Industry Interviews

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Posted November 27, 2018 | Electronics, Industry Interviews | No Comments »

[Interview] IC Design – John Gough

We’re chatting to John Gough, director of West Coast Semi Design, this week. With many years of experience working within the semiconductor industry in the UK and more recently China, we thought we’d ask him about his career journey, his thoughts on the industry and his advice for pursuing international engagements.

Hi John, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I graduated in 1984 with a degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering. I started my working life as a Design Engineering graduate at National Semiconductor in Greenock, working my way through the system to become a Design Manager at both National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments (TI). I laterally took on the role of Technologist at TI for two years before the design centre was closed in 2016.

Just under one year ago, I set up my own company called West Coast Semi Design, in Glasgow. I have a client based in Shenzhen, China, and we are presently designing a power management chip for them. All of my team are also previous Texas Instruments employees, who I have worked closely with in the past.

You were a lecturer at the University of Glasgow for a while, could you tell us what that was like and why you decided to move back in to the corporate world?

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience; I had always wanted to try lecturing as my previous job at TI allowed me to present one hour seminars at various universities in Scotland to promote analogue and mixed signal IC design to undergraduates. I taught 4th year Control Engineering and I also had to prepare lab experiments and tutorials. It was something completely different but seeing “the penny drop” with students is what really motivated me and made the job very enjoyable. I made some very good friends at the university, which of course makes collaboration between industry and academia all the more tangible.

I decided to move back to industry because, although I really enjoyed teaching, I realised I really missed the coal face and being at the customer facing end of IC design. I had the privilege of working with a company called PCS Semi for a short period and jointly we worked together on cultivating the close relationship I now have with my client in China (the President of the company is Roy Jewell, who I feel I would like to mention).

Has there been anyone/anything that has influenced your career choices?

When I was a teenager at school I always enjoyed science fiction, and in those days electronics was a young science. I really enjoyed building electronics kits and had wonderful support from my parents, who worked extra hours to pay for home correspondence courses for me in electronics whilst I was still at school.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

One thing you can guarantee is that there are always many challenges in the job. There are the obvious technical challenges; from designing smaller and smaller devices with improved performance to reduce overall system cost; all the way through to working with major OEMs in developing design specifications and schedules that can meet their challenging needs, as well. However, there are additional challenges, such as managing a proper work-life balance, which I found particularly difficult when my children were young.

What are your views of the semiconductor market in Scotland?

In terms of semiconductor manufacturing, we have seen this move East over the past few decades to the extent that silicon fabs in the North are extremely rare. On the other hand, IC design is buoyant, with major design houses based in Edinburgh and Glasgow showing a very positive trend in hiring and expansion. We are also seeing smaller start-up companies joining the fray and this is testimony to the excellent skillset we have here in Scotland, both at the senior and graduate level. So I would say the future for the semiconductor industry in Scotland is looking very bright indeed.

What excites you about the semiconductor market at the moment?

More and more emphasis is being placed on power delivery and efficiency in portable and mobile applications. There is also great growth in emerging markets such as Asia, with which West Coast Semi are actively engaged right now. Customers are looking for innovative and cost effective solutions that also help them to place themselves at the leading edge of their markets. To be able to influence this and be relevant in the industry is very exciting.

What do you think makes a great tech company?

A company that allows its employees the freedom to be creative and innovative, as well as a fun place to be has to be high on my list; along with every employee being made to feel they are playing their part in making the company successful.

Can you tell us a little about West Coast Semi Design’s involvement with Desay?

Desay is our client at the moment. So we are presently engaged in a design project for Desay that will enable the company to have a presence in the power pack market in China. We work very closely with the design team in Shenzhen and also participate in cross design and layout reviews. Furthermore, we are planning on opening a larger R&D centre in Glasgow in the not too distant future, in collaboration with Desay.

Working with a Chinese company, what is your vision for technology globalisation?

The growth in connectivity speeds now allows remote design to be done for any company, anywhere in the world. The barriers that prevented long distance networking are being addressed through much more efficient network speeds that increasingly make the world a smaller place.

You have worked for a US company, how does that compare?

Desay appreciate the fact that the design expertise they are looking for exists within West Coast Semi Design. As such, they are very much hands off because they trust us to deliver what they need and they are also very supportive in providing the tools required to do our job, in a very expedient manner. I have seen, on the other hand, some companies, due to size or financial infrastructure, take a long time to make things happen for the engineers at the coal face, which can lead to frustration in the field.

With Desay, we have a great relationship with the CEO and senior VP of our division, who move very quickly to support us in order to maximise the value of the experience that we bring to them.

With first-hand knowledge of the Scottish Higher Education system, where do you think Scotland fits in its ability to nurture future talent for the UK tech industry?

In terms of the emerging new digital media companies, Scotland is already proving its value; as can be seen by the talent that flourishes here already. In terms of IC design, there is a lot of research amongst local universities in the area of efficient DC-DC convertor architectures for use in future electric vehicles, as well as wireless charging for automotive batteries.

What do you think it is about Scottish Educated Engineers that makes them so attractive to global electronics companies?

I believe that in Scotland universities still teach the classical analytical approach to analogue design but there are challenges. I think it’s important that people from industry liaise well with universities to help shape what we view as important for undergraduate study, that will be relevant to the demographic that exists in Scotland.

Universities are still seemingly encouraging overseas students to do masters degrees and PhDs but current immigration policy makes it difficult to retain this talent in the UK. How do you solve the problem of not enough people/talent in engineering? 

Actually when I was lecturing in UESTC in Chengdu, the UK wasn’t the most popular place for post grad studies. Most students were applying to US universities as the interest appears to be in in AI and Software. One of my students has come to Glasgow to do a PhD and another went to Edinburgh to study AI. In fact, the final year number of students studying VLSI (which was not my subject) was 23! So I think there is a view that IC design is not where the growth is, and instead it’s in autonomous cars, planes etc.

We should focus on home-grown students and canvas universities to find good candidates that we can sponsor and nurture. Unfortunately, the number of students keen on IC design seems to be decreasing but I think it’s up to us as employers to reignite that interest and show there is talent and opportunity here in Scotland.

Do you think academic and industrial collaboration in Scotland is sufficient? If not, how might this be improved?

There are strong companies that do encourage this, for sure. When I was at TI, this was a big part of our planning; and when I was a manager there that’s what I tried to do also. As I mention above, you cannot beat going to universities and lecturing to 1st and 2nd year students (4th year is almost too late) and find keen, early students that can be trained in a very exciting discipline, with plenty of exposure to a design environment. At TI, we took on students from 2nd year and it was quite successful. For our new company that will also be the plan, in order to have a healthy mix of youth and experience.

What opportunities do you see for people coming into the semiconductor market: are there more jobs available, is it challenging, is it a good market to be getting into?

Although we are based in Glasgow, the market is worldwide. We are developing devices for the growing China market and the expertise that’s offered in Scotland is what is making this possible. We cannot be complacent however, in that we are very aware that these skills are also being developed elsewhere and so we need to always remain ahead of the curve in innovation, passion and desire to be successful.

What advice would you give the tech industry in Scotland on pursuing international engagements, like the one you have with Desay?

China is the place to engage with. They appreciate and respect design experience and a track record. So it’s important when engaging companies over there that we have something to show and something we know they need.  In fact there are many small design start-ups all over China, however they lack experience. They usually get funding partly private and partly state. So it’s really a matter of finding a niche for our expertise and engaging with China OEMs to develop an understanding of the ecosystem of the market and target the key players. This is in fact our strategy right now to further our business.

What’s one key piece of advice for people to navigate the industry?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, don’t be frightened to fail, explore, experiment and never give up when the unexpected arrives.

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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Posted November 07, 2018 | Industry Interviews, Photonics | No Comments »

[Interview – Part 2] Optical Design – Duncan Walker

Earlier in the year, we interviewed Duncan Walker of Walker Optics, about the optoelectronics industry, globalisation and hidden technology. We really enjoyed our last chat so we thought we’d ask him some more about his career in photonics and optics, how he views the industry and his advice to people looking to navigate their career in the optoelectronics industry.

Hi Duncan, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I am a freelance Optical Designer and I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now. It basically means that I provide all design services to a whole range of companies and businesses who need it. Usually, I work a mixture of longer-term contracts, often with larger organisations, and one-off projects with smaller companies that don’t necessarily have the optical expertise in-house and don’t have the requirements to have it in full time, so they make use of someone like myself for a project that requires optical design for their systems.

So what made you decide to set up your own company and pursue contracts? Are there better opportunities in Optical Design as a Contractor?

It’s a mixture of factors. For me, it was that I’d reached a stage in my career where the pathway, the more traditional pathway certainly in the UK, is to get to a certain level as an engineer, as a technical expert, and then to some extent get shunted into management. Managing projects and managing teams isn’t really my strength. I regard myself as very strong technically and I can do the organisation side of it, I have to obviously running my own business as part of the contracting, but it’s not something I want to be the primary focus of what I do. I also like a variety in what I do. I don’t want to just be working on one massive three to five year project and that is all I do for that period of time. I like working on a range of different problems, using the same basic principles. The combination of not looking to be in management and wanting to work on a range of projects meant moving out of the traditional way of working and moving towards more contracting and freelance work.

What influenced your career choice? How did how did you get into Optoelectronics?

In my case, it was very much that I was always fascinated by lasers and light. I did a degree in physics and then did a PhD in using lasers and non-linear optics because that was what I was interested in. When it came to the end of my degree, I decided at that point I wanted to be making things, seeing how lasers or optics could be incorporated into products and so that was the route I chose and I’ve stayed within that sort of technical space, rather than move into a profession.

I didn’t know at the time but the way the industry has expanded in the last 20 years or so that I’ve been working is phenomenal. I look back at what the state of the products were then and of the things we have now and take for granted. It’s day and night in terms of the advancement in technology since I started my career. To run a laser when I finished my PhD meant pretty much needed to have a PhD physicist available just to set it up, tweak and adjust it the whole time. Nowadays, you can go out and buy an industrial laser and it’s plug and play. You can stick it into the wall and point where you need it, switch it on and it works.

The development of this technology has enabled a lot of applications off the back of it and so there’s now an awful lot of lasers used in machines in manufacturing today. It’s now a reliable source. The high intensities now mean you can cut through steel and other metals or whatever material you need to create all sorts of fancy shapes on one hand and on the other hand, you can mass produce millions of highly complex lenses that go into mobile phones to take high-quality images. I think that the range within the industry is fascinating. I still wake up in the morning and think it’s exciting to have a problem and see how I can apply the optics to solve the problem.

Do you find yourself constantly learning new things as the technology develops then?

Oh definitely, but I think that’s the same with any technology. I think the moment you stop learning, that’s the moment you probably need to stop and re-evaluate what you’re doing because things are moving and evolving all the time. There is always something to learn about how to use it and apply it. When you’re building a product, it doesn’t matter what your field is, whether you’re an optics Designer, Mechanical Engineer or an Electronics Engineer, part of the process of building a product is combining it all together into one product that does what it needs to. There’s a balancing act between the requirements and the whole cost environment that also need to be contained in that design. So every time and for every type of new project, there’s always something new to learn.

 What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

I think that the main challenge we all face is working out what our strengths and what our weaknesses are, and how to do something which feeds best to your strengths. So in my case, I regard myself as technically strong, I enjoy the problem-solving side of my work so that’s what I’m good at and that’s why I’m perpetually learning to try and deal with the fundamentals of my job. On the other side, as a freelance Consultant Designer, I also have to go out and sell myself to people on a regular basis and try and understand what they’re doing and what they need. Building my business over the last 10 years has been and continues to be the single biggest challenge for me. It doesn’t matter how good my technical designs are, if I can’t communicate it to anybody, I can’t persuade them that I am the right designer for that project.

What opportunities do you see for people coming into the optoelectronics market?

I think it’s a great time to be in photonics and optoelectronics. There are so many areas that photonics is spreading across to at the moment, the medical market is one of them. It’s a big driver of the broader optics and photonics market as people are using optics in medical devices more and more for diagnosis, as well as also for basic operations. There are an awful lot of lasers being used today in the medical world too, so it’s a very exciting time to be in photonics. There are loads of opportunities in big companies, in small companies, in start-ups coming out of university, and in research.

Finally, what’s one key piece of advice you would give people to navigate the industry, whether it be people coming into the industry or people who are already in the industry?

Bizarrely, it’s a small world. A lot of technical areas, when you get down to it, are relatively small worlds and so you can easily become known within an area. The main thing that I’ve had to work on and has made a big difference to me is going out and meeting people. Networking! Going to the conferences, going to the trade shows, talking to people to make people aware of the industry and my role within that industry.

This really works on two levels, first, you make people aware of what you’re doing, and secondly, you can discover what everyone else is doing and how that might inform the approaches you might take in the future with the problems you have to solve. So my key piece of advice is, don’t get stuck in the lab or in the office! You need to go out and see what everyone else is doing as well, it’s all about learning. If you’re stuck on a project, seeing what others are doing with different problems can give you some ideas about how to get around your problem.

Read [Interview – Part 1] Optical Design – Duncan Walker

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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Posted October 17, 2018 | Industry Interviews, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] Stephen Taylor – Technology Scotland.

Since 2016, Enigma People Solutions has partnered with Technology Scotland to help build strong relationships across the Enabling Technology Sector here in Scotland and further afield. With some truly exciting things happening at the moment across the sector, we thought we would have a chat with Stephen Taylor, CEO of Technology Scotland, to find out more about his career, enabling technology and the role of Technology Scotland within the industry.

Hi Stephen, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Stephen Taylor. I’m the Chief Executive of Technology Scotland.

Technology Scotland is the industry association for enabling technology and smart mobility in Scotland. We’ve built the association from zero members, two or three years ago, to some 114 members today. I’ve been really happy with the development of Technology Scotland and even happier because it’s not just about technology as such; we’ve also created two new networks – and one around a market!

First, I believe we have been successful in getting photonics back onto the agenda within the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. In particular, I think we’ve been successful in getting the photonics community together again and collaborating more with each other through events and workshops.

Second, there was a small dormant cluster in Scotland around Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and we’ve grown that to some 70 members in the last 18 months, which is an astonishing growth. We believe it to be the biggest mobility cluster in Europe, if not the world. In fact, how we’ve built our MaaS network in Scotland has been recognised by places like Sydney, Quebec and Barcelona, to name a few, and they’re now modelling their own networks on our process. I think that is a great testament to the people who have been involved in MaaS Scotland, and it’s terrific that Scotland is being seen as a leader in the world in that particular market.

