NorthWestify Podcast w/ Amul Batra – Northcoders

In this episode of NorthWestify we talk with Amul Batra, the COO at Northcoders, to discuss why a tech bootcamp could be right for you, how the tech scene is changing, and on the graduates of Northcoders and where they are now.

We also go into his opinions on inclusivity within the tech industry, and the impact that bootcamps have had in making tech accessible for all.



John Cleary | 0:10 

Hello and welcome to Northwestify – the podcast where we talk tech and business in the Northwest. Today is no exception. We have Amul Batra coming to us from Northcoders, the Chief Operating Officer there. Hello, Amul. How are you doing?

Amul Batra | 0:24 

Hi, John. Hi, Zach. I’m doing well. How are you guys doing?

John Cleary | 0:27 

Yeah, good. Thanks. Can we just start off maybe, Amul, by telling us what is Northcoders?

What Northcoders is and how it works

Amul Batra | 0:32 

So Northcoders started life as a coding bootcamp back in 2015/2016. And essentially, what a coding bootcamp does, it takes people who don’t have a background in code and turns them into coders over a 13-week course. That’s what our flavour of it was. We were the first coding bootcamp in the north of England. I’ve been told we are the biggest coding boot camp in the country, or certainly in terms of the numbers that we do every year.

But beyond that… so we, over the last six and a half years, have trained over 1500 people to become software engineers in that 13-week period. And 94% of them go on and get jobs and we’ve got about 400 hiring partners that they go on and get jobs to, and then they don’t stay junior or entry level for very long.

And we’ve got people who are running departments, companies, engineering leads, all that kind of thing. So in a nutshell, that’s what it is. But there’s a lot more to it.

John Cleary | 1:35 

Yeah, we’ll definitely want to dig into that. I’ve lots of questions about the boot campers. You and I have met before and chatted bootcamps on a few occasions. So tell me about like yourself, Amul, how did you get into this role? Were you- Are you a techie?

How Amul got into coding and the tech industry

Amul Batra | 1:49 

No, I’m not. And I guess, kind of how I got into it is kind of how most people get into software these days, or certainly the ones that come to Northcoders. So I spent most of my professional career, or most of my adult life, working in the music industry. I used to have a label in Manchester and I’m still actually a small shareholder in said label, but it doesn’t put out any records anymore. I have managed bands, had my own company doing that, I’ve worked in publishing, I’ve worked on the live sector.

And ultimately what happened was… I had done very well out of music, but I’d had my first child, my first son, and I wanted to kind of discover the sharing economy. I discovered tech, I discovered the power of kind of start-up tech culture and how you could sort of start growing a business using tech. And so I was just coming out of music, I was just closing down kind of my music ventures, and was starting to look to find a technical co-founder for one of my start-up ideas.

And one of my friends who was running a successful prop tech startup in London said, Amul why don’t you learn how to code? And I said, don’t be so stupid. I’m 40 this year, there’s absolutely no way I can pick up a new hard skill like coding at this juncture in life. And he was like, Well, have to think about it. And so I was doing some research on the business, the startup idea that I had, and I was getting a little bit frustrated with not being able to find anyone to kind of be the technical person – not that I really knew what the technical person did!

And I just ended up randomly looking for an event, looking at kind of learning to code in Manchester and I couldn’t find anything. So this is back in 2016. But I ended up on a webpage called code up. And what it was a monthly meet up for people who were trying to become developers and… I just randomly went to it that night. It was on that night, which was random. Got there, couldn’t get into the building. It was Code ComputerLove, so Sevendale house, and the building was shut and I was just about to give up and go home when I realised that you had to walk through the underground carpark to use their goods lift to get in after hours.

Got in and at the end of me getting in I heard this guy do a talk about how they were setting up- he was setting up a coding boot camp in Manchester and the first cohort was in a few weeks, and to come and chat to him if we had any questions. And I spoke to Chris (my now business partner) and said look, I’ve no idea what coding is. I am setting up a tech start-up. You know, tell me about it. He said, Well come do our course and we’ll see if we can, maybe in project phase, help you build that tech start-up.

