that jumps to 19% if you include part-time workers).

If I stop for a moment and consider how we got here, I would like to think it has more to do with what we haven’t done as opposed to what we have done.

There is no doubt that we set out with the intention of addressing our gender split a couple of years ago when it was very heavily skewed in favour of men. At the time we were aware that the culture being created by such a skew didn’t embody or reflect many of the positive traits we recognised and valued in our personal lives.

That doesn’t mean we set out the next day to just hire more women, or positively discriminate in our hiring process. One of the things I love about Red Badger is that I get to be amongst some of the brightest people I’ve ever worked with, where mutual respect is quickly earned and valued. As such, to hire based on anything other than ability would quickly end in disaster and certainly wouldn’t be worth the headline stat.

Being acutely aware of something you would like to achieve does mean however that you regularly question whether the approach you’re taking is conducive to your desired outcome.

Positive action can be taken at the top of the hiring funnel, in terms of attracting, engaging and encouraging a greater balance of applications which in turn increases the probability of a greater balance at the bottom of the funnel. Ensuring job specs don’t exhibit any gender bias, supporting and attending user groups who set out to foster diversity, and encouraging a diverse base of applicants from London’s STEM led universities are all practical examples of positive action we have taken.

In turn, a greater balance at the top of the hiring funnel has started to become a self perpetuating trend, with our even gender split often cited in interviews as a reason to apply for a job here.

It should not be surprising that a group tends to attract that which it reflects. It is naturally harder to approach a group, or feel empowered within a group, if you don’t feel you naturally belong there. If, on the other hand, you are able to look at a group and feel it easy to approach and feel confident you won’t have to battle to establish your place within it, then that group is much more likely to succeed in attracting a balanced crowd.

Finally when it comes to hiring selection, you only have to ask 2 questions: Did gender play a part when someone was considered for a role and did gender play a part when their salary was considered for that role? The answer of course, is that gender should never even have arisen as something to consider in either case.

If you’d like to be part of our team, please check out our current vacancies.

7
Aug
2015

Badger or badgerette? Does it matter what’s down your trousers?

by Amy Crimmens

I’ve worked in various non-techy roles in tech companies for the past 7 years. When I started at Red Badger a year ago, one of designers spent time looking at the gender split of the company and proudly announced it was 50/50- I was quite surprised at the “fuss”. Now I don’t know how I lived in such a bubble!

My last role was at an IT Consultancy with a female founder, the company celebrated its 20th anniversary just before I left and had around 80 employees. It was a great company to work at and I never gave a thought to the gender split. The founder Sally doesn’t agree with gender-specific events and groups and made the very valid point that if you prohibit half the population from joining in you miss out of half of the potential knowledge and experience. I can totally get on board with this.

However, after a year of working in the startup world and particularly after the palaver that resulted in #ILookLikeAnEngineer- it’s clear there is a lot to be done, and it’s not just us girls that care, the guys are bothered too. When we asked the team why they enjoyed working at Red Badger several of the guys responded along the lines of “it’s not a sausage-fest”.

 #ilooklikeanengineer

#ILookLikeAnEngineer Red Badger style.

 

As a relatively new, and growing company we have a responsibility; companies that start with a commitment to diversity are likely to maintain it, whereas companies that grow without these principles are less likely to change their ways once they are established. If we want things to be more equal and diverse in the future, the start up world can play a key role.

I don’t agree with gender quotas or putting someone is a position for any other reason than they are the best candidate for the job but there are things we can do to encourage a more equal gender balance. At Red Badger, if we notice one area of the business is turning into the very eloquently put “sausage-fest” ( thanks Viktor) or the opposite, we look at why and try to rectify the trend. We recently used an online tool to check for any gender bias in our Software Engineer job ad for example.