We’ve also just recently launched a third cluster – Design Network Scotland. Like Mobility as a Service, there’s a nice concentration of design companies in Scotland and so we’ve launched a network surrounding that and I’m excited to see where that leads us.

How did your career journey lead you to become CEO of Technology Scotland?

That’s an interesting question. I wasn’t particularly looking for a new job at the time but I was approached by a recruitment agency that had looked at my LinkedIn profile, my mix of skills, and saw that I had been involved in semiconductors, manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, photonics, and sales, as well as being involved in global business, managing people, and P&L accountability. They were looking for somebody who had all those skills, and perhaps more.

When they approached me to ask if would I be interested in this role, I thought about it and I decided “you know I really am”. For many years I have been living in Scotland but working mainly abroad. I felt like I had a good mix of skills, and that I could truly put something back into the local economy.

Heading towards the end of my career, I decided I could do without so much international travel, and working locally would be a really interesting thing to do. I concluded this was a really great opportunity, the job spec was terrific, and the chance of using the skills that I’d built up over 30 years or so in business and putting something back into the Scottish/UK economy was something that really appealed.

Technology Scotland was looking for someone with good understanding of enabling technology and what it can do. So with my background in semiconductors, photonics, advanced manufacturing, and my sales and business career, I seemed to be a really good fit for the role.

The job can be fascinating. Just recently, we met with the current Executive Director of Innovate UK, who is relatively new to the role. He was keen to meet with Technology Scotland members, to get feedback on how Innovate UK can help them. Things like that, which pop up are really exciting. We had a terrific, interactive session with some 20 members involved. Innovate UK has a near billion pound a year budget for innovation projects, so the opportunities that can arise are a really exciting thing to be involved in.

Tell us about a defining moment in your career to date?

Within Jabil I progressed from business development and sales, to running a P&L business, which meant I had accountability not only for sales and business development, but also for the manufacture and delivery of products. It was a terrific new challenge for me.

However, the defining moment for me, was when Jabil decided to create a component business because they were looking to become more vertical in their offerings to their end customers. It wasn’t just about making board assemblies any longer, but also making the plastics, metal and the other components involved in supplying an entire product to the end customers.

What were your main responsibilities at Jabil then?

One of the key components that our end customers were looking for was camera modules for mobile phones and other applications. I got involved in building and then running the camera module business which we built from zero. Zero customers, zero suppliers, and very limited capability in terms of manufacturing, apart from what I would call a pre-production line.

We developed a customer base of very large global enterprises (some of which I can’t name!). Let’s just say we were making cameras for mobile phones, for laptops, for hand held barcode scanners, and endoscopes. We ended up going into three or four different markets, including industrial, consumer and medical markets.

The camera module business grew from zero to about 130 employees working for me, with multimillion-dollar annual sales. It was a terrific job. I had sales, design, and manufacturing to look after. It truly was a business within a business. I thoroughly enjoyed growing that business from scratch, and consider it was the best achievement in my career!

What did you take away from your time at Jabil?

Before I worked there, I had a loose understanding of photonics from high school physics, but in my camera module role, I really had to learn about photonics and discovered the importance of photonics in enabling almost every other market and business sector on the planet. It was a terrific learning experience for me.

My boss said to me “go away and learn about photonics”. I understood the basic physics of it, but there were some technical terms that I really had to better understand, and I learned a lot of it on the job. There were some technical terms that I really had to get to grips with, like MTF (modulation transfer function), which is about the quality of a lens / electronic system design, and how good it is at creating an image or transmitting photons.

What I came to realise is that photonics is the technology for the 21st century. If the semiconductor was the technology that drove the 20th century, photonics is what will drive the 21st!

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

I’ve had many, many business challenges over the years. However I guess the single biggest challenge that I’ve had to overcome in my career was that when I was 26 years old, I was diagnosed with a cancer. It took about a year and a half out of my life going through chemotherapy and recovery. That was 30 odd years ago, so it’s a long time ago, but it’s definitely the biggest challenge I have had to overcome.

Has there been anyone/anything that has influenced your career choices?

I was at a meeting at Philips in Airdrie, when they still had a factory there making phones. I was with my boss and some customer personnel, when I realised I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about. I suddenly realised that I wasn’t selling electronics; I was actually doing business transactions. Although I had a degree in electronics and so on, I realised that I needed to understand business if I was going to be successful.

So I went to my boss and I said I wanted to do an MBA, to learn about business. I spent the next three years doing an MBA part time, while at the same time travelling all across the planet. It was a really significant step in helping me to better understand business transactions, motivation, how people work, organisational behaviour, strategy, finance etc. Doing that MBA was definitely a big influence in my career.

What’s one key piece of advice for people to navigate the industry?

If you want to be successful, you can’t be successful on your own. You need other people around. You need good people to work with you, work for you, and work around you, so networking, talking and collaborating with people is really important. Network actively and often would be my piece of advice.

Can you tell us a bit about Technology Scotland and enabling technology?

 Technology Scotland is an industry association. Our role is to represent our members and promote the industry to local and national governments. It’s about influencing policy, and interfacing to other international stakeholders, like other Photonics or MaaS clusters in other parts of the world. It’s very much about local and international networking. One primary role is to make sure that our members’ voices are heard by local and national government to make sure they are aware of industry challenges, and what the Government needs to do to help support the industry to ensure it stays vibrant in Scotland and the UK.

Another key role we have is to bring the community together through events, workshops, and forums, creating promotional materials, and publishing what the community is doing through roadmaps or whitepapers.

For example, we published a Whitepaper on MaaS earlier this year, which resulted in the announcement of a £2m Maas Innovation Fund in the recent Scottish Programme for Government. This is a great result for our members, and opens an exciting phase for the roll out and upscale of Mobility as a Service in Scotland.

We’re currently working on publishing a Whitepaper about photonics in Scotland which will include analysis on the strengths of, and challenges facing the photonics industry. We aim to consult our members on a strategy and an “ask” of The Scottish government of how to at least treble the photonics market by 2030. We see Whitepapers as one way to get government attention for the industries that we represent.

Regarding enabling technologies, they fundamentally underpin every service and everything that is made. People talk about “The Digital Age”, but the digital age is only possible because of very clever people designing the electronic and photonic subsystems that enable it. The internet itself is what I describe as “a massively interconnected system of electronic and photonic subsystems, connected together by fibre optic cables and laser diodes”. The internet, the “cloud”, the “digital” world, all of these things are underpinned by photonics and electronics – fundamental enabling technologies which are sadly not well understood by the public or politicians alike.

Enabling technologies are what will help governments and businesses solve the grand challenges of the planet – not enough water, not enough food, as well as the transport, energy and pollution challenges. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say enabling technologies are what will help solve those grand challenges. Enabling technologies will drive the future productivity and growth that all governments want. They underpin and enable almost everything else.

What are your views of the enabling technology market in Scotland?

In a Scottish context, the enabling technology market in Scotland is bigger than life sciences, and just as big as the software industry, if not bigger. Enabling technology companies account for 10% of all Scottish exports. However, enabling technology is hidden. People are not aware of it, and one of the challenges we have at Technology Scotland is to try and make people aware of what enabling technology does. Without enabling technology, these grand challenges are going to be really difficult to solve.

What excites you about the enabling technology market at the moment?

I think all of the above! Enabling technologies are going to help us transform the planet. We need these technologies to solve the grand challenges. By the year 2035 or thereabouts, it is forecast there are going to be some 45 trillion devices connected to the internet (almost 6000 per person!) One of the huge problems this will cause is security of data. How do you ensure that your data is safe? Researchers are looking at quantum solutions to solve cyber security matters. Quantum enabled security may be required to keep these 45 trillion devices talking to each other, but only when they’re allowed to.

Quantum technologies are also going to revolutionise the speed at which computers can work. Faster data analytics will help to solve many, many problems.

There’s also quantum photonics, an example of which is going to allow people to look round corners, and we have examples of this already! There are cameras right now being developed, by our friends at QuantIC, which can in fact look round corners and others that can see through surfaces. It’s fascinating stuff.

Enabling tech is what is going to drive productivity and improvements. It’s going to help the world solve the grand challenges and that’s what really excites me about it the most.

What do you think makes a great tech company?

Looking to solve the unsolvable. When I was a global business traveller, I used to run around with a Nokia mobile phone, a Canon camera, a Palm Pilot and of course my Sony Walkman to listen to music. These were products from four different but huge markets, and it took somebody with a great mind, Steve Jobs of course, who said let’s put all these into one little package and then Apple created the iPhone.

Apple destroyed the “Walkman” market by creating the iPhone. This new technology also completely decimated other successful technology markets, like the PDA and the stand-alone digital camera market. Basically, what makes a great tech company is trying something that previously hadn’t been thought possible or doable, and doing it. Actually, Sony who invented the Walkman had themselves created a new market before newer technology replaced it. It’s about looking at what’s not been done before and doing it.

What opportunities do you see for people coming into the enabling technology market: are there more jobs available, is it challenging, is it a good market to be getting into?

There’s a world of opportunities. I was visiting one of our member companies a few months ago. One of their employees had done a PhD in chemistry, and then found himself working at a large multinational electronics company designing security solutions for the biggest brand names on the planet. His job is to design security labels that go on the back of phones, software, laptops and other high tech equipment. He’s got a chemistry degree, yet he travels to Silicon Valley, Korea and Japan visiting household name global electronic giants. He has a fascinating job.

So there’s a world of opportunities in the enabling technology market. There are opportunities in photonics, electronics, advanced manufacturing and more. The careers in these sectors can be really well paid, really challenging, and really exciting for people to get involved in because you’re making a difference. If you’re involved in a business which is somehow going to help to resolve global problems, how better can it be than that?

Are there lots of jobs currently available in photonics, electronics and advanced manufacturing?

Absolutely, we had another meeting recently with about 12 CEOs in Scotland, all running electronic or photonic businesses. Every single one of those companies was struggling to find enough skilled people to build products, so they all had multiple open job vacancies. They were trying to figure out what that meant in terms of wealth for them. (On average UK businesses generate £118k of revenue per employee with photonics companies even higher at £198k of revenues per employee).

So if you consider that every open job that’s not filled is going to cost your company at least £150k a year in lost revenues and you have 10 jobs you can’t fill, that’s potentially £1.5 million of lost revenue. All of these companies were talking about growth levels in the last year of 80%, 50%, 100% and 70% – so there’s massive growth there, but even with that growth, they still can’t find enough people.

One of the big things that came out of this discussion was that there are not enough women involved in technology. Some 50% of the people on this planet are women, yet a recent SPIE survey suggested only some 21% of those employed in photonics are women. If we get more women involved in technology companies then there’s a good chance we could solve the lack of available labour to design and manufacture these enabling technology products; the photonics, electronics, lasers, new advanced materials, those things that are going to make a difference.

Overall it’s a terrific market to be in. It’s growing enormously, it’s challenging, it’s really exciting thinking about what these technologies can do, and we would absolutely like to encourage more women to get involved in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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Posted August 28, 2018 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Photonics, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview – Part 1] Optical Design – Duncan Walker

It’s often that we only see the surface of what Scotland’s technology industry has to offer. This is especially true of the Enabling Technology sector, which actually boasts 10% of Scotland’s exports.

Shining a light on the deep technology industry, we recently spoke to Duncan Walker, of Walker Optics, to find out more about optoelectronics, globalisation and hidden technology.

Hi Duncan, thanks for chatting with us. Firstly could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I am a freelance optical designer and I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now. It basically means that I provide all design services to a whole range of companies and businesses who need it. Usually, I work a mixture between longer term contracts, often with larger organisations, and one off projects with smaller companies that don’t necessarily have the optical expertise in house and don’t have the requirements to have it in full time, so they make use of someone like myself for a project that requires optical design for their systems.

What does an Optical Design Engineer actually do?

Optical design is really about taking the light from a source, whatever that is, to a detector. For example, it covers a whole range of requirements. There’s a whole area of illumination Optics when you’re collecting light from the light source, whether it’s a light bulb, an LCD or a laser and you need to then get that into a certain form, like an angular distribution or a spot at a target plane. At the other end there’s imaging Optics, which is essentially a camera. When you’re trying to take and a get a good quality image of something, you’re using Optics.

Is that similar to Photonics then?

It’s a subset of Photonics, I would say. Photonics in itself is an enabling technology, which most of us are unaware of just how much we are actually using it. Optics is within that, so Photonics covers everything, like how you build a laser, an LED, a light source, a detector, and the Optics within that is how you get the light from one place to another.

That’s pretty cool.

Yes, I mean that’s one of the interesting things about Photonics and Optics to me; it’s very rare that you go out and buy something you can say ‘that’s an optical system’. If you’re buying a camera then yes but most of us don’t even bother buying cameras these days; we’ve got a smartphone and they have cameras built into them and as such, Photonics has become very much a hidden technology. It’s in an awful lot of things that we use; it’s used to manufacture a lot of things that we use on a regular basis but most of us have absolutely no idea just how dependent we are on Optics and Photonics.

What are your views of the Optoelectronics market, in particular in Scotland?

In general, the Optoelectronics market at the moment is strong and growing. It is, as I said earlier, a hidden technology. A lot of people are not aware of just how much we use it and the number of applications and number of ways in which it’s been used is increasing dramatically at the moment. One example that I often quite like to use is that in the banking bust of 2008, everything took a dive. Optics and Photonics was flat, maybe increased a little, and again dropped a little. By and large, it was flat for a couple of years but has since increased at rate of 5% to 10% a year. That’s primarily because people are finding that there’s more and more things that require Optics and Photonics. You just have to look at your mobile phone, for example, the typical mobile phone today has a camera in it. That’s Optics. It’s got a display on it which is basically mediated by Optics. A lot of the processing in your phone is carried out by lasers. The new facial recognition approach that Apple and others have started to adopt are using lasers to do that. Increasingly, your phone is becoming a more and more complex Optics and Photonics device but that’s not something that you and I, on the whole, regard it as but it is.

Do you think that the industry benefits from using ‘hidden technology’ or do you think industry would benefit from being highlighted and more well-known?