And I was like, Okay, this sounds really interesting. I like the idea of being in at the start of something – I have no idea what the line of code looks like. But he said, Look here’s some stuff. Go away. Look at it. See if you like it – you know what is now our introduction pack. And if you get through all of that stuff and do some reading, you’ll have to sit an entry challenge to prove to us that you can do it and prove to yourself that it’s something you’re interested in. And if you do that, you know, we’ll get you on the first course.

And that’s kind of where my involvement with Northcoders started. So I didn’t found the business, but I’ve been there since before it ran its first bootcamp. I did those materials, I failed the entry challenge, and I got given the code. They said, this is what we need to get you to, so go and figure out why and we’ll do another entry challenge. It was actually the Saturday before the Monday. But, you know, they were brand new company. They only had nine people signed up with that moment. So I went away, sort of got it, committed it to memory, passed the entry challenge, and started the course. This was April 2016, and there were 10 of us. And everyone else knew what they were doing, and I didn’t.

So I was kind of like literally being pulled through the course. But it was really hard. It was literally the most mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’ve done some quite hard things in my life and that was by far and away, you know, layering on concept after concept day after day, week after week. And if you don’t get it at the beginning, and if you haven’t got that proper foundation, then you are going to struggle where I struggled.

But one of the two founders lived in Chorlton, which is where I live, and we ended up sharing lifts in and out most days – and what I do, whenever I see any business, I just ask myself a million questions about how that business is run, what the opportunity is, how it makes money, you know, just my natural inclination in life. I’ve always done that. And I was like, wow, there is something really special about this business because, not only is there a huge problem with finding coders, and for my particular need at that moment, technical co-founders, but actually, what Northcoders are doing is they’ve got a really good method of getting people up to the skills required by the industry. On that cohort, there were 10 of us.

There were four women, and all four women were given fully funded scholarships, because they recognised the need for diversity and to get more people from… not just women, but you know, their first nod to diversity was making sure that women can pay for the course. Even though they were a start-up, and they didn’t have the cash to be able to do that, they knew they needed to make them up.

They also said to everybody on the course, if you are intending to get a job, then you don’t need to pay us until you’ve got a job. And if we don’t get you a job in a certain amount of time, you don’t need to pay us at all. The idea was like a guarantee. Because they knew that they- they’d come to Manchester, but neither of them was from Manchester or near the ecosystem, but they knew they had to do something to prove that actually Northcoders would work, that coding boot camps would work. And I was like, You know what, this is brilliant.

And at the time, it was just the two guys and they didn’t really have anyone from a management perspective helping them, and they were like, okay, you’ve got a couple of options. We were talking about the business anyway, [they said] do the course again because you’ve not quite got it or get involved in the business side… we need someone on that MD level, on that kind of level, helping us do the course, talking to businesses, doing all the stuff that you’re good at naturally.

And I was like, yeah, absolutely, you know what, all of that money I was going to put in to my – I had seed money for a start-up – why don’t I invest that in Northcoders, instead of sort of becoming a coder. Because it was clear to me that that wasn’t the direction I was going to travel in. So, that’s how it started, really. So it really was, if I hadn’t have gotten into that building on that particular day, my involvement in Northcoders would never have happened. And, you know, since then I’ve been involved. And we’ve driven the company from two to three employees, and I think we’re just shy of 100 now, six and a half years later.

John Cleary | 8:49 

Great story. And what I really like about it is that you’ve got into a business that you can really believe in, you know. You’re talking about the diversity from the beginning and that the business recognised that that had to happen for this to be a part of the successful Manchester-based business. So you know, I was really interested, and it’s interesting to see how, I guess… the timing in your life as well as is really interesting, right? You’ve just finished your all your music stuff, and then you’re coming into this pretty, you know… my question was, are you a techie? And you say no, I’m not. And you’ve done the course what, twice now?

Amul Batra | 9:22 

I did. Yeah. No, I did the course. I mean, I have to have incredibly technical conversations with people now. So I understand technology. I could probably read code if I needed to. I certainly know what code does. And, you know, you and I talked and had a pretty technical conversation. You know, I now… although I’m Chief Operating Officer, I’m still the person that that kind of does the high-level business development conversations within Northcoders and we don’t just place grads anymore.

We have consultants at companies like Rolls Royce and EMaC and a bunch of others. And so, obviously we do a lot of our own internal development as well, so I have to be very technically up to speed. So although I don’t code, I understand technology.