The sausage-fest comment aside, there are big reasons why its great that we have a diverse team, and not just in terms of a good gender split, we have 21 different nationalities and we speak even more languages. Diverse groups are more able to draw on members’ varied experiences which leads to improved decision-making, problem solving and more innovative thinking; diverse groups have higher  “collective intelligence”. Collective intelligence has less to do with how smart each team member is and more to do with the make up of the group. This basically means the Red Badger team is VERY wise. See Anita Wooley’s work on collective intelligence for more info. 


Badgers map

A map of our home countries.

 

So we are doing pretty well at Red Badger but something that REALLY, really bothers me is that we have never had a female speaker at the London React User Group – we’ve been hosting these monthly events with 2 or 3 speakers each time for over a year – that’s over 30 speakers and they’ve all been guys. You’d even be challenged to find more than a handful of girls in the 250 strong audience at most of the events. This isn’t unusual – I’ve been at meetups in a room full of guys numerous times – so what do we do? I’d love to hear any ideas- amy.crimmens@red-badger.com

And if you like the sound of Red Badger and think you’d like to be part of our team we’d love to hear from you. Check out our current vacancies here.

25
May
2015

Red Badger is 5!!!

by Cain Ullah

Time goes so quickly when you are having fun. It seems like yesterday that Stu, Dave and I put £10K each of our personal savings into Red Badger and started working from our bedrooms. That was on 24th May 2010, 5 years ago, and Red Badger has come a long way since then.

In the last two years, Red Badger have been growing more than 100% year on year in terms of revenue, profit and employees. We have some great current clients in Sky, Tesco, Fortnum & Mason, Lloyds Commercial Bank and Financial Times and are doing some really interesting, cutting edge work.

Sometimes you get so busy in the now that you forget to look back at where you have come from and what you have achieved and I have to say that I am immensely proud of where Red Badger are at today. It has been an interesting journey with plenty of mistakes but we have learnt and adapted as we have grown and have achieved good success to date.

Two big reasons for Red Badger’s success are the amazing team and culture that we have built up and the fact that nearly 50 employees and 5 years later, Red Badger is still built on the same core values as it was on day one.

First I want to discuss our core principles and then we will get to our employees and culture.

Core principles

When Stu, Dave and I started Red Badger, we were not seasoned entrepreneurs. This was our first crack at running a proper business. However, we were seasoned consultants and were battle hardened enough to know what we didn’t like about how other businesses were run and how we thought we could do it better.

To illustrate to some of our more recent employees that they were living and breathing a vision from 5 years ago, I recently pointed out this blog post that I wrote just 1 month into Red Badger’s existence, based on a term I coined ethical consulting. It was an incredibly simple blog based on one idea – we didn’t ever want to have an incentivised sales team because of the problems we felt it caused when it came to delivery. We wanted to do sales differently to the traditional way in which other companies operated. Our sales process would follow some guiding principles upon which we wanted to base the rest of the company: Quality, Value, Transparency, Honesty, Collaboration. When this blog was released, it was met by some with disdain and dismissed as being naive but still to this day, we do not have an incentivised sales team and have done perfectly well without one.

Strong opinions weakly held

A favourite mantra of Stu’s and one that ripples through Red Badger is “strong opinions weakly held”. We believed strongly in our core principles but were willing to listen and adapt if someone showed us a better way. If having no incentivised sales team hadn’t worked, we would have admitted it didn’t work and changed it. However, all three founders had a vision for how Red Badger should be run and to date it has worked and we have a great company built upon a strong foundation. A key learning is to never be afraid of trying something different if you believe in it. If it doesn’t work, or someone shows you a better way then try something else.

Doing the right thing

5 years on, our core values remain the same. We want to do the right thing. We want to provide quality and we want to provide value to our clients. If doing the right thing is at your core, increased revenue becomes a consequence.

At our last company day in the Summer of 2014, Dave our COO presented the following slide to all of our staff re-iterating that doing the right thing is paramount and the rest follows.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 14.31.05.png

Doing the right thing – Company Day presentation slide.