That’s a very hot topic within the Optics and Photonics community at the moment for a couple reasons. As an industry, it’s a lot more fragmented than others. For example, Optics and Photonics in the UK brings a similar amount into the UK economy as pharmaceuticals. However, where pharmaceuticals is dominated by a few very large companies, household names that everybody knows, Photonics is a lot more fragmented. There are a lot more small companies doing various bits and pieces around Photonics and Optoelectronics. As previously mentioned, it’s very rare that there’s a product which you could hold up and say this is an Optics product. You build the product and say ‘this is a medical product and but it’s got Optics inside’ or ‘this is a communications product and it has got a lot of Optics inside’. The industry as a whole is struggling with how to make ourselves more visible and make people much more aware of just how fundamental Optics and Photonics are today. We need to be confirming this in conversations with government and others. It’s a very important discussion to have and we do need to be better at as an industry.

I noticed on your website that you worked in Germany for a while, how does the UK market compare to Germany’s?

Certainly in the Optics and the Photonics market, Germany is the biggest contributor in Europe by a distance. I think that follows on from a couple of strengths within the German system. Technically, they tend to be more thorough and they’ll go into things in an awful lot more detail and work it out in advance.  Part of that is because, in Germany, an Engineer is regarded as a highly skilled worker with an equivalent social status in rank to what we would consider the professions in the UK, so like a lawyer or accountant.

In the UK, there is the idea that anybody can call themselves an Engineer, so when you’re trying to encourage people to move into the industry to get involved in design, they perhaps feel like those jobs are not as high status as a career in law or accountancy.

On the flipside, in Germany, they can be a bit more rigid in the way they do things. There’s a lot less challenging from junior Engineers. If you have a certain level of authority or position within a company, junior Engineers tend not to challenge someone superior in the same way that might be encouraged in the UK. So there’s probably more flexibility in the UK but on the whole I would say the disadvantages of the UK approach outweigh the advantages at the moment.

So what in particular excites you about the Optoelectronics market in the UK at the moment?

I think the Optoelectronics market is a global market. I think to just constrain a business to a particular geographic region, in today’s world, is not necessarily a recipe for success. Obviously, if you work in retail you very much have to deal with local markets and local demands but when designing and making products for global distribution, you must think in terms global markets. I think that Optoelectronics is very much that way. Think about some of the major companies like Leonardo or Thales, they are multinational companies with a very strong Scottish presence and they are primarily exporting. In general in the UK, that is true of the Optoelectronics market as a whole, optoelectronic companies are exporting. So to think locally in that respect is a mistake but to think within the local environment, in terms of the availability of expertise, is critical.

One of the nice things about being in Scotland is that there’s a very strong university base. These universities have strong areas of expertise in the broader Optics and Photonics areas and therefore there’s a steady stream of graduates who have those skills and have the potential to move into those markets. It also creates an environment where start-ups are founded and nurtured, continuing to build the environment at university level is critical. I think that’s partly why people and companies come to Scotland. It’s why the likes of Thales and Leonardo have strong bases in Scotland because they have strong links with the universities, graduates and links to the research so that base feeds a level of expertise.

Do you think there’s currently a good flow and a good number of people coming through these courses?

The short answer is no. If you go to any forum where there’s a gathering of project managers from the big companies, the single complaint they always have is there is just not enough expertise around. And that’s partly because again it’s hidden technology. A lot of people applying to university are not aware of the opportunities in Optics and Photonics. It stems from what I was talking about earlier, the problem in the UK that numerous graduates tend to look to the finance market or law, Engineering is the second best idea, which is a UK problem.

When I say there’s a shortage of experts, it’s not just a UK problem; it’s a worldwide problem. You can go to any conference anywhere and you’ll get the industrialists talking about it; they’ll say there’s just not the expertise in the Optics and Photonics area to meet the increasing demand.

So in that respect then what do you think makes a great tech company?

In the technology world, as with any product, there is a whole balance of things that need to go into making a successful product. The danger for technology companies is that we’re all technology enthusiasts and we get very excited about what the technology can do or might be able to do it or how far we can push it, that sometimes we lose sight of our goals. What makes a great technology company is probably identifying where the market need is, preferably before anybody else does, and then developing the technology to meet that need and knowing when to stop. I think the trap a lot of start-ups fall into is that they keep fiddling with the product. There are times you just have to stop and say “right this is a product, I’m going to go and sell this for a while. I’ll keep developing the next generation but I don’t need to have different variants for different customers because that way I’m never going to make profit.”

You need to have a product that you can turn out consistently and so good tech companies need to have the flexibility to change direction but they also need to stop in the design process at sensible moments, otherwise the whole the market may move on and you end up missing out.

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in photonics, electronics, semiconductor, and software in Scotland. Check out our blog for the latest in the technology industry. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422/0131 510 8150

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Posted May 14, 2018 | Career Advice, Industry Interviews, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] SCINTILLA – Protecting Innovation

Scotland is well-known as the home to billion pound tech companies, like Skyscanner, but that’s only the start of what Scotland’s tech industry currently has to offer. The country’s strength and depth across software engineering, artificial intelligence, big data and a variety of emerging and enabling technologies is impressive; and it’s being noticed. Scotland’s position within the technology industry is encouraging more and more start-ups to base themselves here. The profusion of skills in Edinburgh, especially, has led to a growth in the number of tech companies in the city. According to last year’s Tech Nation 2017 report, 363 technology start-ups were incorporated in Edinburgh alone in 2017.

With such growth and the huge expanse of innovation happening across Scotland, there has been an upsurge in the need for Patent Attorneys. We spoke to Patent Attorney and Founder, Peter McBride, over at SCINTILLA and asked him all about Patent Attorneys, Intellectual Property and his thoughts on the future of the technology industry in Scotland:

Hi Peter, thanks for chatting to us. Firstly, can you please tell us what a Patent Attorney is and at which stage would you need to approach one? 

“We are specialist legal professionals dealing with protection of innovation.  We obtain patents to protect novel technologies and registered trade marks so that a brand’s reputation is safeguarded.  A Patent Attorney has a technical qualification, which is essential as our work requires deep technical understanding of our clients’ technologies.

Intellectual Property (IP) is a key strategic area for any innovative company and should be considered as early as possible!  It is a vital area to research when you start up a business, and its protection should be an ongoing process that is continuously improved.  Each project should be assessed at an early stage, to make sure you can take advantage of all available options and can implement the right strategy.”

How do you currently view the market for Patent Attorneys?

“There are of course a few uncertainties in the UK and global business environment right now, but I am optimistic about our own business and profession because innovation is such a core aspect of business and its protection is a key strategic necessity.”

Would you advise to use a patent lawyer who has expertise in a specific specialism? Why?

“It’s imperative that your Patent Attorney is able to get to grips with the technology that you are working with.  Having an understanding of the relevant basic technical concepts saves everyone time and results in stronger legal protection, as the patent attorney is able to anticipate “workarounds” and make sure that alternative versions of your products are covered by a patent. Similarly, on the defensive side an understanding of the technology can help identify creative solutions when searching or making objections to third parties’ patents.

However, this technical knowledge does not mean anything without effective communication skills – your Patent Attorney should understand your commercial objectives and be able to “translate” the legal language of patents into something you can understand, so you know exactly what your IP is achieving for you.”

Do you think there any trends in the market?

“Clients are looking for their advisors to be commercially aware and to have a laser focus on adding real value with the services and advice which are provided.  Administrative tasks have become commoditised and fixed fee structures are becoming popular.”

Given current market trends, what do you predict for the market over the next 12-24 months? 

“The focus on adding value will continue and the firms which embrace the change will be the ones who are successful.”

What does SCINTILLA do that is different?

“We have a special niche because, as a small firm we have chosen to “go deep” into the fields of electronics and software rather then “go wide” and cover everything.  So, while we are a small team, our common technical focus means we can in fact match the capabilities of much larger firms. Having big-firm professionalism together with small-firm flexibility and friendliness seems to be a winning combination!”

Where do you expect SCINTILLA to be in 12 month’s time? Do you have plans for growth?

“We are celebrating five years in business, but there’s a sense in which we are just getting started.  Growth is a decision and a mindset and we have plans to build on the solid foundation which has been established.

In due course we will look at adding to our team and expanding into other technical areas, so in 12 months’ time we hope to have added some more colleagues and some great new clients.”

How does SCINTILLA enable growth within the tech industry?

“As a service provider, we are in tune with our clients’ needs and our flexible and creative approach helps our clients optimise scope of protection and cost.

Beyond this, however, we are committed to the startup and tech communities.  We get involved with education and we sponsor Startup Grind, which builds communities and connections for start-up founders.”

Where do you think Scotland and the UK fit within the Tech market?

“Scotland has everything it needs to be a global player in the tech market. There are good Universities which punch above their weight, an active community of software and hardware companies and a vibrant support network of government and early stage investment organisations.  Also having fantastic culture and art scenes makes Scotland a great place for business and pleasure.”

Do you think there are there any barriers to entry for tech start-ups? 

“Funding and talent are the biggest barriers, as is the case across the globe. In Scotland, while initial funding is relatively plentiful it can be harder to secure larger funding rounds. Luckily there is a strong international mindset amongst the tech community and there are many examples of companies who have succeeded by focusing on the US or other overseas markets.”

And finally, do you think being able to acquire IP protection is part of what determines success for these companies?

“Companies who invest in IP protection tend to be more successful. Everyone needs to get to grips with the basics of IP, and in many cases registration of IP through patents, trade marks or designs is crucial to safeguard competitive advantage.  So, I would agree that an ability to secure effective IP protection is a vital component of success.”

Thanks, Peter! 

Intrigued by intellectual property and patents following our chat with Peter, we scoured the web to find out more and stumbled across some interesting and fun facts about patents.

Check them out before you go:

  • The inventor of the Laser, Gordon Gould, fought with Laser manufacturers and the US patent office for 38 years before finally achieving the right to equally obtain and enforce patents covering the Laser technology he had invented
  • WD-40 is not patent protected, in so doing it has completely avoided disclosing its ingredients, making it harder for any other companies to mimic
  • While working at Raytheon in 1945, Percy Spencer a radar engineer, stepped in front of a magnetron, a device that powers radars. He realised a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Later that same year, he filed a patent for the first microwave oven.
  • Amazon recently acquired a patent for a modular super drone that could potentially carry lots of weight, enabling them to be more efficient and capable of transporting and delivering greater loads than just one singular, powerful drone
  • There is a patent for a surgical procedure to implant semiconductors into eyes to give humans night vision like Riddick.



SCINTILLA is a European Patent and Trade Mark Attorney firm specialising in the fields of electronics, software, energy and mechanical engineering.  They work with international clients as well as serving the vibrant start-up and SME scene in Scotland. They provide frank and practical advice about what is best for your business. Find out more about SCINTILLA:



Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in electronics, photonics and semiconductors in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0131 810 510

Follow us on TwitterLinkedin and Facebook  to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted April 23, 2018 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Recruitment Industry, Scotland, Technology Industry | No Comments »

Business Confidence Survey Results 2018

Following the success of our Business Sentiment Survey in 2017, this year brought us another fantastic opportunity to learn about what’s currently going on the technology sector.

Our Business Confidence Survey 2018, in conjunction with TechWorks Hub, intended to find out how businesses, within the UK, presently view the electronics industry and what they predict for 2018. We wanted to know which challenges businesses were currently facing and your responses certainly didn’t disappoint.

After collecting and analysing the wide range of information we received back from our participants, we were really intrigued by the data we collected. We have collated this data into an infographic for easy interpretation, which can be found below:

Download Infographic
The results

Enigma People Solutions Director, Ben Hanley, gives us a run down on the most surprising and interesting data we collected, sharing his own opinions and predictions about the electronics industry.


“12% are very pessimistic about the next 12 months. What’s interesting about this figure, is that 100% of the businesses that participated reported an increase in sales in 2017. Whilst you would assume that an increase in sales would indicate industry optimism, it is clear that a significant number of respondents are pessimistic. This could be owing to Brexit and the current talent shortage within the electronics industry. It’s very interesting to see that companies in the UK are not feeling as optimistic as we thought.

44% of respondents are pessimistic about the next 12 months. I suspect, partly, that this figure, again, plays into the Brexit conversations that people are currently having and the fact that people just don’t yet know how Brexit is going to fully impact us.  I’d really need to do a more in depth study in this area, so that we can assess the needs of the industry to overcome such pessimism.”


“71% are likely to hire graduates. This figure appears to confirm what we thought we knew; it seems to suggest that there is going to be a lot of pressure on recruitment over the next year or so, not that we’re complaining! It’s really fantastic to see such high percentage of businesses looking to recruit within the next 12 months. I think that it’s great that as many as 71% are likely to hire graduates. In the past, when I have spoken to our clients and attended industry events, I have been informed that there is already a real struggle to find graduates. In recent years, we have found that University students are already snapped up by the time they are entering 4th year, due to their 3rd year projects, which involve working at a company, so from these courses very few graduates are available. We’ve even seen instances where employers have hired university students in 3rd year, before they’ve even graduated. If this is consistent across the graduate sphere for our market, it’s going to be extremely important that we continue to encourage people into the courses and make sure that those courses are fit for purpose, in order to deliver properly qualified graduates to the market. As well as this, we need to ensure that these graduates come from the UK, or at the moment EU. Having really highly skilled international graduates from UK universities are no longer an option, as Highly Skilled Migrant Worker visas no longer exist; which is a significant contributing factor towards the current talent shortage.

73% of respondents said they were likely to hire mid career professionals, 57% likely to hire senior managers, 46% likely to middle management. There is a clear pressure to hire experienced people. Unfortunately, if there are no new incoming experienced individuals, there will be a tightening in the market. This means businesses will need to turn to recruiters in order to meet demand, which is good for Enigma People in one sense but it does highlight talent shortage as a clear challenge within the industry.”

“61% of respondents expect employee numbers to increase in 2018. Again, I find this a little contradictory. I believe that businesses now recognise that there’s going to be a struggle and a lot of their time and effort will have to go into recruitment. At this stage, it’s really important for companies to present their culture and their values, as well as the work they do in a consistent, favourable light in order to attract top talent.”

“62% of respondents are predicting that there will be a significant increase in demand for Design Engineers. This is consistent with what we have seen over the last little while but it highlights a big problem. Design Engineers are arguably key to what many of these companies do, and if they do not have the option to build up their R&D teams across the UK, due to talent shortages, they will most likely build them up somewhere else; which will have a massive effect on the electronics industry within the UK. Being able to solve these issues is critical to the industry.