How bootcamps add value to the tech industry

John Cleary | 10:12 

Yeah. Which is great. And I mean, obviously a fantastic… I mean, I have a lot of positive things to say about boot camps. You, as I said, in the past, you and I have chatted before, and I think it’s a great. It’s in a great space, I think it fills a gap and a need in both the market where people are coming out of either education or, you know, university degrees or whatever, looking to get on the land, knowing they have the capability to do it, but needing that extra push that, you know, the bootcamp basically brings them into the market.

I’ve just got one quick question, then. You talked about tech co-founders, just… about how you’re looking for your own. Do you find a lot of your, you call them graduates, come out going into that? Is that something that they naturally go into? Or?

Amul Batra | 11:01 

No, they’re not ready, from a problem-solving perspective, to do that. I don’t know if it… I mean, we might do now. I’m certainly not in touch with anyone, you know, but I sort of know what a lot of them are up to. I bumped into one of one of our grads from three and a half years ago, who’s now going into a tech lead role at MoneySupermarket, reporting straight into one of their heads of engineering.

So, do you know I mean? They move quickly, because of what we do on the bootcamp. But in terms of actually going to become an entrepreneur, they need some… they definitely need to have seen what the real world looks like. We can prepare people to do very well in 13 weeks, but you can’t inject that kind of business experience into people straightaway.

Zack Georgiou | 11:52 

Love the fact that you’ve- where you’ve come from, to where you are now. And it just shows you, for anybody that’s listening, that you can always retrain at any point in your life. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons that I took from that. Would you say that there is an element of luck to this? Because obviously, it was something completely random. You thought, that’s interesting, and then you’ve got the seed money to do something else and all of a sudden you came across it.

It’s a well-documented conversation that we’ve had for many, many years, whether that be in tech or whether that be engineering or any sort of a skilled labour market, that we’ve just not got enough skills out there. You know, and we’re never going to either, because, unfortunately, whether it’s the Rolls Royce thing, you alluded to them early on, who’ve got great graduate programmes or great student programmes, we just can’t get people through quick enough.

So was there a element of luck to it, you know, that you came along at the right time, we’ve got Manchester booming as well from a tech perspective, software development is just, you know, I mean, who doesn’t want a software developer still now?

Manchester’s booming tech scene

Amul Batra | 13:00 

So, for me personally, my- I mean, I believe in serendipity and 100%, if I hadn’t found my way into that building, I’d have not got involved in Northcoders. And I know that and I’ve been, you know… luck has followed me around all my life, and I’ll never, ever pretend that it’s designed to, you know what I mean… I’ll do what I can to put myself in the right place.

In terms of the timing for Northcoders, I think Northcoders would have happened. I think first mover advantage of being up north doing this… But then the two guys who founded Northcoders, only one of them still with us now, they met at one of makers first cohorts in London. And they got together at that moment in time, said wouldn’t it be great to do this up north one day for like the northern tech ecosystem, and then northern economy – being two northerners, meeting in London.

Obviously, they had to go away and have careers and one of them – so Chris ended up working at Sky back in Leeds, and he could see what was happening, right. He could see from his first-hand experience that Sky were hoovering up a load of the local talent and they were leaving the businesses around them with a bit of a vacuum. All of the people that were coming in were white male and middle class who could have only gone to university, had only learned the computer way, the computer science way, and he was training those people up because they weren’t coming out with the skills that he got after the one week boot camp in London.

So yes, there’s luck. But actually, the fact he’d been to Makers, the factor he was working up in the north, the fact that he was 100%, like in the midst of the problem that you’ve just described, Zack, he could see it firsthand. And he knew that we need to do something about diversity, we needed to do something about getting people in quickly. He’d been on that kind of course before. So you know, 100% it had to be about… Yeah, it wasn’t complete luck. It was it was a road in that direction.

Zack Georgiou | 15:01 

Totally. And I don’t, you know… you make your own luck in life, don’t you? I don’t mean it in respect of you, you know, you just got lucky, I mean it in respect of, you know, it just happens at that time in your life when everything aligned. All the stars aligned. And actually, it’s probably a really… it’s a fascinating time because I opened our business in 2016. And again, we went down the whole route of, What do you do?