We hang our hat on quality and don’t take on new business unless we know we can deliver it to the best of our ability.  This has held us in good stead.

Looking at our current 5 concurrent clients, 2 are new but 3 we have been working with for over 12  months; Sky we have been working with since September 2013. All of these client engagements started with projects of no more than 4 months but through doing great work, the clients have continued to want to work with us for as long as is feasible.

We ask for no commitment. We just do great work by doing the right thing and as a result, end up winning lots of repeat business to supplement the new business efforts.

Core values are incredibly important but of equal importance is building a strong culture.

Culture

Of course, none of any of the successes over the last 5 years would be possible had it not been for our employees. We have built up an incredibly dynamic, talented team that are all simply a pleasure to work with. We put a hell of a lot of effort to create a great culture at Red Badger. We want Red Badger to be the best place that anyone could ever want to work at. A lofty goal but one we constantly strive for.

Recruitment

Great culture starts with recruitment. No-one gets to work at Red Badger unless we think that the existing team would love to work with them. This is a monumental effort. In the last month alone we have had 227 candidates pass the first screening stage and are currently hiring at a rate of approximately 4 per month. However, the effort is most definitely worth it in the long term. You don’t get it right 100% of the time but it is important to us to not hire the wrong person in haste because we are in a hurry to resource a new project. We’d prefer to turn the work down, be patient, hire the right people and focus on building a great culture.

Building a culture

Once you have the right people, a lot of work goes into maintaining culture and creating an environment which is great to work in. A lot of this is to do with trust. As a Director you have to let go and trust your employees to get on with it.

In Dan Pink’s “Drive”, a fantastic book about what motivates us, he talks about three key elements: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

In a nutshell, these mean the following things:

  • Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives

  • Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters

  • Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

These three elements are really important in creating a great culture.

Autonomy

Red Badger trust our staff to do the right thing. We don’t micromanage them, we have flexible working hours, we trust them to run projects how they see fit and we even give them a £2K training budget per year to spend on what they like. The key thing is for them to be in control of the decisions that they make day-to-day. The more autonomy you provide your staff, the more productive and happy, they tend to be.

Mastery

We also try to provide our employees with the best possible environment to collaborate and share knowledge. We explore various ways of doing this, including a monthly company meeting back at the office where everyone takes it in turn to present on key bits of knowledge, be it a demo of a client project or some thought leadership. We encourage them to innovate. We don’t take predetermined solutions to our clients but cater solutions specific to the requirements and if this means using technology that we haven’t before, that’s fine. Our staff are always driving the evolution of how Red Badger do things because they are passionate, smart people who love what they do and we don’t get in their way. To see a good example of this keep an eye on our tech page and see it evolve over time.

Purpose

Every year we also have a company day during which, we get our employees to do a workshop on our vision and purpose. The outcome of the workshop is a whole bunch of post-its written by our employees on why Red Badger exist, how we realise the why and what the tangible outcomes are. We then use the outputs of the workshop to drive our value propositions and service offerings. By doing this, all of our staff feel part of a common purpose because they have been instrumental in building it.

P1050440.jpg

Why?, How?, What?

Some favourite statements written by our employees from the workshop include:

  • Why – “To make the internet a better place” / “Fix the nonsense”

  • How – “Best people, best tools, best methods and processes and always innovative consultancy”

  • What – “The place you go to find great software and deliver value to clients”

We hired an island!!

More important than anything is that we have lots of fun. We do lots of social events inside and outside of work. Many of our employees would consider themselves best of friends. Part of our culture is to also share the success of Red Badger with our employees when we do well and being fair with how that is distributed. This summer to commemorate our 5th birthday and to thank all of our staff for their continued contribution, we have hired an island and will be taking them all away for a full weekend of relaxation, fun and plenty of drinking. A just reward for all of their efforts and something to be really excited about!