The fact that 44% predict an increase in demand for Validation and Characterisation Engineers over the next 12-24 months, suggests to me that new products are being developed, new systems and new designs being implemented, which need to be validated and characterised. This usually ties in, in terms of economics of scale, with the recruitment of new employees and also project life cycles, so that could be really important. It may suggest that we’re likely to see an uplift in contract opportunities for people with this, and similar, skill sets. The number of Embedded Software Engineers is also predicted to increase over the next 12-24 months, with 1 out of every 2 of our participants suggest that there’s going to be an increase here. This, again, points towards an increase in projects and design.”

Challenges to overcome

“The challenge for us as a recruitment business and the challenge for our market is finding those talented, highly-skilled candidates; because I’m sure if businesses were able to find the talent they require, then they would be much more optimistic.

Certainly from some of the events I have attended and been involved with, it’s been clear that there are a number of challenges within the industry. Brexit and the lack of knowledge of how that’s going to play out, potentially plays a role in the pessimism we have observed around the industry. Many in the industry point to the visa system, in Germany, as a model to consider. It would allow companies much more freedom to attract and hire international talent. I, for one, would like to see a return to the highly skilled migrant visa and certainly much more availability of visas for those with the technical skills, to help make the UK’s companies competitive on an international and global scale. Being able to find talent for these businesses is going to be key and critical to the continued success of the electronics industry, within the UK.”

Join our specialist InElectronics group on LinkedIn and don’t forget to download your copy of our Business Confidence Survey 2018 infographic:

Download Infographic



Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,  Linkedin and Facebook  to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted September 26, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Technology Industry, Women in Technology | No Comments »

[Interview] Women in Digital: Kelly Molson at Rubber Cheese

We’re chatting to Kelly Molson, co-founder and managing director of Rubber Cheese, this week! After reading her thought-inspiring blogs in which she interviews female digital agency directors in order to provide others with real-life experiences of what it’s like to be a woman in business, we thought it was about time that Kelly takes her turn. Kelly shares with us how she became co-founder and MD of Rubber Cheese, what her experiences have been like as a woman in business, what advice she would give to others in her position and loads more interesting stuff! So, let’s find out what she has to say…

Hi, Kelly! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Can you firstly tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at the moment please?

“I’m co-founder and managing director of Rubber Cheese, an award-winning digital agency supporting visitor attraction and food and drink brands.

Rubber Cheese design and build online systems, websites and apps that improve conversions, save resource and increase sales. Trusted partners of Chivas Brothers, Plymouth Gin, and Eureka! The National Children’s Museum.

Passionate about the value of networking and relationships, I co-founded double award-winning Grub Club Cambridge  – networking events for food & drink professionals.

I’ve recently launched a campaign to support, inspire and increase the number of female agency owners in the digital sectors.

I live in Cambridge with my fiance Lee and our two dogs, a 13-year-old chocolate lab Buster, and 7-month-old dachshund Doris. I LOVE food. You’ll find me eating my way around Cambridge, working out (because of all the food) or growing veg in the garden allotment.”

What’s your background/career path?

“I trained as a graphic designer when cow gum, Letraset and gouache paints were still a thing. Back then I was too eager to start working, I deferred my place at Uni and got a junior job instead.

I worked mainly in print, branding, marketing and packaging were my specialisms. I loved the creativity my roles brought, but I never really felt settled anywhere and moved job every couple of years to find the next challenge or learn the next thing.

In 2002 I started working at an e-commerce agency just as online shopping began to explode. I thought it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened! Suddenly I was thrown into a digital world where anything was possible. I was hooked. It was here I met my business partner.

By this time I’d started to wonder if I could work for myself. My grandfather was a successful business owner so I suppose it was the norm in our family. I wanted to take ownership of my future and build something that was mine. I knew I wanted to work more as a partner to my clients, to really understand their businesses. I guess I wanted to be more of a strategist than a visual designer. I loved meeting new people and thrived on understanding their challenges and how a digital approach could solve them.

In 2003 at the age of 24, I co-founded Rubber Cheese alongside good friend Paul Wright. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

You mentioned above that you are co-founder of Rubber Cheese; we’d love to hear more about your agency and how you started it…

“We started from our bedrooms like all great agencies do! Our lucky break came just 2 weeks in when we secured a contract with an architect’s firm working on a 2-year project for Tesco. Suddenly we were attending high-level design meetings at Tesco headquarters and we knew this was what we were supposed to do.

Around 6 years in our client base had grown organically. Paul and I were working long hours on client work and pitches, but we were struggling to run the business around our production roles. It was this point we decided to build an agency. We hired our first team member to take on my design role, and I became the Managing Director and began to grow and develop the business.

It was a huge learning curve for us. Building a company culture, understanding the figures, balancing cash flow, keeping the sales pipeline full. I’ll admit I felt slightly resentful of Paul still being in a creative role and me starring endlessly at spreadsheets!

We’re now a team of 6 with a focus on digital, creating online systems, websites and apps that improve conversions, save resource and increase sales. A mix of designers, developers and strategists make up the team who all share a core mission: To make a positive impact on the lives of others through the systems and products we create.

The food & drink, and visitor attraction sectors have become specialisms over the last few years, having been selected as a digital partner to a number of Pernod Ricard brands, including Plymouth Gin, Beefeater Gin and Chivas Brothers. An incredible project with Eureka! The National Children’s Museum followed which has been nominated for a number of awards.”

As a woman in business, what challenges have you experienced throughout your career?

“I was 24 when we started Rubber Cheese. Full of confidence, fearless and I took every opportunity put our way.

Over the last few years, my self-confidence and self-belief have taken a huge hit. Being completely honest, the biggest challenges I’ve faced have been due to the effects of infertility. The last 2 years we have suffered miscarriage, multiple rounds of IVF and the devastating early loss of our twin girls.

All of that has had an effect on the agency. It’s incredibly difficult to put yourself out there as the “face” of the company when you are grieving, but still have sales pitches and meetings to attend.

The time I was able to dedicate to it around seemingly endless clinic appointments was very limited. It was almost impossible to plan my diary as things changed on a daily basis.

The tipping point came when I couldn’t commit to a pitch date for the most amazing project. It’s important to me to be honest and authentic in everything I do, so I took a risk and explained my situation to the potential client. Thankfully everyone was understanding, flexible and extremely supportive.

Being transparent is a key factor of business success for female agency owners. We should be able to speak openly about these things without fear of being judged.”

Your blog series focuses on female founders who run their own digital agency; what prompted you to start the blog?

“Initially, the challenges I experienced over the last few years prompted me to start the blog. When these things happened, I realized there would be others who’d had similar experiences and that we could learn from and support each other.

I then began to wonder what the percentage of female agency owners actually was, and if challenges like these would have any effect on that. I wanted to understand if anything was holding us back, if there was a common theme, if we needed extra support etc.

The blog is also a platform to celebrate female agency owners, creating a showcase of inspiring role models in the industry which will hopefully inspire future leaders.”

In your blog series, you share the statistic: ‘@The Wow Company’s recent survey of 471 agency owners across the UK has the figures as Female 27% – Male 73%.’ What do you think about this figure?

“I can’t say I was surprised, but it was disappointing to see. Having said that, I’ve attended a number of industry-specific events and I would have put the percentage a lot lower based on those.

Vickie Allen founder of SyncDevelopHER, and the DevelopHER Awards is a truly inspiring woman. She gave a talk recently “Where did all the women go? A trip back in time to when women ruled the code!” and joked that it’s her aim to make the toilet queues for the ladies’ loo’s longer at industry events!

Is it down to children and childcare? I can’t speak from experience, but I can understand how difficult it would be to grow an agency and a family at the same time. But if anything, my agency now gives me the utmost flexibility with my time and allows for a better work/life balance than I’ve ever had, which I know will support our family when the time comes.

I think it starts long before this. We are not encouraged into leadership roles from an early age, there’s a disconnect somewhere along the education path. I’m keen to get back into the classrooms to show young women what they can do, and not necessarily taking the university path either.

Companies perform better with women on the board, there have been endless studies in this.

Male and female directors provide a different perspective which team and clients benefit from. I know Rubber Cheese is stronger for it.”

Can you tell us about your support network and how you access the support you need to run your business?

“I threw myself into networking as soon as we launched Rubber Cheese. I’m a great believer in givers gain, and I built a solid local network based on this, attending local events and actively looking for ways I could help others.

It’s not around any longer, but I was an active member of Ecademy – an online membership organisation for entrepreneurs and business owners. I made great friends and contacts on there, and I’m lucky to have the support of many of them still. A few of us make up a regular mastermind group. We meet every 6 weeks to discuss successes and challenges, supporting each other in any way required. It’s a format that I love because it’s about giving first.

When I moved to Cambridge I knew very few people in the city. I found a fantastic co-working space to base myself, The Cambridge Business Lounge. Owner Ed Goodman was instrumental in helping me make new connections, even leading to co-founding an award-winning networking group of my own, Grub Club Cambridge.

We recently launched a local meetup for the digital industry Digital Herts, A community of designers and developers working to improve the web design and development industry in Herts & Essex. We meet every 2 months to share ideas, network, learn and promote local talent.

At times my business partner and I have worked with a coach, and we had support from the now-closed Growth Accelerator fund. I am actively looking for a mentor, someone that has been through the agency journey already or is two or three steps ahead of where we are now.”

What do you think about the level of support available for women looking to progress their career within the digital/technology sector?

“I think it depends at what stage you’re at and what you’re looking for. There are a lot of organisations aimed at women in the creative and tech sectors which seem more focused on startups or getting you to Creative Director level. Next Tech Girls is a fantastic initiative, they aim to improve gender equality in the technology sector by providing 5,000 girls with tech work experience by 2020.

Specifically, for agencies, The Agency Collective is a fantastic resource and there’s BIMA and the Drum Network. Agency Collective are actively working to encourage more women within their community which is fantastic to see.

I have a vision to create a peer to peer network based on shared experiences. Small trusted mastermind groups with a focus on support and advice from other agency owners. I believe peer to peer learning is the best form of mentoring you can find. The aim of my network would be to increase that percentage of female agency owners by inspiring up and coming leaders and supporting existing founders on their journey.”

What do you think makes a great agency? (How do you approach company culture?)

  • “A talented, skilled and happy team
  • Great clients with challenging projects
  • A deep understanding of each other and your client’s businesses
  • Results are what matters, it’s vital anything you deliver makes a real difference
  • Authenticity in everything you do

Our culture is based on a shared vision and values which the whole team is inspired and driven by. Everyone is treated with kindness, tea and a shed load of biscuits.”

What is your one key piece of advice for women looking to build their career?

“If the last two years has taught me anything, it’s that life is incredibly short and precious.

When the worst thing that could happen has already happened, there’s nothing more to be scared of.

You have no idea or control over what comes next. Stop waiting for everything to be perfect. Just start.”


Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook Facebook logo to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted July 04, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Tackling the Skills Gap Series | No Comments »

[Interview] Tackling the Skills Gap – Brian Carmichael at TIGERS

As innovation continues to accelerate throughout both SME’s and established businesses, there are well-founded concerns that the distinct lack of skills combined with an ineffective education system could endanger the UK’s growth. Tech City UK recently estimated that “Britain will need an extra 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential.” On top of these figures, Scotland IS have found that 73% of business will seek to hire digital talent locally this year, a 15% increase on last year’s numbers.

With the demand for industry skills only increasing, it’s important to find out what measures are being put in place by key players within the Scottish technology industry to tackle this. Over the following weeks, we will be talking to organisations at the centre of this issue; finding out what they think about the lack of skills within their industry, what they are doing to help, and how the industry can contribute to increasing the number of people in skilled work.

Part IV of our Tackling the Skills Gap series, we’re talking to TIGERS apprenticeship manager, Brian Carmichael, to find out how they are approaching the issues of the skills gap within the industry. Brian discusses TIGER’s Modern Apprenticeships and plans for the future, the response and engagement levels from businesses, how the technology industry has changed and what he thinks the industry can do to help tackle the skills gap.

BIO: Established in 2001, TIGERS provide training and employment brokering, they are specialists in the training and preparation of young people aged 16-24 for entry into a range of sectors including Business Administration and the Mechanics industries. At the moment, TIGERS run and deliver a variety of Employability and Industry Specific Training Programmes and Modern Apprenticeships funded by Skills Development Scotland in areas presently including Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire and South Lanarkshire.


Hi Brian, we know that TIGERS have two Digital Marketing Modern Apprenticeships running at the moment which is brilliant! Can you tell us a bit about these, please? 

“TIGERS currently have 2 Digital Marketing Modern Apprentices, one working for Training Initiatives – our Employability and Modern Apprenticeship delivery; and the other TIGERS STA – our joint venture with FTSE 200 construction business Carillion Plc. We felt both businesses required the support of a Digital Marketing Modern Apprentice to showcase the success of our business and also increase user reach to open up our opportunities to more young people – who better to do this than the young people themselves! Both Modern Apprentices, Caitlin and Kirsten are doing fantastic, they have been operating in dual Administrative/Digital role, having team members who are flexible is vital in today’s working environments and this has already led to them becoming key members of their respective teams. Caitlin (24 years old) and Kirsten (19 years old) bring a cocktail of youth, energy and fresh ideas to our marketing meetings all which have lead to many new digital activities and social media platforms being introduced over the last 6 months.”

What was the response like from companies within the industry when you were trying to place the apprenticeships? 

“TIGERS made a commitment to employ at least 2 Modern Apprentices, however, when contacting external businesses about Modern Apprenticeship opportunities it proved very difficult. Very few of those contacted wanted to discuss the Apprenticeship pathway in regards to their recruitment and I found that their reasoning usually surrounded the fact the apprentices would need a large element of on the job training – crazy in my opinion, through this method you can ensure the employee adopts your values, ways of working and good practices.”

How do you think the technology industry has changed in more recent years? 

“There is a real skills shortage in regards to digital skills at the moment and all industries need an influx of new entrants to keep up with the public/commercial demand of communication through these digital platforms. However in my recent experience of promoting Digital Marketing Modern Apprenticeships I found that businesses were reluctant to adopt the recruitment pathway of employing a Modern Apprentice – again having worked in a business who has engaged with over 1500 Modern Apprentices over the last 10 years I find this hard to believe, the opportunity to shape and prepare an employee for exact needs of your business, what’s not to like! The industry has a lot of employees who are self-taught, and in no way am I dismissing their skills and knowledge however to meet the needs of the current skills shortage I believe we must look at new entrants from as early as schools leavers. When I did an autopsy of my recruitment drive for Digital Marketing Modern Apprentices I came to the conclusion that it was often the idea of young people being given the responsibility of operating social media accounts (who knows social media better than young people?) or alternatively the idea of staff taking the time to train the Modern Apprentices on the job. Unfortunately, this short-sighted approach to workforce development is detrimental to producing a future workforce equipped with the digital skills necessary to meet needs of the consumer.”