You know, I’ve been in recruitment for years and years and years – grown and scaled another recruitment agency from pretty much five or six of us at the start to 140 people across the UK in different divisions, different departments, etc, then left and thought I’ll try something different. A lot of my friends were going and choosing one skill set and going global and I was like, actually, I’m a northerner, I’m a manc lad, I’m born and brought up here, and I’m gonna do everything within this region.

And it was probably, you know… anyone that’s been born and brought up in Manchester can  categorically say the city is unrecognisable compared to even probably 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, certainly. And we didn’t quite want to go down that route so we thought, Oh, we’ll go for the Northwest. And again, we got lucky because actually, the tech boom in Manchester and the northwest, has been absolutely incredible over the past five or six years, hasn’t it?

I mean, arguably, since the BBC came up, and everybody else started flowing in, I think we always had. I had some friends from the south, actually, up this weekend, and I said to them, I think the reason that Manchester is where it is today, and probably the darling of the North, is because we’ve got an international airport on our doorstep. And I think that’s what really helps that driving of the economy and the tech scene within our area.

Amul Batra | 16:41 

I’ve been a resident of Manchester since 1994, so nearly 30 years now – I’m a Londoner originally. And I lived in London a little bit during that period, so most of that period has been up here. And you know, as much as I hate that catch phrase, Manchester does things differently. It’s so easy to get business done here. If you’ve got an idea and a desire, you can make it happen.

Whereas when I was back in London for the music industry, it’s so hard. There’s so many obstacles, so many people not willing you to do well. Whereas I know the two successful businesses that I’ve been part of really have been… we just cracked on with it and done it. You know, the label had top 15 record within 15 months just because we were just two people working, three people working in a broom cupboard above Sankey. So, do you know what I mean, and, you know, the Label went on to have a number one record and to be really successful.

But that’s just because we believed we could make it happen, and we did. And that’s the same with Northcoders for me, it’s doing it in Manchester, or growing it out of Manchester, that was so important. Because everyone’s kind of either on your side or just willing to listen to you. And that certainly doesn’t exist in my experience of London and… other cities have got great collaborative, and I’ve had to learn that. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know places like Leeds and Newcastle and Birmingham, where we’ve got hubs and campuses now.

And they’ve all got their own unique culture – Liverpool, as well, has its own unique culture. And it’s really bizarre how we are such a small country, and yet we do have really different business cultures in each each of the cities that I’ve just mentioned. I’m a big believer in starting things in Manchester, 100%.

John Cleary | 18:22 

Yeah, and that’s actually almost a bit of joke but that’s kind of why the podcast exists, right? Because we’re willing people to do better. We’re trying to help people in this region: bring them on, showcase their business, showcase them as well, and, you know, raise awareness, because that’s the kind of culture that exists around here, if you’d like. So, I’m pleased about it.

Zack Georgiou | 18:42 

Yeah, and I think going back to the point there, I think London… and people forget that it is so big, it is so vast, it is so huge, and you’ve got lots of stuff going on in Manchester. And, you know, like I said, because it’s so unrecognisable, there’s so many different areas you can go out in now with people come up and stuff like that. Actually still people all know each other, or a lot of people still know each other in Manchester.

And that’s one of the big differences that you get with with, say, London compared to anywhere else in the UK, but certainly Manchester, somebody will know somebody knows somebody been within the region. I think that always helps. Dramatically.

Diversity in the industry

John Cleary | 19:24 

I’ve got another question then, about something that we’ve talked about on this show, Zack, before, which is around education in general. Right so the- how the national curriculum universities are or are not preparing the next generation and, clearly Northcoders is filling a need in the industry to help make more coders, but it’s also filling a gap in our education.

Because, you know what you’re saying about Sky there that people are coming out with a computer science degree and not necessarily correctly prepared for the market… what do you think we need to be doing in our Schools and / or universities to better prepare them for this economy.

Amul Batra | 20:06 

So there’s two questions there, really, because schools and universities are completely different. So I’ll go through the universities one first. And the problem with the four-year computer science degree is the curriculum was written five or six years ago, right, and we all know that technology moves on really quickly.

I think there was a Deloitte study a couple of years ago, which said that the average life for a new technology is about two and a half years in tech. And so, you can’t have a degree that’s written four years, four or five, six years ago, that can keep up with the trends in software. So I think that’s really tough. You don’t need to go, as we have proved time and time again, with you know, 1500 people now, you don’t need to go to university to become a technologist.

