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Lunch and Learn with AO: Episode 1

This week we launched our first ‘Lunch and Learn’. In these short sessions we ask employers to describe their business, their culture and most importantly the types of skills and attributes they look for.

These sessions are perfect for our students who are aspiring to work in technology as a software engineer or in a supporting capacity.

These short sessions will give you:

  • The confidence to apply for junior developer roles, or supporting roles

  • How to stand out from the crowd during COVID19

  • Give you a clear understanding of how to build your CV

  • Find out about upcoming vacancies

  • Understand what skills you need to acquire to succeed

  • Open access to our contacts in tech

  • Gain exclusive information on the latest industry developments and advice

In the hot seat this week, we invited Ashley Carter and Ehsan Isman from AO to help us answer a list of questions from aspiring developers from our current and future students.

AO is an e-commerce heavy weight and one of the most exciting businesses in the North West of England and has been dubbed a ‘unicorn’, reaching a billion pound valuation!

We speak to Ashley Carter, their internal recruitment specialist and Ehsan Imran who is a software development team lead.

Whilst they currently have a freeze on entry level recruitment, we thought it was the perfect time to ask them about their culture and most importantly what the key skills and attributes they look for when hiring entry level tech talent.

Let's dive in….

What skills do employers look for when hiring junior developers?

1. Attitude is key

Having the right attitude is a key component in securing your first role. Ash explains from his perspective on how he identifies someone with the right attitude:

“They'll always be an element of technical ability that we will assess and look out. But particularly when you're looking at a junior you're hiring for where they're at currently, but actually what you're actually looking at (as a recruiter) is that potential. So where are they going to be at with the right kind of onboard in guidance, guidance in six to 12 months? Attitudes to dev is really, really important to us.”

2. Passion

Being passionate is another key attribute and is often part of the screening process.

Ash excitedly comments: “This is a massive one. So why does this person want to be a developer? What do they enjoy and love about it? It's obvious to everyone that the more you enjoy something, the more engaged you're going to be with it.

The more likely you are to ‘go and try’ and do things in your own time, it's a hobby for you. So you're going to pick up things a little bit more quickly”.

3. Don’t be a fanboy/ fangirl - Stay Open Minded

At Manchester Codes we teach our students to be language agnostic and encourage our learners to be flexible in the languages and frameworks they decide to work with on projects. Being able to be flexible to try new technologies is an asset employers do value when it comes to hiring.

This point was supported by Ehsan who said:

“I'd agree with pretty much everything above. Another really important quality is open mindedness. So if, if something’s not quite going your way, that ability to adapt and pivot and think in a different way and reframe the problem.”

“Another example of open mindedness could be that.. For example, I think back in the day, you'd always have kind of like Microsoft fanboys, Linux boys. And I think being flexible in terms of your tech stack is becoming increasingly more important.”

4. Ability to problem solve

Problem solving is notoriously the main skill that employers often screen for. This echoed Ash, as he explains:

“I suppose that most commonly labeled things like problem solving. So for eg. can this person, solve problems and you can gauge that from work experience, not specific to tech and resourcefulness is a massive one for us.”

5. Resourcefulness

We recognise that resourcefulness and problem solving are closely linked. Ash delves into the core differences between the two different skills:
“It’s become even more apparent as we're moving to a more remote kind of work pattern, that when we’re looking at junior developers you're not always going to have someone sat next to you or on the end of a call to ask questions to.

So if you don't know the answer to something which will happen a lot, whether you're a junior mid or senior level developer, what resources do you have to kind of draw on and go and look at, to kind of help you with that? You're not just going to sit there and wait for someone to be available.

Resourcefulness is key and the ability to break down a problem, I suppose. That's another big thing that we'll look at. And the good thing for junior developers is we can kind of probe and kind of assess that aspect through an interview process. We’ll also be able to identify whether the person has had development experience in a commercial setting, as those types of skills you'll pick up in most types of roles“ .

6. Be Proactive

Being proactive is another key skill that employers screen for. You can demonstrate this in a number of ways, whether that's building your own website, app, project on code pen or contributing to some documentation on Github. This allows you to demonstrate your ability to be proactive and a self starter.

Ehsan encourages everyone to be proactive in their approach before applying as he says:
“It’s definitely about being proactive and showing that you're doing things on the side that you don't take up all your time or that you're contributing to open source projects or contributing to documentation, which demonstrates that you’re aware and able to and commit Mark down and clone into projects and able to contribute”.

7. Build more than one type of App

Show your versatility by attempting new applications. Ehsan recognises that you can stand out from the rest by showing that you have exposure to more than one type of application:
“One useful skill is actually having exposure to build more than one kind of application. So not necessarily just limiting yourself to your website, we'll actually have a go at making a mobile app or, um, an embedded app or something like that. You know, you don't have to complete it. It's just the exposure.”

Big thanks to AO for sharing some valuable information with our students.

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