Do you have any plans to introduce more courses within digital?

“TIGERS will be operating a Business and Digital Marketing Pre-Apprenticeship programme in July. The delivery model is designed to equip learners with the administrative and digital skills needed to enter a workplace and undertake a role as Digital Marketing Modern Apprentice making a positive impact on business outcomes from the outset. The programme includes 10-week employability, administrative and digital skills training at our training centre covering learning outcomes such as Certificate of Work Readiness, PC Passport, image/video editing, using analytics to analyse and report data and an introduction to coding. On successful completion of this training plan, each learner is then matched with a suitable work experience provider to gain valuable on the job experience. This is where the employers come in, there are at this point no commitments to employing the learner, however, TIGERS are looking to engage with employers that if the right learner enters their business and shows all the attributes they are looking for over a 6-8 week period would offer sustainable job opportunities.”

What advice would you give to the industry when trying to remedy the issue of the skills gap?

“I think the businesses need to embrace the current skills & training options available to them… Be brave and inspirational… brave enough to employ a young person as a Modern Apprentice and inspirational in terms of providing them with a working environment that will help them to grow, both as a person and in their role as a Digital Marketing Modern Apprentice – through nurturing the young person, allow them to embrace your company values and provide them with key digital skills needed to promote for your business.”



Missed earlier posts in this series? Find them here.

Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook Facebook logo to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted June 27, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Tackling the Skills Gap Series, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Guest Blog] Tackling the Skills Gap – City of Glasgow College

As innovation continues to accelerate throughout both SME’s and established businesses, there are well-founded concerns that the distinct lack of skills combined with an ineffective education system could endanger the UK’s growth. Tech City UK recently estimated that “Britain will need an extra 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential.” On top of these figures, Scotland IS have found that 73% of business will seek to hire digital talent locally this year, a 15% increase on last year’s numbers.

With the demand for industry skills only increasing, it’s important to find out what measures are being put in place by key players within the Scottish technology industry to tackle this. Over the following weeks, we will be talking to organisations at the centre of this issue; finding out what they think about the lack of skills within their industry, what they are doing to help, and how the industry can contribute to increasing the number of people in skilled work.

In part III of this series, we’re bringing you a great guest blog from Douglas Morrison, the STEM and Innovation Project Lead at City of Glasgow College (COCG). Douglas discusses the challenges faced by COGC surrounding the STEM skills gap, what they are doing to tackle this, the opportunities STEM presents to the industry and how COGC are supporting their students and working with industry to ensure their students graduate with the skills that are in demand.

BIO: Douglas is an experienced educator with a history of working in the further and higher education sector. His areas of interest include gender equality issues, STEM, innovation, digital disruption, educational policy and technology enhanced learning. He is currently the STEM and Innovation Project Lead at City of Glasgow College having previously acted as the College’s Industry Academy Head for STEM.Douglas holds a Masters Degree in Educational Technology and ePortfolio and is a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) candidate researching gender, habitus and games based learning at the University of Strathclyde. He is a Fellow of Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (FIKE) and co-founder of Adaptive Design Glasgow, a charitable organisation designing and manufacturing assistive aids for disabled children and victims of humanitarian disasters using cardboard.


COGC logo

City of Glasgow College is a pioneering Super College based in an award-winning twin site super-campus in the centre of Glasgow. With over 30,000 students and 1300 staff, the College is committed to “Letting Learning Flourish” through a culture of inspiration, excellence and innovation. The College’s Industry Academy Model ensures the curriculum portfolio is responsive to labour market growth in key economic sectors through the adoption of innovative products and services. By making a clear commitment to the development of students and staff through impactful collaboration with industrial partners, the STEM Industry Academy has supported thousands of graduates into employment or on to higher levels of study.

The College was awarded STEM Assured status in August 2015 in recognition of the economic value and social benefit its STEM activity brings to students and industrial partners. Its STEM Manifesto makes a number of commitments towards the development of inclusive and sustainable growth within the STEM vocational, technical and professional career pathways.

One of the most significant challenges facing colleges in Scotland is the need to remain responsive to a rate of industrial change, wrought by technological advancements, that has never before been experienced. In addition to ensuring the curriculum offer remains fit-for-purpose and aligned to modern industrial practices, we must also consider the skills and attributes our graduates need to succeed in the workplace.  The College’s Industry Academy Model ensures that regular communication is maintained with our employer stakeholders who are encouraged to both co-design and co-deliver our curriculum. With this approach, the City of Glasgow College is not only responsive to anticipated change but also acts as a strategic change agent within the Greater Glasgow region as well as further afield.

The technical skills gap within the STEM sector is widening as growth within Scotland’s key economic sectors demands work ready, technically capable and digitally literate graduates with high STEM capacities. I do not believe that there is a simple solution to addressing the skills gap but I do believe that the development of an accessible and inclusive multi-stakeholder career pathway is vital. The work done by organisations such as Primary Engineer and the Engineering Development Trust inspires young people to explore STEM careers. EQUATE Scotland champion equality of access and opportunity for aspiring women STEM professionals and skills and funding agencies are transforming policies and incentivising employers to widen their recruitment talent pool.  At City of Glasgow College, we recognise the value such partners bring to our students and stakeholders and have reaped the benefits that partnership working brings to our STEM offer.

I believe that the college sector as a whole is well placed to support employers to develop their workforce to meet future demands. The long-established modern apprenticeship (MA) framework and the philosophy of “earn and learn” supports employers and educators to collaboratively develop apprentices who are fully immersed in company values and systems of work whilst successfully achieving globally recognised qualifications.  The extension of the apprenticeship framework to Foundation Apprenticeships aimed at senior phase school pupils interested in following a vocational pathway as well as Graduate Level Apprenticeships will likely facilitate a more balanced and sustainable flow of talent into the STEM sector. The College’s apprenticeship provision cuts across a variety of STEM occupations and with such a diverse number of apprenticeship pathways available, there is a clear route to industry available for everyone.

As the College’s Industry Academy Model continues to evolve we stand on the cusp of what many analysts have referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. The increased adoption of computerisation, automation and robotics as well better collation and utilisation of data is transforming the way our industry operates and has profound implications for our developing workforce. Our graduates are expected to have multiple careers in multiple sectors, some of which have not yet been identified or are in the early stages of developments.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum found that employers are becoming less focused on occupational specific skillsets and are instead seeking wider transferable skills such as the ability to solve complex problems, interpret data, manage projects effectively and work as part of a diverse and flexible team.  This expectation has a profound impact on the way in which we deliver our educational programmes as an increased focus on active and blended learning methodologies are applied within the context of project and problem-based learning. Indeed, the College’s City Learning Model is structured to guide our students through a personalised and contextualised learning experience that is focused on personal development and STEM capacity building.

Our students have expectations of anytime, anywhere learning on flexible learning programmes that will deliver them into an employment opportunity. To achieve this, we need employers to continue to work with us to identify established, emerging and projected skills gaps, discuss recruitment processes, shape our curriculum offer and support us to design world class learning spaces that exceed industry standards. We need our awarding bodies and accrediting agencies to remain responsive to projected labour market changes and to offer a greater degree of flexibility in curriculum delivery to allow for multidisciplinary working on live projects.

The City of Glasgow College is committed to the creation of a collaborative ecosystem of STEM stakeholders determined to realise the potential of Scotland’s developing workforce. I believe that our Industry Academy Model is an effective vehicle for impactful change that will offer our developing workforce positive career development opportunities. As the College continues to redefine the technical and professional educational experience in Scotland it has never been a better time to pursue a career in STEM.


Missed the any in this series? You can find them all here.

Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook Facebook logo to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted June 20, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Tackling the Skills Gap Series | No Comments »

[Interview] Tackling the Skills Gap – City of Glasgow College

As innovation continues to accelerate throughout both SME’s and established businesses, there are well-founded concerns that the distinct lack of skills combined with an ineffective education system could endanger the UK’s growth. Tech City UK recently estimated that “Britain will need an extra 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential.” On top of these figures, Scotland IS have found that 73% of business will seek to hire digital talent locally this year, a 15% increase on last year’s numbers.

With the demand for industry skills only increasing, it’s important to find out what measures are being put in place by key players within the Scottish technology industry to tackle this. Over the following weeks, we will be talking to organisations at the centre of this issue; finding out what they think about the lack of skills within their industry, what they are doing to help, and how the industry can contribute to increasing the number of people in skilled work.

In part II of this series, we’re chatting to Steven Murray, Head of Academies for the Faculty of Business, to understand how City of Glasgow College is tackling the skills gap. We find out about the Faculty of Business Industry Academics, their Modern Apprenticeships and what Steven thinks the industry can do to support academia.

BIO: Steven Murray is Head of the Academies for the Faculty of Business which are working to support employer-based projects promoting learning by development and employability training through the embedding of work-related skills. Steven is a Scottish Government Consultant for the Scottish Equality and Diversity strategy (eHealth Directorate), a published academic and key note speaker on Legal Training and Education at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, the International Institute Amsterdam and is a permanent member of the Legal Education and Development Scotland (‘LEADS’) group.


COGC logo - [Interview] Tackling the Skills Gap - City of Glasgow College

Hi Steven! Can you tell us a bit about Faculty of Business Industry Academies within City of Glasgow College, please?

“Working directly with local and both national and international Industry partners, City of Glasgow Industry Academies provide a broad, industry relevant focused curriculum to maximise student attainment and employability.  Created upon a cross-curricular structure, Industry Academies provide high-quality education and training delivering essential sector relevant skills and values and behaviours to ensure that graduates are work ready for their chosen area of employment or progression to Higher Education.  Benefiting from their integral links with Industry, Service and Commerce, Industry Academies are responsive to the needs of all sectors.”

What do you hope the impact to be on the industry?

“We are placing skilled, work-ready graduates and undergraduates into full time and paid internships across a wide range of sectors. Our City of Glasgow people are delivering an enthusiastic and flexible talent pipeline that will fuel existing and emerging sectors with a diverse and currency of aptitudes and cross transferable skills.  We are working towards providing the skills base for the future of Glasgow and the nation.”

Could you tell us about the Modern Apprenticeships CoGC run?

“City of Glasgow College offer a number of Modern Apprenticeships to learners aged 16+ which is an opportunity to gain qualifications in a number of business areas whilst actively engaged in paid employment. Modern Apprentices gain skills and qualifications without having to study full-time. Modern Apprenticeship frameworks are designed by employers for employers. A trainee will be given the opportunity to develop essential skills and knowledge in that area and this will ensure the essential combination of theory and practical application of skills is both right for them and for their parent organisation. Through their Training Plan, the trainee and the college are committed to the trainee’s progression and continuing professional development.  Many business sectors have identified a need for Modern Apprenticeships due to an ageing workforce and difficulty in recruiting and attracting new entrants. In addition, employers are often unaware of the career opportunities available within their own areas of industry and many, such as careers within the supply chain is often seen as the “invisible industry”. The skills gained through completion of a Level 3 Modern Apprenticeship will help address these skills shortages.

In addition as an added incentive, the parent organisation and the trainee will each receive a bonus payment of £100 on completion of the framework. A link to our current Modern Apprenticeships is here.

We would encourage anyone who can to attend the next Scotland Policy Conferences Keynote Seminar: Next Steps for Apprenticeships and Skills Development in Scotland, which will take place on the morning of Wednesday, 6th December 2017 in Central Edinburgh.”

What do you think about the lack of skills within the STEM landscape?

“City of Glasgow College and its STEM Academy is addressing and meeting local and national priorities to promote and enrich the current national lack of engagement, enjoyment and promotion of STEM subjects and STEM Curriculums.  Our STEM Academy is actively engaging with external partners to further the collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and industry to address the current lack of awareness and understanding of STEM subjects within business, commerce and everyday life. Vocational pathways have been created culminating in new progression and career opportunities for learners and in doing so seek to increase the attainment, performance and success which is currently lacking in these areas and to deliver those skill sets into industry both locally and nationally.  The STEM Academy is filling the current skills gap to allow successful transitions into a vibrant sector through the use of Apprenticeships which will effectively benefit from the involvement of industry in education and training.  City of Glasgow College is increasing awareness within students and teaching staff to diminish the lack of awareness of possible progression and career opportunities within the STEM subjects and in doing so increase the confidence within those undertaking those subjects improving possible attainment.”

What would you say industry can do to help academia?

“Working directly with us here at City of Glasgow College industry sectors can have a meaningful and creative input into the design and delivery of our world class curriculum. Students and staff benefit from engaging with industry-led projects that see learners undertake challenges that reflect real time scenarios and factual circumstances whilst embedding the core skills and understanding necessary for those learners to progress into their chosen vocational areas.  Sectors can have a direct influence into the learning and teaching delivered to their future employees today.”

What future plans do you have for your department?

“The Faculty will be supporting the new College initiatives across a number of performance areas to further enhance the world-class learning and teaching delivered to our learners, to work together and further enhance industry and sector links and to deliver further enhanced professional learning and training cooperatively with international partners.  This will also provide enhanced opportunities for staff to engage with and benefit from our industry projects and international presence across numerous business areas.”


Missed the first in this series? Take a look at it here.

Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook Facebook logo to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted May 23, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Tackling the Skills Gap Series, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] Tackling the Skills Gap – UWS’s Graduate Level Apprenticeships

As innovation continues to accelerate throughout both SME’s and established businesses, there are well-founded concerns that the distinct lack of skills combined with an ineffective education system could endanger the UK’s growth. Tech City UK recently estimated that “Britain will need an extra 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential.” On top of these figures, Scotland IS have found that 73% of business will seek to hire digital talent locally this year, a 15% increase on last year’s numbers.

With the demand for industry skills only increasing, it’s important to find out what measures are being put in place by key players within the Scottish technology industry to tackle this. Over the next month, we will be talking to organisations at the centre of this issue; finding out what they think about the lack of skills within their industry, what they are doing to help, and how the industry can contribute to increasing the number of people in skilled work.