And you know, the background of the people that have done Northcoders could be as wide range, is as wide ranging, as people who’ve been, you know, traditional engineers, lawyers, accountants, recruiters – lots of people from recruitment who’ve seen Northcoders on CVs they’re being sent and going, You know what, I kind of want to do that rather than this. We always have people from recruitment and tech recruitment doing Northcoders, to people who have been stay at home moms or Uber drivers or Deliveroo cyclists or, you know, worked in retail all their lives or forklift drivers.

Or, you know, my two favourites that I always wheel out whenever I tell people about the difference in backgrounds of the people that have done Northcoders: the farmer, who’s now a data engineer, or the station announcer from Piccadilly station who, you know, is a software engineer. So it takes all sorts, you know. I think we’ve got a running joke that we’ve, we’ve taught a farmer to become a technologist and we’ve also put in software engineers to a dairy farm.

Everyone needs technology, and anyone can do it. That’s the whole point of Northcoders. So, to answer your question, John, what we’re doing is we’re basically giving people the up-to-date skills that the industry needs. And obviously, you know, we talk about hiring partners all the time – about what they need, from a skills point of view, for those technologists to be successful. And yeah, lots of universities are now jumping on the boot camp bandwagon, some of whom are using some American delivery company to do it. And it’s just so half-arsed, sorry, can I say that word?

You know, I mean, it’s just not well thought out. It’s like, we’re just doing this because, you know, we know what we do is best practice first and everything we do, and therefore we don’t accept, you know… it’s about 1 in 10 people who apply to Northcoders that get onto Northcoders and we want to make it so that we’re not taking the wrong people through the journey. Because it is absolutely about people who get it and like it and enjoy it, and then do well at it, rather than just taking people’s money, which is never- it’s never been about that for us.

But ultimately, you know, it’s giving people those up-to-date skills, it’s making sure that people are completely ready for what the industry needs. You know, our big thing is we don’t teach people to code, we teach people to teach themselves to code. So by the end of the course, they’re coding in different things than we’ve taught them. And when they go into work, they can pick up whatever tech stack they need really quickly, and then excel really quickly on whatever it is that that business is doing.

So ultimately, you know, we’d like to think that we are supporting the ecosystem, we’re bringing people back who have gone into different careers. You know, university comp-sci needs to do what it does, from an academic point of view. From a standpoint of view, you know, I wouldn’t ever knock great graduates from those courses. Right? And, at age eighteen, going to university is a brilliant career, brilliant life choice and career choice. It certainly was for me when I came to Manchester. That’s why I moved here.

So, you know, I wouldn’t advise universities just to copy coding boot camps, because that’s the way it’s going. Maybe just introduce some more up-to-date ways of coding, bring in TDD to your courses, bring GitHub to your courses, which you know, seems like absolute… like, can’t believe anyone’s doing any kind of computer courses without GitHub, or knowing what version control looks like.

And at a school level, I’ve heard, I’ve never seen it, that the GCSE computer science is not fit for purpose. So to really look at that, and I think they are with T levels and stuff, I’m not an expert on that stuff. But the biggest thing they need to be doing at schools, which I do think they are doing at schools now, as far as I can see, is just not to make it so boys do tech and girls do whatever, you know, like it needs to be appealing to everybody, and not just pigeonholed as a blokey thing.

You know, I’m involved in… I’m on the advisory board for InnovateHer and their strapline is getting girls ready for tech. But getting the tech industry ready for girls, you know, there’s a lot that we could do in tech to make it more welcoming and make retention better and make career pathways better. But also making sure that, you know, girls want to do tech as a career.

I’m also on the advisory board for Wild, which is Women in Leeds Digital, and again, with things like that, just making sure that the industry is both attracting a diverse set of people to it, but also the industry can be, you know, be involved in best practice stuff to be appealing for a diverse group of people. Because, as you said, Zach, we’re never going to totally solve this. But if we aren’t appealing to everybody to get into it, you know, this tech talent shortage, then we’re even less going to succeed in that battle,

John Cleary | 25:53 

But the other thing, I mean, we’ve said it before, obviously, we’re very software development focused today, but there are dozens of jobs in tech that are not software development, that are really interesting and exciting and diverse, you know. Lots of creative and project management and design and product ownership. You know, you don’t have to be software engineers to be working in tech, absolutely not. And, you know, I work in a tech business, the 700 people in the business and about 150 on the tech side, but everyone’s in it.