2-Manor_Beach__stay-with-us (1).jpg

The location of our 5th birthday party

The Badger Way

Core values, culture and great employees are key to the success of the business. By getting those things right it has allowed us to get incredibly efficient in delivering value to our clients. We have built up what we call the “Badger Way”. It is an ever evolving process through which we help big corporations to transform their business with a core focus on enterprise scale web applications. Our focus is on three key things:

  1. Help clients to focus their efforts on being customer driven

  2. Build a solution that delivers the best possible technology to meet the client’s requirements

  3. Help clients to be much leaner in their approach

You can read more about the “Badger Way” elsewhere on our website in existing and upcoming ideas and blog posts.

The Future

Who knows what the future will hold but our intention is to continue in the direction in which the last 5 years have gone.

Red Badger has always set out to work with large corporations for a number of reasons, but most importantly, they have the most complex problems to solve where our ways of working can provide the most value. We thrive on complicated and we want to help large corporations feel like startups, implementing lean ways of working, cutting edge tech and delivering great customer experience to their customers.

We will look to continue to grow sustainably. As Red Badger has grown there has naturally been some growing pains. The key is not to ignore them and to make sure you are always listening to your employees.  We are putting all of the right things in place to fix them.

The three founders, Stu, Dave and I are committed to our core values. We are determined to continue to hire amazing people, maintain a great culture and we want to continue to do the right thing.

Scaling excellence will not be easy but I think that Red Badger can continue to do things a little bit differently and in growth, succeed where others have failed by providing the best quality and value to our clients and have fun in doing it.

An infographic showing some of the highlights of Red Badger’s history to date.

Timeline

Red Badger offers an annual £2,000 training budget. Sound good? Then come join us.

13
Feb
2015

Learning to Code in Two Days

by Amy Crimmens

animal-17474_1280

When I arrived at Red Badger to start my lovely new job as Community Manager last August I can honestly say I had very little idea about how websites were produced. Considering I had six years experience of working in the tech industry under my belt this was pretty ridiculous.

 So, once I’d got into the swing of things a bit, I decided I should spend some of my generous training budget on a coding course; we are each given £2K a year to spend on training so the world was my oyster.

 I decided on the General Assembly “Programming for Non- Programmers” course. This is a weekend bootcamp designed to give total beginners a crash-course in web development basics including HTML, CSS,  Javascript and a little bit of Ruby.

We know the General Assembly guys pretty well at Red Badger; we are one of their hiring partners and several of my colleagues coach on their courses so it seemed like a good bet.

 We started off the weekend with the usual introductions “Hello I’m Amy from Red Badger and I’m here because….”. Pretty much everyone fell into one of two camps; either they had an idea for a start up and didn’t want to have to pay a developer or they worked with developers and wanted to understand what was going on a bit more- like me.

 Our teacher Antonio warned us that it was going to be a full on weekend and explained that  by the end of  the weekend we would each have produced a simple “business card” website using basic programming.

 This seemed like a lot to ask but as we got to grips with HTML and then CSS I could see my site coming together. It was when we added Javascript that I was really impressed with myself, menu items now changed colour when you hovered over them like a real website!

 I can’t say Ill ever use the (rather ugly) website I built- that wasn’t the point, but the knowledge I picked up over the weekend will help me tremendously in my job at Red Badger. I now understand several of the mysterious terms that fly around the office (div means something quite different in programming) and I feel confident I could make simple content changes to our CMS- less website which was previously a bit daunting.

 The weekend has also given me a real appreciation of the work that goes into creating even quite basic sites never mind the stunners my colleagues build like the new Fortnum and Mason site. I already knew they were a talented bunch now I think so even more.

 Just as an aside, if you are also a super talented developer who can magic up websites as fancy as these we’d love to hear from you.  Get in touch via jobs@red-badger.com and I’ll try not to bore you with tales of my new found coding skills.