In the first of our interview series, we’re talking to Professor Ian Allison, Dean of School of Engineering and Computing at the University of the West of Scotland. We’re finding out about the recent introduction of Graduate Level Apprenticeships; BSc (Hons) Software Development and BEng (Hons) Engineering Design & Manufacture in conjunction with Skills Development Scotland as a response to the increasing demand for skills…

UWS         SDS


Hi, Professor Allison! Can you tell us a bit about the Graduate Level Apprenticeships and how they came about please? 

“UWS, and specifically the School of Engineering & Computing, is delighted to be working with Skills Development Scotland, industry and our college partners to create new ways for employees to gain the skills and qualifications they, and their employers, need.

Graduate Level Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to change the way employers and individuals access degree-level education. By combining degree-level qualifications with real-time practical experience of the world of work, we are delivering industry-relevant skills and qualifications.

3 out of 4 employers in Scotland report critical skill shortages that are affecting their productivity and growth. These skill shortages are impacting on key industry sectors – including IT and engineering – and the wider Scottish economy. Further, more than 70% of Scottish employers think that job applicants lack technical, practical or job specific skills.

Based on this evidence of industry need we will launch our first 2 GLA programmes– BSc (Hons) Software Development and BEng (Hons) Engineering Design & Manufacture – in September.

GLAs offer a new pathway which combines academic knowledge with work-based skills development to enable apprentices to quickly become effective and productive in the work place. They have been developed in partnership with industry to ensure that the learning is relevant for the world of work and that apprentices can put their learning into practice right away.”

What do you see the impact of these apprenticeships being across the industry?

“GLAs provide a new route into degree-level study for school leavers who want to go straight into work, for young people completing a Foundation or Modern Apprenticeship, and for existing employees (of any age) who have work experience but not a University degree.

For individuals, GLAs provide an opportunity to access the same learning opportunities as those who follow the traditional route of direct entry into University, whilst gaining practical work experience and, because they are in paid employment, without incurring debt. Our delivery model will also facilitate accreditation to industry standards, such as the Engineering Council Competence & Commitment Standards for Incorporated Engineers, which will support their future professional development.

For employers, they can customise their employee’s learning to ensure the best fit with their business needs and because the apprentices spend the majority of their time in the workplace, they are contributing to the productivity of the business at a much earlier point in time. The end result is “industry ready” graduates who understand their business. Offering Graduate Level Apprenticeships is also an excellent way for employers to maximise their return from the Apprenticeship Levy.

In addition to industry input to the development of both of our GLA programmes, we have also worked closely with our 3 college partners – Ayrshire College, Glasgow Clyde College and New College Lanarkshire. This tripartite model is unique to GLAs in Scotland and will help to create a seamless pathway from school through Modern Apprenticeships and further education to degree-level qualifications.”

How has the industry responded to the announcement of the GLA’s? 

“UWS has a long tradition of industrial partnership. This collaborative approach has underpinned the development of our unique GLA delivery model. Because the GLA programmes have been developed in partnership with industry, employers recognise the relevance of the skills that the apprentices will develop and welcome the ability to tailor their apprentice’s learning to meet the specific needs of their business.

Our industry awareness events and 1:1 meetings with prospective employers have been encouraging and we have a number of employers who have already committed to the programme, some anticipating recruiting more than one apprentice.

We anticipate that demand for the programme will increase year on year as more people become aware of the GLA programme and the benefits to both industry and individuals.”

What other programmes have you got planned within the University?

“We will launch our first 2 GLA programmes in September – BSc (Hons) Software Development and BEng (Hons) Engineering Design & Manufacture. Skills Development Scotland will shortly announce a second round of bidding for GLAs for 2018/19 and we will consider which of these frameworks to bid for based on evidence of industry demand and our own subject expertise.”

What can the industry do to help academia?

“We would like to hear direct from any employer who is interested in exploring how their business can benefit from the GLA programme. We would also welcome the opportunity to talk to industry stakeholders who would like to work with us to promote the GLA programmes to a wider industry audience.

Our GLA team can be contacted directly at

Further information can also be found at


Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

Follow us on Twitter,twitter  Linkedin LinkedInor Facebook  to keep up to date with our latest news and vacancies.

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Posted April 25, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Recruitment Industry, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] Tapping Into our Electronics Market

We’re talking to Ashleigh Collins, one of our newer recruitment consultants who is responsible for the electronics market, to find out a bit more about her, what the market is like out there and what advice she can give to both candidates and clients. Let’s find out what she has to say…

Hi, Ashleigh! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello! I’m a Recruitment Consultant working within the electronics department at Enigma. Ashleigh Recruiter
I love cooking, holidays, writing and pub quizzes. My greatest love is my dog, Basil. He is just the cutest little guy! When I’m not working, I love chilling out with my husband and taking Basil on walks and pub crawls.

So, we already know you are a Recruitment Consultant working within the electronics market here at Enigma, can you tell us a bit more about what that actually means? 

“Of course! I work with both electronics clients and candidates – looking to place the right people into the right roles. I predominantly specialise in software and firmware vacancies. Essentially, I’m helping to fill the gaps in software and firmware teams of our clients. My day-to-day usually involves keeping in touch with both my clients and candidates, among other tasks. Communication is central to what I do so it’s really important to make sure you keep everyone up to date as things progress. The role itself can be quite varied role but it keeps me on my toes – which is good!”

What is the electronics market like at the moment, for both candidates and clients?

“The market is very candidate-driven right now; there are a wealth of roles with fewer candidates to fill them. For candidates, I’d say that this is the time to find the role they really want – something that suits them. Looking at the client side of the market; it’s a time of innovation, lots of new technology is flooding the market and with this comes a whole load of new opportunities. Our clients are seeking big talent to help them drive forward in the industry; and as innovation is increasing, some niche job specifications are asking for skills and experience working with the most cutting-edge technologies. This does prove tricky sometimes because of the skills gap the industry is experiencing. In saying that though, that’s what makes my job interesting; trying to find the perfect person for the role. ”

What advice would you give to candidates?

“I think it’s essential for all candidates to be open-minded when looking for a new role. We’re here to find the perfect role for you and that’s what we’re trying to do – the more we can learn about you, your job preferences and experience then the easier it will be for us to find you what you want. I’d also say that candidates should really be committed to the process in order to find the absolute best roles that they can. Don’t be complacent, if you start to become complacent then, all in all, it makes it much more difficult for you in the long run. Communication does work both ways and keeping in touch and up-to-date with us is part of the process of finding a new role. One thing I say to all of my candidates is ‘be proud and don’t be afraid to boast about the projects you have worked on and completed.'”

What advice would you give to the technology companies out there looking to hire new talent?

“It’s not enough to just offer the job anymore. In the current market, candidates are often sitting with three or four job offers so the whole process is very time sensitive. You have to move quickly and make an effort to impress the candidates. As I’ve said before, it’s a two-way process; equally, clients have to impress their candidates as much as candidates have to impress the client. Again, I would stress the importance of communication. The quicker we can receive feedback, discuss offers and feedback to our candidates – the quicker our client’s problems will be solved. At the end of the day, we constantly strive to make placements which both our candidates and clients are totally happy with and that, is our main goal.”

Can you tell us about some of your top vacancies right now?

Principal C# Software Engineer – This contract role comes from one of the industry’s leading companies. My client is an optical giant and is working on groundbreaking technologies specifically for medical devices. They’re looking for someone who is talented and driven to be part of their team of innovators and inventors that produce products that will both change, and save, lives.

Embedded Software Engineer – I’m looking for ambitious software engineers to join my client’s expanding team. My client, based in Ringwood, is working on Wireless Well Systems, something which will involve the full software life cycle, including creating high level and detailed designs, developing firmware components, and subsequent integration activities. This is a great opportunity for a talented individual to take the next step in their career.

Senior Software Engineer – This is another contract role which comes from one of the industry’s leading companies. My client is an optical giant and is working on groundbreaking technologies specifically for medical devices. During this role, you will apply sound programming principles and Agile practices to specify, design, develop and test new software features of a system as part of a multi-disciplinary software team. You will also be responsible for maintaining existing software through bug fixes and major enhancements. This is a rare opportunity to join a well-established, highly successful and rapidly growing company.”


Think you could be right for one of these roles or want to discuss how we can help you source the best candidates for your business? You can get in touch with Ashleigh directly via email or give her a call on 0141 332 4422.

Take a look at all of our electronics vacancies here.

Join our specialist InElectronics Group on LinkedIn for the latest industry news and vacancies.LinkedIn Icon Or, follow us on Twitter @In_Electronics  twitter icon

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Posted March 21, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Software, Technology Industry | No Comments »

From a Graduate’s Perspective: Junior Test Analyst

This week, we chat to Finlay Harris, an MEng graduate who is now working as a Junior Test Analyst at Sopra Steria. Find out how he got into his role, what he did to prepare for moving onto a graduate job from university, how he found the job search experience and what advice he has for other graduates out there. 

 Tell us a bit about you, what you do, and where you work.

Hi, I’m Finlay! I graduated from Strathclyde University in June 2016 with an integrated masters or MEng in Electrical Mechanical Engineering, which is a joint course. I joined Sopra Steria, an IT consultancy, through their graduate intake in July 2016 and I am a Junior Test Analyst.

How did you end up in your current job role?

I started looking (for jobs) basically throughout that last year; it was a five-year course,  I started looking in my 5th year.  I went to one of the graduate fares at the SECC, throughout the year at the uni they will have a few of them.  With engineering and that type of industry, a lot of the time, I think people haven’t heard of the companies before they start applying for things but that’s where I first heard of them. So I went around that and collected the leaflets and I would note down some names of the ones I would want to apply for, I looked them up online and applied to the roles they had that suited me. I think my current job at Sopra Steria was the 4th interview I did but there were quite a few applications I filled in when I was looking for a job.

Did you have an idea of what kind of jobs you were looking for?

I had preferences but not really. One of the things I found which was quite annoying was that all of the companies, maybe this has always been the case but, all the companies seem to want you to apply to a role but you can’t really specify your location. I was quite keen to stay in Glasgow and I was quite keen to apply by location but they don’t really let you do that. I had to do a bit of digging to figure out which companies had offices where I would want to be. That was one of the things that was important to me, obviously the type of job itself was important but the location was also important to me – which they don’t really cater to.

I was never really sure if I’d want to do something directly linked to my course and so I was open to applying to jobs that weren’t necessarily directly linked to my degree. When I applied for this job it was the one that I was most interested in out of the others I had applied for.  I was pretty chuffed that I got it!

How did you prepare yourself for the job world when you were at uni?

There are always things you can add to your CV, you know, if you’re involved in societies etc. I mostly drew from experience I’d had from projects at uni and through work experience. These type of things are great for answering the “describe a time when…” sort of questions. A couple of summer’s ago between third and fourth year, I had a summer placement in an engineering office. It was a really useful thing to have because you get a feel for the environment that you’re likely to be working in when you graduate, if you get a graduate job. From that, you can get experience you can talk about and reference, and that’s a good thing to be able to say.

It’s good to ask around at uni, there was one guy in the year above us and he was well connected and involved in a lot of things – he had some good advice. So, if you can find people who know that sort of stuff then it’s useful. If you can speak to other people who have been on interviews and similar things, it’s always helpful to gather that and get a feel for things. Even down to how to prepare or how to dress for an interview.

How did University help to prepare you for trying to find a job?

The uni would always organise graduate fares as well as for people looking to get summer placements. Companies would set up their stalls and we could go along if we were interested. Actually, the summer placement I had, I found out about just from an email that the uni had sent around to us. That was something they did quite well, keeping us informed. I didn’t use the careers service much, I didn’t really know how to use it. I’m sure people found it useful but maybe if it felt a bit more accessible I might have used it.

Did you interview for any other companies?

I interviewed for three other companies, that was after quite a few applications. All of the applications and interviews have a really similar process. Within this industry, even though not all of the jobs I was applying for were the same, they all had quite similar interview processes. An assessment centre, usually it’s a full day with group activities and an individual interview which usually takes place at the company office or at a hotel.

What was the application process like?

You would apply online via a form you have to fill out – which might ask you to attach your CV. Once your form goes through and they’re happy with that you’ll do online tests, I think they’re psychometric tests. There’s normally some combination of simple maths questions which are timed. The maths itself is quite simple so I think it’s more about the time pressure. There’s reading comprehension to determine, if you’re given some information, how well you’re parsing the information. There were also some abstract logic questions – using shapes, you have to pick the next one in the pattern and things like that which is timed as well. I think that’s part of the whole test, to find out how well you’re coping with the time and stress, and what your strategy is for that.

So after those, usually there’s a phone interview. For my job with Sopra Steria I had a phone interview but, one of the other jobs I had applied for there was a video interview. I was expecting it to be on Skype which would have been awkward but it was even more awkward than that! They gave you questions and you had to record yourself answering them, I think you only had around 3 times to try and get your answer right. That was a particularly uncomfortable experience.

After the phone interview, it was a group assessment centre in which we had to give a presentation on basically any topic or just about yourself that you had to prepare beforehand. I guess that was just to see how well you could present. There was also a group exercise in which you have a scenario to solve and then present what had happened. I think that was to test teamwork –  to find out who’s organising the task well and find out if everyone can handle it well. The answer to the actual scenario didn’t seem to be that important it was more about how you arrived at the answer and could justify it.

Next, there was an individual interview which was specific to whichever job you were applying for – because the people in the assessment centre were all applying for different roles. In the interview there were questions you might expect like; “why did you decide to do your course?” “why did you decided to apply for this job?” “what is it about this job that you like?”. They also ask you some questions to check that you know about the industry – “what are some upcoming trends”. If you revise the industry then you should be able to answer them pretty well.

How did you prepare for the interviews?

For most of them, I would look up the company and have a read over their website. Try and find some cases of projects they had worked on, usually they will have that on their website and you know, things you can reference back to in the interview. Reading about the industry in general. With some of the more straightforward engineering roles, I expected to know enough from the things I learned throughout my uni course. Mostly though, my preparation involved researching, it can be difficult to fully prepare for the interviews. For some of the more technical roles I tried to have a look over my technical knowledge from uni – but you never know what will come up really. If you know what the job is going to entail then you should be able to roughly estimate what type of things will be useful to look over from your degree.

Having now been through the interview process yourself, how would you set up an interview?