Everyone in that business really is in a tech business, doing something to do with technology and learning the software using it, promoting it, selling it. They’re all part of the same ecosystem that, you know, brings it all to life. So I think that’s worth calling out. And it’s something I personally forget, sometimes, I mentioned that, you know, when we’ve been reminded on the show, so yeah. I think it’s definitely worth calling out for, for any listeners.

Advice on attracting tech talent

Zack Georgiou | 26:46 

I’m going to take a slightly different direction. I’d like to know a little bit more about what sort of advice you would have for employers, maybe, on attracting tech talent, or junior developers and the guys that you bring through, you know… why should they be looking at taking them on? What’s better? Is it a start-up? Is it a large-scale business? What works? So what’s your thoughts on that?

Amul Batra | 27:12 

Yeah, so because we are as tech agnostic as we can be, right? And because we have such a large range of different people doing our course, we have to be appealing to lots of different companies to satisfy their wide-ranging needs, you know, the graduates wide ranging needs.

So for any company, the things you get out of someone that’s done Northcoders is that A) They’re there, they’re kind of self-motivated because they’ve had to get onto the course, they’ve had to prove that they were right for the course, and then they’ve got to do what I said earlier on, which is get through something that’s so mentally challenging. They get to the end, and we’ve got a 97% completion rate at the moment, and when it was self-funded, it was 99%. So we have lost a couple of percent on the fact that now its pretty much government funded, for the time being, at least anyway. But the only reason we can maintain those stats is because there is a one in 10 application to getting on the course. Right?

So these people have proved themselves, they’ve gotten the course, they’ve proved they like tech, they’ve got through the course. And it’s really hard. It’s probably harder now than when I did it. So these people are self-motivated. They’re quick learners, and they’re forced to be quick learners, because we’re teaching them what could be learnt in three years in thirteen weeks, in a way that helps them then absorb new technologies quickly. So these people won’t stay Junior for very long. And they can pick up any tech stack.

And so one of the things that we do at Northcoders to people coming towards the end of the course is we kind of explain what the tech landscape looks like. We tell them the difference between what a start-up is, a scale-up is, what working for an enterprise, you know, a corporation looks like, or working for an agency looks like, consultancy, government departments… We kind of break it into those six different types of organisations you can join after Northcoders. And so we have representation amongst our 400 business partners, amongst all of those different businesses.

And you know, we don’t charge… you know, for us, we make it as frictionless as possible for any business to work with Northcoders. So there isn’t like a recruitment fee or anything like that. We had one at one stage but we’ve not for three and a half years.

As our business model has evolved and our numbers evolved, so any one business who needs software engineers – come to Northcoders, look at our talent pool and go right okay, yeah, we’ll interview them, we’ll take them on and we’ll give them the right sport to become mid and senior level engineers really quickly. But what our business is evolving into is having a complete suite of business solutions. So yes, companies can come and hire people from our graduate pool. Absolutely. And we’ll support them doing that.

We can enhance their journeys once they’re in work with particular courses or modules or whatever. And then we’ve got, you know, a mobilised option whereby we can provide teams of people, kind of contractors while supporting them. The most interesting thing we’re doing at the moment is one of our contracts with Rolls Royce, that I mentioned, is we actually put a team of junior developers and one of our senior developers, and the senior will stay between six and nine months to only upskill those juniors, to get really ramped up to be delivering technology for, say, Rolls Royce or EMaC, a couple of contracts we’ve got going on at the moment, to just be the best. 

Training your own

We already know they can move very quickly, but with the with the support of one senior, for a team of four to six juniors, they’re then excelling beyond belief, and so that our senior will come back to us and then the team of juniors will stay there, and they won’t really be juniors by the time our seniors come out.

So for us, what we’ve done over a number of years is prove that the people we train are, certainly, with lots of different businesses but B, we prove that they can move very quickly. And with the right support that we can give them, they can really provide value really, really fast to businesses.

