Mayden Academy: Developing Skills
Mayden design build and support healthcare software in healthcare services in the UK and abroad. In 2015, in response to the lack of skilled talent available to facilitate scaling, they created the Mayden Academy to train developers, exactly how they wanted them. We talk to Academy Lead, Mike Oram about developing your own technical talent.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in developing the right teams?
Before we set up the academy we had 12-15 developers and we needed to double the dev team. We were struggling, just like everybody does, to find developer talent. The academy was set up as an internal programme to fill our own need. Find people that were smart motivated, dedicated people, that just didn’t have the technical ability yet and provide them with the training so that they could do the job.
It was such a success that we rolled it out as a commercial project and now we train people for other companies. As a result, we plugged our own skills gap and we now hire junior developers from the academy exclusively.
Back in 2014 we were a small team with around 30 employees, now we’re around 80 and still growing, with around 30 developers. About 10 of which have come direct from the academy.
What would be your top tip on creating a healthy culture?
In more traditional companies your team comes up with ideas or solutions to things and it then has to get signed off by management and it can take a lot longer. Which is fine, but from an ethos perspective it makes your employees feel like they’re not in control, whereas here everyone is in control of everything.
Here we have a completely flat structure can be so rewarding, because it gives you that flexibility of work, it makes you feel like you’re part of something it gives you much more job satisfaction.
How has training your own staff affected ROI?
The first time we did it, we had government funding, so ROI was fantastic. Students didn’t have to pay, and we had the funds to train them up - at the end of the course we got 6 brand new skilled developers for free, essentially. They still work for us. Now, the students pay for that training and the difference, or risk, is that they don’t come and work for us. But we still hire 20-25% from the course depending on our growth needs at the time. So, we get money from the course and get developers as well, so we’re essentially being paid to get new staff. From that perspective the return on investment is massive.
What tools, people or services would you recommend as they look to scale?
Without wanting to sound too salesy, the first one is us! The academy is definitely the first place I would recommend looking if you’re looking to scale and need technical talent. We’re not the only solution for technical talent, there are other places you can go, but looking at partnerships with training providers is probably the best way to go.
Basically, it’s the industry training providers that are delivering people with the skills and at the speed the industry need. A big part of how we recruit, what we look for, is personality – to maintain the ethos we have here. That’s not something that a recruitment agent could ever find, which does hamstring us a little when we’re looking for support staff.
To solve that we do a lot of networking we do a lot with TechSPARK, we do a lot around Bristol and Bath and we’re now reasonably well known as a company and that’s been really useful in finding the talent we don’t train ourselves. Networking, meeting freelancers and working with other companies provides us with as many non-technical staff as the academy provides devs. The network scene in Bristol and Bath is the best in the country so there’s no reason not to do it.
What have you learned from other people that helped you build your team?
The biggest lesson that we’ve learned, is that ability and skill are a lot less important than motivation, intelligence and personality.
So, if you’ve got somebody that you really like, who is clearly smart enough to do the job, but just hasn’t done it before – you’re far better off bringing that person in and giving them the skills, they need to do the job than you are hiring somebody who already has those skills but isn’t the right fit for your company. The negative impact can be so detrimental. As a result – what we do now, rather than doing technical tests – we now do aptitude tests. So, if they don’t necessarily have the right skills, it doesn’t matter, if they’ve got the right attitude and the ability to solve problems in the way we need, we can train or re-train them.