I feel like, I don’t know what type of advantage there would be with the video interview I had spoken about previously. I feel like it’s going to be awkward and I don’t think it’s going to really show what people are like. I think a phone interview is marginally better because you’re speaking to them. The assessment centre, the thing about them is that they are long and will take up your whole day. It feels like you’ve wasted your time if you don’t get it – especially if you have to travel. For a couple of the jobs I applied for, including my current job, I had to travel through to Edinburgh for the assessment day. I guess that’s just part of the job process but it can be difficult. It’s quite nice to have it at the offices of the company.

Advice for Grads:

Well, what not to do is write a generalised cover letter and forget to change the fields before you send it to the next person. One of my friends did that! Be careful with those sort of things.

  1. Obviously, you want to tailor your CV to specific companies.
  2. I think it’s always good to have experience but I don’t think it’s easy for everyone to get. It’s one of those things where they seem to expect you to have loads of experience. You feel like it’s kind of stacked unfairly against people who can’t get experience, you know, there’s only so many work placements and summer placements so not everyone is able to do that. The placements are useful because it gives you an idea of what the job entails and if you would actually want to do that full time.
  3. Read up on the company you’re interviewing for – find out as much as you can about what the job will involve but I think the difficulty there can be that the information isn’t always available/clear.
  4. Save or copy the job role/description you have applied for, you will need to see that when the interview comes up.
  5. We did a lot of presentations at uni and it definitely came in handy. Get as much practise in as you can with that sort of stuff.
  6. Try not to stress about your travel the night before. A lot of little things can add up to try and stress you out on the day so eliminate those if you can.

What was the representation like for women, in your experience, at the assessment centres etc?

Not great. I assume because there are fewer women to chose from, out of STEM grads because the university courses are also male dominated, then obviously it becomes a male-dominated industry because it already is, and that sort of perpetuates itself. One of the interviews I was at, there was maybe 10-15 guys and one woman. Usually one or two. Still definitely the minority in most engineering/tech jobs which is a shame. I think there is support for that at uni, you know there will be a Women in IT scholarship or Women in Engineering which is good. I don’t know how effective it is though, I feel like they could definitely be doing more.

How are you getting on with your job? Tell us a bit about it.

So, my job is going well. I’m pleased because I like it! I’m enjoying testing so far. Obviously, it wasn’t something I  did at uni, there aren’t testing specific uni courses.

So day to day, we have our team who will be developing the software. If we are building a website, for example, there’s the business analyst who will get the requirements for the product you’re making and then I have to understand those requirements; question them and find out how I can test them. At that point, I can start thinking about how I can test the software – “what do I need to check?”, “How could I break it?” The developers will be developing it and I will keep in touch with them whilst they’re doing that, to clarify how it should operate. Once that bit of functionality is done, I’ll test it. I test it from a more technical side of things and from a user perspective too. Reporting back to the developers on what’s wrong with the software, reporting bugs and keeping track of defects in the systems. We also do user acceptance testing – setting up the software and getting someone who will actually use it to come in and figure out how to use the software with only simple instructions. On some occasions, I can be interacting with the code, it can be useful to have a look at it but usually, I’ll be a little bit more removed from it.

Whilst I’ve been at Sopra Steria, I’ve done a few training courses already and a few exams to get some qualifications. If there is training that I want, I can usually request it and they’ll try and get you a place if they think it will be useful to you. They are quite keen for you to have ownership over your career and have a great system in place to set your career goals and track them.

I graduated in June 2016 and my job started in July. I think my company has intakes set up for July, November, and February but I think a lot of other companies tend to do one in the summer and one in the winter. So I started in July and for the first 3 months it was mostly training and then after that, you’re ready to go. At the moment I’m working on an internal project but I’m hoping to be working with clients very soon.

Sopra Steria Logo


  Do you need some help with your cover letter or CV? Check out our blogs Writing Your Cover Letter – The Essentials & How to Woo a Recruiter With Your CV for our expert advice.

Are you a graduate looking to find your first role? Get in touch with us at to find out how we can help you land the perfect job for you.

Enigma People Solutions is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Follow us on Twitter

@enigmapeople @enigmapeople and LinkedInic_lkdin_22

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Posted February 06, 2017 | Digital Media, Industry Interviews, Software, Startups | No Comments »

[Interview] Joe Tree: Life in the Creative Industries, Blipfoto and Tech Start-Ups

This week, we’re chatting to Joe Tree – the man behind the hugely popular photo journal site, Blipfoto –  finding out where the idea came from, what he’s up to now, how he uses his unique set of business, technology, and design skills to create innovative projects and give back to the industry, and what he sees for the future of tech start-ups:

Hi, Joe! Tell us a wee bit us about who you are and where the idea for Blipfoto came from?

“Hi back atcha! I’ve spent most of my working life in the creative industries, but I’m a geek at heart so my best work has always included an element of new technology. I launched my first company—ainteractive media agency called Rocket—in the mid-1990s, just before the Internet and digital started to become mainstream. Equal measures of luck and foresight put us at the cutting edge of a whole new industry, and we spent fifteen fruitful years building websites, CD-ROMs (remember those?), interactive kiosks, presentations, animations and games for an impressive list of lovely clients, and many of Scotland’s ad agencies.

Blipfoto started life as a personal project when I set myself the challenge to take and share a photo every day of my life. There was something weirdly captivating about the process, both for me as the photographer and the people who dropped in every day to see my pictures. So we decided to make it a pet company project and build a platform anyone could sign up to and start their own daily photo journal.



It grew like crazy and in 2009 Blipfoto won a BAFTA Scotland Award, which gave us the resolve to find some investment and make it our sole focus. Jump forwards five years and we’d raised over $1.5m, were attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every month from every corner of the world, counted Steve Wozniak among our users and signed a deal with Polaroid to promote the service in the US.

That last bit didn’t go particularly well, the investment dried up and we had no choice but to call in the liquidators. It was a difficult moment but the whole journey was incredible and the most brilliant learning experience. I walked away with no regrets.

Fortunately, Blipfoto’s users pulled together and managed to crowdfund enough cash to buy the platform, putting it into community ownership and protecting it for the future. So the thing I created survived—and I hope will continue for many years to come.”

What are you up to now?

“After I stepped away from Blipfoto, I realised I had this weird but unique mix of design, technology and business expertise—and wanted to find a way to keep applying all three. So I turned my hand to helping other early-stage startups, with branding and positioning, UI and UX design, app development, business models, investment material, and so on.

Informatics Ventures use me every spring to help the companies pitching at EIE—by far the biggest investment event in Scotland—get their presentations in shape.
In September I joined The Scottish Government’s CivTech Accelerator as Head of Product, which has meant spending a couple of days a week supporting and mentoring the founders of nine companies as they solve some big public sector problems.

I’m quietly working away on a new masterplan or two of my own but, for the time being, thoroughly enjoying working with the companies I’m lucky enough to get commissioned by.”

What do you think 2017 has in store for the tech start-up industry in Scotland?

“Three massive things happened in 2016: Skyscanner’s founders finally realised the value of Scotland’s first unicorn; Jamie Coleman announced Accelerated Digital Ventures’ £150m fund and the expansion of Codebase across the UK; Scottish Equity Partners closed a new £260m tech fund. Together, I think they mark a pivotal point we’ll look back on in years to come.

Scotland now has multiple sources of tech-savvy capital, a new generation of graduates who consider launching or working for a startup a prudent career move, a proven path to a big exit, and CodeBase as a glowing beacon at the epicentre of it all. None of this was true five years ago.

So I think we’re going to see the whole industry scale up this year like never before—those who’ve been in it for a few years taking a big step up and a fresh wave of new companies following in their wake.
Lest we start feeling a bit too positive, let’s not forget how much of the talent driving value in these companies has come from outside the UK and made Scotland its home, and how important unfettered access to foreign markets is to us. If we do to take things to the next level, sadly it’ll be in spite of those holding power 400 miles south of here.”

Tell us a bit about the boards you’re on and why you’ve chosen to be involved with these specific ones.

“Over the years I’ve asked a lot of people for advice or help and, I think without exception, it’s been given freely and enthusiastically. I always try to do the same—none of us exists in isolation and in the end, we all benefit from a little generosity. So I’ve been happy to contribute my time to three groups doing incredible work in areas I care deeply about. Creative Edinburgh because it plays a vital role in nurturing, strengthening and promoting the capital’s creative industries; Out Of The Blue because they give people a place to do their thing and don’t always use pound signs to measure value; the Digital Media Industry Leadership Group because it’s a way to channel the needs of our disparate industry back to government.”

How can someone looking for advice get in touch with you?

“That’s easy:

Joe Tree


Want to keep up to date with all of Joe’s latest projects?

Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter @joetree


Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland.

Follow us on Twitter @enigmapeople @enigmapeople and LinkedInic_lkdin_22

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Posted January 09, 2017 | Career Advice, Industry Interviews, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] Dr. Mark Davison Talks UWS, Graduates & Trends in 2017

We love Tech (as you’ll know) but we also recognise we have a responsibility to give something back.

In 2016 we set out to help the people that train and mentor the most important resource in the tech sector, its people. We have loved working with Girl Geek Scotland, Tigers, City of Glasgow College, and very closely with UWS.

So we thought we’d ask course leader, Dr. Mark to give us an update on how things are going:

Tell us about UWS/ The programme which you lead and how you keep course content up to date?

“I’m programme leader for the BSc (Hons) Web & Mobile Development course at the University of the West of Scotland. We cover the main strands of HTML5,  JavaScript (ECMAScript), Hybrid Apps, PHP/MySQL, MVC, AngularJS and C# ASP.NET, with students branching out into areas such as Android & iOS native apps, node.js, Typescript, Firebase, Ruby on Rails, MongoDB, Joomla and even gaming SEO.

A primary influence on keeping the course up to date is demand from employers, speaking to recruitment agencies (such as Enigma!) and feedback from graduates.”

What are you most proud of?

“Industry input, industry awareness and industry connections.  We’ve built up a large network of employers, recruitment agencies and 200 “webby” graduates with up to fifteen years of commercial experience. This gets our students jobs.

Networking also gets us guest speakers, mentors or industrial placements from companies like Skyscanner, Arnold Clark, IBM, BT, MadeBrave, Foursquare, Morgan Stanley, Starcount and Traveltek.

Students on many of our programmes are able to participate in placements – subject to availability.  Many of these fit into the traditional “Sandwich” model running for a year and starting around the summer; others don’t though, and we’re always happy to talk about how placements can be a win-win-win solution for company, student and university.”

What do you think are the coming trends for software/ demand from employers?

“Java is a perennial but many of my graduates work in (or found) digital agencies so I’m most aware of the demand for web design, Responsive Web Design, WordPress, Magento, OO PHP, Docker and C#.

Every employer wants team working and client facing skills so we get our students talking to employers directly to find that out for themselves.”

What should businesses be doing to attract your graduates/ What would you like to see companies do more of?

“Education is very, very seasonal. It’s great if employers contact me in August about ideas for Honours projects or project mentorship as we’re always on the look-out for industry input.

Coming on to campus (Sept-Nov & Jan-Mar) to do a talk is good for drumming up applications. For us, it builds up student awareness of commercial realities.

We’re happy to publicise vacancies and hackathons too.

In November we run a speed networking event where we can host up to ten companies (see

Our biggest and busiest event is our Digital Futures annual student showcase which allows us to host more industry guests. The next one is on 4th May 2017 (we’re working on it but see  for 2016 event). Guests get to sit down with individual students to see their work and how they communicate. Some of my students get recruited that way each year.

Our events can be sponsored by industry, sometimes in the form of pizza & Irn Bru!”


Want to get in touch with Dr. Mark?

Dr. Mark Davison

Web & Mobile Development – Programme Leader

Direct 0141 848 3605



Enigma People is an award winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland.  Follow us on Twitter

@enigmapeople @enigmapeople and ic_lkdin_22 LinkedIn

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Posted August 09, 2016 | Career Advice, Industry Interviews, Software | No Comments »

[Interview] Sam Orme: A Journey Into Software Development

We recently questioned the role of formal qualifications in technology careers. In our blog “Working in Digital Marketing: do qualifications matter?” we argued Digital Marketing is following in the steps of Software Development, where it often doesn’t matter how or where you learn your skills (be it at College, University, self-study or on the job), as long your skills and self-taught knowledge are up to industry standard. We quoted Quartz who reported, “many are choosing ways to learn that offer everything but a degree: online courses, boot camps, on-the-job training, and collaborating with peers.

To prove it, we spoke to one such developer whose education and successful career has encompassed a combination of college, on the job learning and self-study.

  • Hi Sam! Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi, my name is Sam, I am 22, born in Cambridge but moved to Scotland when I was 10. I am currently working as a Junior Software Developer at an oil company called Project Development International Ltd (PDi) in Aberdeen. I have been with PDi for just over 2 years’ full time now working on unique and complex applications for desktop, web, and mobile devices. I currently have a HND in Software Development and I am also studying towards a degree (BSc(Hons) Computing & IT Practice) part-time with The Open University, which will be completed in September 2016.

  • How did you get interested in Software Development?

I have always been interested in computers and started playing about with creating simple websites using an online website builder at by the age of 14. Throughout school, I always enjoyed computing and became particularly interested in the software development side of it, which made me decide to continue studying it at a higher level once I finished school.

  • Tell us about your development experience and your journey to get to where you are today?

I suppose my software development journey started properly when I left school, I applied and completed an HNC in Computing at Aberdeen College (now called North East Scotland College) and went on to study HND Computing: Software Development where, in December, I was offered a placement opportunity with PDi developing a small suite of analysis software using python.

I worked at PDi three days a week and slowly learned more and more through hands-on development (I was and still am the only developer at PDi so I had to self-teach myself everything). Over Christmas, I taught myself the C# programming language and started using that instead of python, these skills helped me greatly in completing my HND and I received an A for my graded unit. Upon completion of my HND in June 2014 I was offered a full-time role at PDi as a Junior Software Developer where I still am today.

I started at the Open University studying part-time towards BSc(Hons) Computing & IT Practice in October 2014. The course takes into account the experience I had already gained through working at PDi and builds on my HND for a Bachelors degree. The practical experience I gained through employment has made the university work a lot easier and I have used PDi, who have been very supportive, as a client for my final project.

  • We’re loving Lad Points in the office! Tell us a bit about this project and any others you’re working on?