 

18
Nov
2014

Silicon Milkroundabout – From both sides of the fence

by Roisi Proven

seedpacket

On Saturday May 10th, I nervously walked through the doors of the Old Truman Brewery for the first time. I’d heard good things about Silicon Milkroundabout, but had always been too nervous to give it a go myself. However, job dissatisfaction paired with the desire for a change drove me to finally sign up, and I was assigned a spot on the Saturday “Product” day.

I have to say as a first timer, the experience was a little overwhelming! The hall was already starting to fill up when I got there at 12pm, and there was a maze of stalls and stands to wade through. The SMR staff were very helpful, and the map of the hall I got on entrance made navigating the maze slightly less daunting.

I’d done my research before I got there on the day, and I had a little notebook of companies that I knew I needed to make time to speak to. There were 5 I felt I HAD to speak to, and a few that I was drawn to on the day, based on their stand or the company presence overall. At the top of my shortlist was Red Badger.

In May, RB had a small stand near the door, not in the middle of things but easy to find. I had to do a bit of awkward hovering to get some time with one of the founders, but when I did we had a short but interesting conversation. I took my card, filled in the form, and kicked off a process which led to me getting the job that I am very happy I have today.

Fast Forward to November, and my Saturday at Silicon Milkroundabout looks a whole lot different. This time, I’m not a candidate, I’m the person that people are selling themselves to. A different sort of weird! The Red Badger stall looks different this time around too. Where before we had a small table, this time around we had an award-winning shed.

badgershed

That awkward hovering I said I did? There was a lot of that going on. Having remembered how daunting it was to approach a complete stranger and ask for a job, I did my best to hoover up the hoverers. I had a few really interesting, productive conversations during the day, but just as many were people who just wanted to compliment us on our stand or our selfie video. It was great to get some positive feedback for all of the team’s hard work on the run up to the weekend.

The biggest difference was, given the fact I was standing still, I was able to fully appreciate the sheer amount of people that came through the doors, and the variety of roles that they represent. The team at SMR have done a great job of keeping the calibre of candidates high, and it does seem like there is a candidate for almost everything the companies are looking for.

Here at Red Badger we’ll be combing through the CVs and contacts that we made over the weekend, and will hopefully be making contact with a several potential new Badgers soon. For anyone that met us this time around, thanks for taking the time out to hang in our shed. For anyone that missed us, we’ll see you at SMR 9 next year!

21
Aug
2014

Computer Science students should work for a start up while at uni

by Albert Still

Don’t completely rely on your grades to get you a job after uni. A CS degree will prove you’re intelligent and understand the theory, but that will only take you so far during an interview. We have to talk about apps we’ve built with potential employers, just like you would want a carpenter to show you pictures of his previous work before you hired him.

While studying CS at university I worked 2 days a week for Red Badger, even in my final year when I had a dissertation. Some of my class mates questioned if it was a good idea suggesting the time it takes up could damage my grades. But it did the opposite, I got better grades because I learnt so much on the job. And when you see solutions to real life problems it makes for a better understanding to the theory behind it. And it’s that theory you will get tested on at university. 