And ultimately, I see the skills gap is shifting from being something that, yeah, we need lots of mids and seniors, to actually–we’ve got an army of juniors that are capable… How quickly can we get them into that position? And as you’ll know, Zack, the market is crazy and what salary you pay for a senior now, you’re struggling to get mids into businesses. And I know I’m not talking out of turn because I know what it looks like, you know, I speak to business all the time.

And for businesses not to have a really well thought out junior hiring strategy, one that can get people in very quickly and fill those middle-level roles, are the ones that are going to lose out ultimately, in my opinion.

Zack Georgiou | 32.02

And… just out of interest—because obviously, like you say, you know the market well, I know the market well—we see a blend in approaching this, where you get some companies that are, yeah, great but then they you’ve got other’s like, no, no way. Why do you think those companies are no way? What do you think it is that holds them off?

Because even in my own business, that’s all I do. I don’t– very occasionally if I know somebody well within the industry, then I would bring them into our business, but ultimately we just bring our own in and grow them and train them and take them. Sure it takes us a long time to get people to where we want to get them, you can get them going quite quickly but to get them to where we want them to get to…

Even though I still believe a lot of it comes down to their own attitude at the end of the day. I think everyone can go as fast as they want depending on their attitude. So what is it that you see that [makes] those companies go, no, no, no, no.

Amul Batra | 32.58

Any business not to do this, they really… at this moment of time, when mids and seniors are so scarce, I think they really aren’t in business for the right reasons or the right commercial needs if they don’t understand. For me, you know, you could say, let’s keep our graduate scheme. Let’s get… so we now work with NHS Digital for example, and we run an onboarding bootcamp for them—so you’ve got an academy side to what we do. And we do this with a couple of other businesses as well, we’ve worked with OnTheBeach doing stuff like this before.

And so we’re giving their graduate recruits an onboarding– a bootcamp experience before they start. So we can do stuff like that. But for me, if you’re not looking at building that throughput and putting some investment in that throughput, you are going to get burned. And you know, it’s that whole thing, the one argument we always get asked, “We don’t have enough seniors to deal with your juniors.” And actually our seniors are so busy on business-as-usual stuff that we can’t really offer that to them all. And that’s why we designed, developers and that, which is what we’ve got. It’s actually that our person will deal with all of the stuff they need to get to so you don’t worry about it anymore. Yes, there’s a cost attached to that.

But we’ve proven time and time again that we can take people into businesses, or they can go in on their own… the guy I mentioned the other day, the guy who’s going to go and be an engineering lead at MoneySupermarket, he is someone that’s already looking after a team of people in this business three and a half years on, and he’s going to have similar responsibilities when he lands at that MoneySupermarket.

So, you know what I mean? It’s like, the longer you wait as a business to implement a really robust and really well-thought-out junior hiring strategy, the more expensive it is going to be for you in the long term, the more wages you’ll have to pay those mids and seniors to do the work that juniors could do, right? And so, I don’t know the answer to your question. I think it’s prejudice. I think it’s, oh, well they’ve got to be doing this, this, and this, or they’ve got to have this many years in industry or whatever. I [don’t] understand why more businesses aren’t doing this and having that strategy.

John Cleary | 35.04

And it sounds like… I’ve written it down actually, and you said junior hiring strategy— something I’ve not heard someone say before. And I think it’s really interesting that, getting that blend and that pathway designed, like it’s going to be difficult in the beginning. Because as you say, you don’t have enough seniors and you haven’t got new people coming in, but not having a plan for that means you’re always going to be in that, you know, top left quadrant of urgent and important and not really being able to deal with… So you’re always always firefighting.

And I think, you know, you’re always going to have to hire mid and senior people. It’s not like you’re going to be able to grow them all, that makes sense. But it’s part of a more coherent strategy for the long term, is to, you know, think, who’s going to be running this application five years from now? Is it people we’ve hired today or is it, you know, or would they have moved on?

Amul Batra | 35.56

Absolutely, John. And I think… and I think the key to that is that there’s an added, kind of, benefit to all of this, is that when you are hiring your mid or senior person, you have to find that person, might take two to three months to find that person, get that person to say yes—because they would be being offered left, right, and center—and then you’d have to wait three months for them to work their notice, because the other business isn’t going to just let them go because they need to replace them right. So you’re looking at something that could last– could take six months.