What I’ve been exposed to that I wasn’t in lectures

  • Using open source libraries and frameworks. Theres rarely a need to reinvent the wheel, millions of man hours have been put into open source projects which you can harness to make yourself a more productive developer.
  • GitHub is our bible for third party libraries. Git branches and pull request are the flow of production.
  • Ruby – the most concise, productive and syntactically readable language I’ve ever used. Unlike Java which the majority of CS degrees teach, Ruby was designed to make the programmers work enjoyable and productive. Inventor Yukihiro Matsumoto in a Google tech talk sais “I hope to see Ruby help every programmer in the world to be productive, and to enjoy programming, and to be happy. That is the primary purpose of Ruby language”. Ruby is loved by start ups and consultants because they need to role out software quickly.
  • Ruby on Rails – built in Ruby it’s the most starred web application framework on GitHub. It’s awesome and the community behind it’s massive. If you want to have a play with it I recommend it’s “Getting started” guide (Don’t worry if you’ve never used Ruby before just dive in, it’s so readable you’ll be surprised how much Ruby you’ll understand!).
  • Good habits – such as the DRYYAGNI  and KISS principles. The earlier you learn them the better!
  • Heroku – makes deploying a web app as easy as running one terminal command. Deploy your code to the Heroku servers via Git and it will return you a URL to view your web app. Also its free!
  • Responsive web applications are the future. Make one code base that looks great on mobile, tablets and desktops. Twitter Bootstrap is the leading front end framework, it’s also the most starred repo on GitHub.
  • JavaScript – The worlds JS mad and you should learn it even if you hate it because it’s the only language the web browser knows! You’ll see the majority of the most popular repositories on GitHub are JS. Even our desktop software is using web tech, such as the up and coming text editor Atom. If you want to learn JS I recommend this free online book.
  • Facebook React – Once hard JS problems become effortless. It’s open source but developed and used by Facebook, therefore some seriously good engineers have developed this awesome piece of kit.
  • Polyglot – Don’t just invest in one language, be open to learning about them all.
  • Testing – This was not covered in the core modules at my university however Red Badger are big on it. Simply put we write software to test the software we make. For example we recently made an interactive registration form in React for a client. To test this we made Capybara integration tests, they load the form in a real browser and imitate a user clicking and typing into it. It rapidly fills in the form with valid and invalid data and makes sure the correct notifications are shown to the user. This is very satisfying to watch because you realise the time your saving compared to manually testing it.

Reasons for applying to a start up

  • They are small and have flat hierarchies which means you will rub shoulders with some talented and experienced individuals. For example a visionary business leader or an awesome developer. Learn from them!
  • More responsibility.
  • They’re more likely to be using modern front line tech. Some corporates are stuck using legacy software!
  • If they become successful you will jump forward a few years in the career ladder compared to working for a corporate.
  • Share options – own a slice of your company!
  • There are lots of them and they’re hiring!

Where to find start ups

A good list of hiring startups for London is maintained by the increasingly successful start up job fair Silicon Milk Roundabout. Also Red Badger are currently launching Badger Academy, they’re paying students to learn web tech! This is extremely awesome when you consider UK universities charge £9,000 a year. If your interested in applying email jobs@red-badger.com

Best,

Albert

There are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.

C.A.R. Hoare, 1980 ACM Turing Award Lecture

14
Aug
2014

The Launch of Badger Academy

by Cain Ullah

Back in January this year I went away for a 10 day retreat. The initial intention was to get away from work completely. No phone. No internet. No work. However, unexpectedly it ended up being incredibly conducive to coming up with a whole plethora of creative ideas. Some were non-work related but lots of new ideas were very much work related. (See this blog post I have written on Founders Week: The Importance of Taking Time Out). One of these ideas, in its rawest form was how we can source and develop young talent and turn them into very highly skilled developers, designers, project managers or whatever else. This has resulted in the quiet launch of Badger Academy this week.

A little bit of context

At Red Badger, a huge amount of investment goes into recruitment. Finding the best talent out there is difficult. As a company we hang our hat on quality, quality being the #1 Red Badger defining principle. As a result, we’re very fussy when it comes to hiring people. This I am in no doubt, will hold us in great stead for the future, so we are determined to maintain our standards in staff acquisition. But it poses a problem – how do we scale the business to service our ever increasing demands from a rapidly growing sales pipeline, without reducing quality?

I think the answer is to improve our ability to develop from within. So, we are hatching plans to invest heavily in developing young talent to become senior leaders in their field. We realise this will take time but Badger Academy is the first experiment that we hope will fulfill the overall objectives.

A Blueprint for Success

In the summer of 2011 when we were a much, much smaller business, we put out a job ad for a summer intern. Out of the 60 or so applicants, one Joe Stanton stood out head and shoulders above the rest. By the time he joined us, he had just started his 2nd year of Uni so worked with us for 8 hours a week. He had bags of talent but obviously lacked experience and as a Computer Science degree student, was being taught vital foundational knowledge stuff that you’d expect from a Computer Science Degree. However, he had no knowledge of modern web application engineering practices such as Behaviour Driven Development.

At the time, we had much more time to spend with Joe to ensure that he was doing things properly and with our guidance and his astute intellect, he developed his knowledge rapidly. He then had a gap year with us during which he was deployed and billed on real projects before going back to part-time for his final year of University. He graduated this summer and after a bit of travelling around Europe, he joined us permanently. On his first day, he was deployed onto a project as a billable resource having had almost 3 years of industry experience. He has hit the ground running in a way that most graduates would not be able to.

Joe has been a resounding success. The problem is how you scale this to develop multiple interns especially now that as a company, our utilisation is much higher. We can no longer spare the senior resources to spend the sort of time we could with Joe at the very beginning.

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Joe Stanton – The Badger Academy Blueprint !!!

The Evolving Plan

When I was at the aforementioned retreat, my ideas were based around a project that we were just kicking off for an incredible charity – The Haller Foundation. We were embarking on a journey to build a responsive mobile web application to help farmers in Kenya realise the potential of the soil beneath their feet (For more info, search our previous blogs and look out for more info once the Haller website is officially launched later this year). What was key in my thinking was that we had planned for a mixture of experience in the project team which included two intern software engineers (one being Joe Stanton) that were working 2 days a week whilst completing their final year at Uni. We were delivering the project for free (so Haller were getting a huge amount of benefit) and we were training and developing interns at the same time. Win-win.

So, this formed the basis of my initial idea – The Red Badger Charity Division. We would use interns to deliver projects on a pro-bono basis for registered charities only. The charity would need to understand that this is also a vehicle for education and thus would need to be lax on their timelines and we would develop interns through real world project experience in the meantime. Although a great idea, this wasn’t necessarily practical. In the end, the Haller project required some dedicated time from some senior resources and cost us over £20K internally to deliver. A great cause but not a sustainable loss to build a platform for nurturing talent upon.

So, over several months after my retreat (7 to be exact) in-between many other strategic plans that were being put in place at Red Badger, with the help of my colleagues, I developed the idea further and widened its horizons.

Rather than being focussed on just charity projects (charity projects will remain part of the remit of the Badger Academy), we opened the idea out to other internal product development ideas as well. We also put a bit of thinking into how we could ensure the juniors get enough coaching from senior resources to ensure they are being trained properly.

Objective

Badger Academy’s primary objective is to train interns that are still at University who will be working part-time with a view to them having a certain level of experience upon graduation and hopefully joining Red Badger’s ranks. However, it may also extend to juniors who have already graduated (as a means to fast tracking them to a full-time job), graduates from General Assembly or juniors who have decided not to go to University.

It will require some level of experience. i.e. We will not train people from scratch. But once Badger Academy has evolved, the level of experience  of participants will vary greatly. In the long term we envisage having a supply chain of interns that are 1st years, 2nd years, gap year students and 3rd years, all working at once. Youth Development.png

Above is a diagram I drew back in April 2014 when initially developing the future strategy for Badger Academy. This has now been superseded and developed into a much more practical approach but the basic concept of where we want to get to still remains the same.

So what about the likes of General Assembly?

Badger Academy does not compete with the likes of General Assembly. We are working very closely with General Assembly, providing coaches for their courses and have hired several of their graduates. In fact, General Assembly fits in very nicely with Badger Academy. It is the perfect vehicle for us to hire a General Assembly graduate to fast track them over a period of 3 months until they are billable on projects. A graduate from General Assembly would generally not have been a viable candidate for Badger Academy prior to doing the General Assembly course. Like I say, all candidates need a certain level of experience beforehand. Badger Academy is not a grassroots training course.