Or you could hire a team of juniors, two or three on the salary that you’re putting out, and get them working on the problem. Yes, they’re not gonna work as fast, but you also don’t know that [that] person that’s taken six months to hire, whether they’re culturally going to fit anyway. Or if they’re as good as they say they are. They might have just bounced around jobs and got better job titles, but they might not actually be able to do the work. You just don’t know.

The step into the unknown of doing something like that is expensive in more ways than one. I don’t just mean recruitment fees or salaries, I mean just… you know. There are ways in which– the unknown of whether that’s going to work out. And in the amount of time it’s taken, you could have… you see, if you’d hired four or six juniors and only two of them work out or three of them work out but, not the case but you know, the worst case scenario—you’ve still got people there quicker doing work for you for six months before that person’s even made it through the door.

For me, it’s obvious but then I talk about this stuff all the time and I see it with lots of different businesses and I see this success on the other side so, you know, I’m already converted, right? But hopefully I can convert a few more people by them listening to this podcast.

Zack Georgiou | 37.33

Well, believe it or not but that’s our time up. So what we would always like to ask at the end of these podcasts is, What piece of advice would you offer to someone who wants to either enrol into a tech bootcamp… or shall we flip it and maybe say take on a recently graduated boot camper?

Advice for enrolling in a bootcamp

Amul Batra | 37.53

I’ll do both. I was on the phone this weekend and it’s.. It’s bizarre, actually, I don’t know that many people that have done the bootcamp at Northcoders. I’ve probably got one friend. But anyway, I was on the phone to my friend’s daughter this weekend who’s a primary school teacher, who really wants to do this. She’s done a little taster course and she’s like, I really want to do this, but I can’t give up a job at this moment in time. And I’m like, look, if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing—and I hate taking people out of education, but I don’t want to stop people if they’re already on their journey, right—is you’re going to enter an industry which requires problem solvers.

And as you said, John, there’s lots of different things you can do within tech. But if you like solving problems, if you like thinking about what underpins an app, you know, things like that. I generally end up talking about Uber when I’m trying to tell people about, you know, what an app looks like. So think about pressing that button, think about getting that journey from A to B quicker, think about how the receipt process could work out, all of those things. If you’re already thinking about that when you’re using the app, then you’re already kind of a problem-solver, which is what this industry needs. So if you want to be in a career that’s exciting and is solving problems, then that is a reason to come and do a bootcamp, come and get into tech.

And from the hiring perspective, I know we’ve got so many success stories over the years that I know that… anyone from target acquisition listening to this, will have a lot of success hiring people from Northcoders. Whether as I said, yeah, Barclays Bank or whether you’re, yeah, you know, a startup. I guess AeroCloud Systems is a company I talk about a lot. They were two people, and the first tech person they hired was from Northcoders. They had a CTO and a business person. And now, they’re a team of about 25 people. They’ve got their software in airports across the globe. They’ve raised money and raised again and raised again. And they’re a great success story.

And I love the fact that people have done our course, have written code that helps people navigate through airports—I think I saw on LinkedIn in Barbados or in, you know, across America and stuff. And that, to me, it’s exciting that we’ve helped those people write the code for that company that are doing things. But if you’re someone who wants to get in tech and kind of wants to have that kind of level of influence, then do it. So I guess I’ve answered both of those really in a roundabout way.

John Cleary | 40.28

That’s really great, love it. And I thought, you know, I thought I was the only one who had the affliction of looking at apps and thinking, “Why is this so terrible? How can I make it better?” But it sounds like it’s something that afflicts a lot of people. And maybe if you are thinking like that, you need to get down to your local bootcamp. Brilliant. Thank you very much, Amul, for coming on the show. Really enjoyed talking to you today.

Before we do sign off, I just want to do a quick shout out to Mati Kos, who actually has been on our podcast, right at the beginning, and he now runs his own podcast called Cyber Trek, which I listened to. They’re lovely little six-minute soundbites. He took about a two-year hiatus and they’re back on again. I recommend you listen to him. Lots of, sort of, mind experiments there. Lots of things to muse on. So have a listen to Mati Kos’s Cyber Trek.

Thank you very much, Amul, again. And if you want to get in touch with the podcast, anyone, then please do so via LinkedIn. Zack and I are both on there. We also have a page and we have a website, Jump on there, send us a message and we’ll get back in touch with you. Thank you very much.