Implementation

It is imperative that interns and juniors are trained by more senior resources. As a result we’ll be taking one senior resource for one day a week off of a billable project to dedicate their time to training the Badger Academy participants. To reduce impact on specific projects, we will rotate the senior coaches across multiple projects. We will also rotate by the three University terms. So for autumn term at Uni, we will have 3-4 senior coaches (all from separate projects) on weekly rotation until the end of the term. The spring term we will refresh the 3-4 coaches and again for the summer term. This way, everyone gets to teach, there is some consistency in tutors for the interns during term time and project impact is mitigated.

Summary

There will be a set syllabus of training topics for each discipline. As this is the first week, we have decided to build the syllabus as we go. Our current interns are both software engineers so we can imagine us getting pretty quickly into engineering practices such as testing strategy (E.g. BDD) but also other disciplines that are vital to delivering quality products such as Lean/Agile methodologies, devops and all of the other goodness that Red Badger practices daily.

This is an initial blog about our current activity but is light on detail. As this develops, we’ll formalise the approach and publish more insightful information of what this actually entails.

What we need to not lose sight of, is that this is an innovation experiment. We need to learn from it, measure our success (as well as our failures) and adapt. This is part of a long term strategy and we are just at the beginning.

Disclaimer: Red Badger reserves the right to change the name from Badger Academy. This has not been well thought through!

5
Oct
2012

Announcing our new non-executive directors

by Cain Ullah

As Red Badger grows steadily and moves into its next stage of development we are facing fresh new challenges every week. To assist our development we are delighted to announce two new non-executive directors who will provide us with the support and advice we need to help us realise our very big ambitions.

We’re very excited to announce the appointment of Mike Altendorf and Les Dawson OBE as Non-Executive Directors. Both will support Red Badger’s strategy  and help to drive business growth as Red Badger continues to deliver high quality, innovative technology to it’s current client base.

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Mike Altendorf

Mike was the former founder of Conchango, one of the UK’s most successful digital consultancies and systems integrators. Mike has many years of experience in consulting services and technology, founding Conchango in 1991 and building it into a £45m+ revenue business before its sale to EMC Corporation in April 2008.

Les Dawson

Les is former CEO of Southern Water and current chairman at John Murphy & Sons. Les was also an Executive Director at United Utilities and was head of operations at Transco. He has over 30 years of experience in the industry and has a passion for driving business change through the innovative use of technology.

10
Jan
2012

We’re Hiring: Talented Agile Project Manager

by Cain Ullah

Location: Clerkenwell

Salary: Excellent plus Share Options

Red Badger is a creative software consultancy – we are working on some really innovative projects with some excellent calibre clients. Our integrated teams (PMs, BAs, UX, Designers, Devs, UI Devs, Testers) collaborate using agile project methodologies (Scrum and Kanban). We are a startup, having been in existence for 18 months and are growing rapidly. We are in need of a charismatic, talented Agile Project Manager to integrate into our talented team. You will be working on some very exciting projects ranging from Rapid Prototyping/Concept Lab type environments to longer term engagements.

You will need:

  • 3+ years running agile projects (Scrum experience is a must. Kanban is a bonus).
  • 1st Class Project Management Skills
  • An understanding of technology and experience working closely with technology teams to deliver projects
  • Be used to working in iterations, daily stand-ups and using velocity to determine what can be achieved
  • To be comfortable working in multi-disciplined teams
  • To be comfortable working very closely with clients
  • You need to lead
  • You need to be reliable and motivated
  • You need to have an eye for detail

Desirable:

  • Experience working in a User Centred Design environment

This is a great opportunity to work with in a really sociable, fun environment. Red Badger is still young but growing so you’ll be involved at an early stage in our history and to have influence in shaping our future.

For more information or to apply please contact us here: hello@red-badger.com