Lad Points was a project that I had been considering doing for a long time and I finally got a chance with a couple of weeks break from university work to implement it. I started with the website and released an online version which my mates and I tested out. I then created the app for android which I originally put up for sale on the Google play store, however as the download count wasn’t great I made the app free which certainly helped it gain popularity! My original plan was to use the money made from the android app to help pay the apple development fees and eventually release the app for apple as well, however this did not happen. I am now in the planning stages of a new version of Lad Points with a lot more features!

I have worked on a fair few other projects, both work and personal. The one I am most proud of is probably The Hub. The Hub is an intranet application which hosts a variety of personal, business and social apps for PDi.

Contact Sam:
Lad Points – Download the app now!

Enigma People is an award winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland.

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Posted May 04, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Software | No Comments »

Taking a Byte With ResDiary

ResDiary is an online restaurant booking system used in over 5,200 restaurants in 57 countries. Their software is responsible for over 7 million covers booked globally each month and is the winner of the 2013 B2B award at The Herald’s Scottish Digital Business awards.

Headquartered in Glasgow, ResDiary has helped transform restaurants around the world with it’s efficient booking system streamlined across multiple digital platforms.

We spoke with Mike Breewood, Chief Operating Officer at ResDiary to find out a bit more:

  • Hi Mike! Tell us a little about ResDiary and how it’s grown to where it is today?

“ResDiary was founded in 2006 by Mike Conyers, our CEO. He had previously spent 25 years running restaurants and wanted to build a system which would be better than anything else available and which would be based on real experience of the needs of restaurateurs. From 2 employees based in Glasgow, in 2006, we have grown organically to our current 45 employees, based in Glasgow, London, Dublin, Sydney and Wellington (New Zealand).”

  • How would you describe the culture of the company?

“Very much a can-do kind of place, we pride ourselves on being responsive to customer needs, whilst being focussed on building out the system with new features that all of our customers will find useful.”

  • What’s your favourite thing about working at ResDiary’s Glasgow office?

“Our development team tell me that their favourite thing is the fact that they have a quiet office where they can focus and which doesn’t have telephones ringing; overall, I think the best thing is that there is a definite team culture, where we all chip in to assist each other when needed.”

  • Where do you see future growth for ResDiary?

“We are growing very quickly in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand – and opening new offices in the USA and Hong Kong later this year.  Growth in the number of customers is of course what drives the business – and allows us to invest in growing our developer team. We see the dev team continuing to be based in Glasgow, with new team members joining every month.”

Mike Breewood | ResDiary | Software Roles Enigma People Interview

Mike Breewood COO, ResDiary

Enigma People Solutions is recruiting Software Developers to join the team in Glasgow!

If this sounds like the ideal opportunity for you then give Daria a call on 0141 332 4422/ email or click the links below to apply online:

If you’d like to more about what it’s like to work at ResDiary check out what Senior Software Developer Ross Vernal has to say!

Enigma People is an award winning technology recruitment consultancy.  Follow us on Twitter @enigmapeople and LinkedIn.

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Posted March 29, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Technology Industry | No Comments »

Capturing Culture in the Technology Industry

The technology sector in Scotland is fast growing and incredibly diverse. 41% of digital technology jobs now exist in what are traditionally thought of as non-digital industries – such as the public sector and in financial services. As the number of jobs continues to grow, increased competition means that everyone is having to work harder to attract skilled talent. – Yet tech jobs are arguably still not given the status they deserve.

Luke Yerbury is MD at – a video marketing agency working closely with businesses in Scotland’s tech industries to shake things up; help businesses better connect with customers and show the IT industry in a different light.

Video marketing is the fastest growing media platform in history and the team at use it to bring to life the personality and culture behind businesses.

People buy from people

Luke argues that tech skills and soft skills are a powerful combination, and for it’s never just about filming what’s in front of the camera. Luke builds relationships with clients to understand who they are, their challenges and motivations, and uses this to demonstrate identifiable brand values for businesses. The aim is to create a recognisable personality for an organisation and the personnel behind it, in a way that its customers can relate to.

Demonstrating a businesses culture in an easily recognisable, visual way helps businesses engage with their audiences on a much more personal level; quickly building familiarity and comfort, and ultimately building stronger and longer lasting relationships.

This is important for employer branding

We work with a number of innovative and truly inspiring businesses who should have candidates fighting to work with them. However with so many of these technology businesses in Scotland doing great things and not enough skilled people to work within them, clients really struggle to attract talent to join their teams.

Skilled candidates typically have 2 or 3 job offers to choose from, and company culture and relationships are very often the only differentiator between them. Luke and his team help businesses show potential employees and clients the real flavour of the business and of the tech industry as a whole. It’s all about differentiation and giving candidates and clients readily identifiable reasons to choose one company over another.


This is an aim shared by ScotlandIS – the trade body for the tech industry in Scotland, and work closely with Scotland IS to portray technical industries in an interesting and constructive light, and to get across the full range of excitement and potential within the sector. They are the team behind the “Future Heroes of Technology” concept you may recognise from the ScotSoft Young Software Engineer of the Year Awards. They also work with ScotlandIS on the ScotlandIS Digital Technology Awards, creating distinctive video content, for all the shortlisted companies.

These projects employ new and imaginative ways to portray the companies and people involved, and in doing so, bring a breath of fresh air to the industry. As sponsors of the upcoming awards, we can’t wait to see how the shortlisted companies look on the big screen!

Check out some of their work in the video below and see how is helping to change perceptions of IT in Scotland…

For the latest technology industry news follow us on Twitter @enigmapeople and LinkedIn! Or visit our job search for the latest vacancies | Enigma People SolutionsEnigma people solutions & changing perceptions in the IT industry in Scotland

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Posted March 14, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Enigma People Meet Girl Geek Scotland

Enigma People Solutions recently attended the re-launch of Girl Geek Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered an inspiring talk on the importance of women’s roles in technology. Girl Geek Scotland is a community for women working with technology, digital media, business and creativity in Scotland. We spoke with Morna Simpson, the brains behind this community in Scotland to find out more:

Hi Morna! So what is Girl Geek Scotland?

“Girl Geek Scotland (GGS) is a network for women working with “Creativity, Computing and Enterprise”, in Scotland. GGS aims to develop a network of women, who are able to support each other at entry-level, and throughout their careers.

We primarily have dinner events, as we find these suit women’s networking style so well. We have also run Business Breakfasts, and workshops in programming, and start-up skills. Going forward we also aim to develop some scholarships in computing for women. It really is an economic imperative to get more women into tech related careers. The area is so male dominated and as a country we are already suffering from a skills deficit.”

How did you get involved in the community?

“I first heard about the Girl Geek Dinner network when I was working as a Lecturer of interaction design, at the University of Dundee in 2008. I think I must have been searching for events for women in my sector. I felt like I was constantly surrounded by men or people who ‘thought like men’, and I wanted to connect with other people who were just a bit more like me.

Like many people I thought Girl Geek Dinners, was a government, funded endeavour and I really thought that they should hold events in Scotland. So I contacted the founder Sarah Blow, and suggested she held events in Scotland. She got back in touch and said “Why don’t you do it.” It always makes me laugh to think about how arrogant I must have sounded, but she gave the right response. It was a fair cop!

So I flew down to London to attend an event myself and met up with Sarah. She gave me the “Girl Geek Dinner Rules of Engagement”, and a month or so later I reached out to a lot of people across universities and other organisations and the whole thing just snowballed.

We had our first event with only 30 people in early 2009. I asked an ex-student to design and build a website for us – which I paid for. Then kept my fingers crossed that we would sell enough tickets not to run at a loss.  

By 2010 we had a regular programme with international speakers in 4 Scottish cities, and were running workshops as well. The School of Informatics in Edinburgh became our parent organisation, and Informatic Ventures was a huge support.

Then I had an accident where I needed quite a bit of surgery, there were a lot of knock on issues so I was out of work for a number of months. We slowed things right down at GGS for a while and I was actually planning to shut the community down earlier this year. I ran some interviews on LinkedIn as a way of saying goodbye and soon discovered that there was a lot of goodwill towards us, and a hunger for our events. 

Jane Grant at Red Triangle and Napier University got in touch and offered their support in December so we have continued on with Napier taking over as parent organisation. It been a very rapid journey since, and I’m loving it!”

Tell us a bit more about the recent relaunch event in February?

“We have just had our relaunch with Nicola Sturgeon as guest of honour, announcing our new partnership with Napier University, Bright Red Triangle. Informatic Ventures once again demonstrated their support with sponsorship for the evening. The evening attracted around 150 delegates showing support and discussing ideas and plans for future success.

We dream big at Girl Geek Scotland and plan to have at least 3 of our ‘trademark’ Girl Geek Dinners and 2 workshops this year.” 

Nicola Sturgeon Girl Geek Scotland Interview

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon helps launch GGS and Napier’s new partnership

This is an exciting time for the growing technology industry in Scotland, however the gender imbalance is still holding businesses back. What, in your opinion, can the industry and employers do to help?

“The key thing people need to do is to educate themselves, in unconscious bias. Women have a different culture. They will select different role models, be inspired by different things, overcome their fears; and in every context, they will present themselves differently from men. The blending of work and family life is also more apparent in the way they tend to communicate. We all need to educate ourselves in the cultural differences in language, so that we can better understand each other.

Next, men must stop telling women that the reason they are not progressing is to do with a lack of confidence. That is an entirely unhelpful comment. Research has shown, that for many women lack skills and experience is the most likely obstacle to progression. This can often be the result of a career break, taken for maternity or childcare. Mentors tend to treat women differently than they treat men, and fail to tell them about this gap in their profiles, or how they can address it.

Imagine if a man had an accident, that resulted in a 5 year patchy career. It is normal for women to have 2 – 5 years when their career is patchy due to maternity and childcare. It’s not just that technology has moved on. Processes, working practice, suppliers, buyers and organisations have most likely moved on too. Most importantly your contacts have moved on, making a high level of performance impossible. You cannot expect women to hit the ground running if their career network has gone cold. Businesses need to do more to support women back into work.

Successful women can be unsurprisingly resentful, of being treated as ‘token’ speakers on topics around gender bias, when it is not their area of expertise.  Although many women want to give back to the community, it can be an extra pressure if they are always called on for this role.  Work and family are already a huge commitment. Then they are expected to come out with personal anecdotes – and these might not be things they want to share. It is far better to have women speak on topics in their area of expertise.”  

Morna currently works freelance as a Product Manager and Digital Strategist for a Nano Technology company, and developing Corporate Training in Business Analysis.

She started her career in textile design. Looking for a more intellectual challenge, she taught herself web design on a computer borrowed from a friend.  She found there was something incredibly comforting about coding, reminding her a lot of weaving, where she had a natural ability to see patterns in it. She began working for a digital agency, in a role, which would now be considered a blend of UX (design and code) and Product Management.  She then spent 8 years working in a lecturing and research post, in digital and interaction design, at a local university.

If you are interested in offering your financial support or volunteering to help at Girl Geek Scotland, please contact or visit for more information.

Girl Geek Scotland (GGS) is a network for women working with “Creativity, Computing and Enterprise”, in Scotland. GGS aims to develop a network of women, who are able to support each other at entry-level, and throughout their careers, working at the intersection between these 3 key areas.

Although GGS markets its products towards women, it welcomes people of all gender identities, and particularly recognises the need to include men, who can offer support in working towards a gender balanced, career ecosystem.

Bright Red Triangle (BRT) is based at Edinburgh Napier University and offers a one-stop shop for extra-curricular student enterprise activities. Our offer is open to students, staff and graduates of Edinburgh Napier University, as well as local businesses.  We support innovation and enterprise and offer a range of pathways to connect our students, staff and alumni to the community through enterprise start-up activities, business support and consultancy services, and social innovation projects. Bright Red Triangle aims to positively impact our student experience, local businesses and the wider community.

Girl Geek Scotland Interview With Enigma People Solutions

Bright Red Triangle Girl Geek Scotland Enigma People Solutions

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Posted February 29, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Software, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Women in Technology: An Interview with Vet Solutions

In this weeks blog we interview Carol Shuttleworth – Head of Implementation and Development at Vet Solutions – the largest provider of practice management software to the UK veterinary profession.

Enigma People Solutions has worked with Carol throughout her successful career. She shares with us her experiences of working in Scotland’s technology industry, as an employee and an employer, and discusses the role of women in technology.


Carol Shuttleworth Vet Solutions Women in Technology Enigma People Solutions interview

“There seems to be less female software developers in the pool now – whether that is to do with the particular personalities drawn into development, I’m not sure.”

Carol began her career working as what would nowadays be considered a modern apprentice and business studies student, where her department rotation into the IT Support department sparked her interest in technology. She found the role enabled her to see real results for her efforts, working closely with customers and solving their technical issues. After the company acquired a Software house in Scotland, Carol took the opportunity to relocate and went into a field based role, acquiring a range of hands on technical skills from building systems to installing servers.

She then joined Kingston Communications, working closely with overseas startup mobile telecoms companies, one of which was acquired by Vodafone. This was an exciting move to make as the mobile market was just taking off at that time. She continued working closely with customers and analysing business processes as an Applications Specialist and then progressing to a Training Manager Role and Project Lead.

Carol now heads up Implementation and Product Development at Vet Solutions, where she is responsible for ensuring a smooth experience for customers throughout the implementation process of their software.

  • Hi Carol! Tell us what first interested you in working in a technology environment?

“As an apprentice I rotated between departments every 6 months. I quickly realised I enjoyed the IT Support role above anything else that I had done in other departments.

I enjoyed working directly with customers and making a real difference, adding value to their business and training them how to get the best out of their application.

The role allowed me to see the results of my efforts, and I gained satisfaction from getting a crashed system up and running again. For example, you would go from a situation where the customer feels their business is in a little bit of a crisis and they may not be able to pay their payroll because a machine has crashed, to getting them back up and running and able to make payments.

It was that kind of saving the day and solving problems for a customer which was very rewarding.”

  • Did you perceive any obstacles or were there any obstacles that you had to overcome in terms of the industry and role?

“When I began working on the support desk the majority were female. I think that’s down to the softer skills that women, in the main seem to have over a male. There was a need for patience and curiosity to ask the questions to get the answers you needed, because back then the technology didn’t exist to be able log on to the clients system and see what was going on. So it was all about questioning to help resolve the issues.

It has had a subtle change, certainly throughout my first role where the majority of staff on helpdesks were female and those in the field were male. Over time the ratio had really evened itself out.”

  • Was the career path not as open for women at that point?

“From my experience you do see a lot of opportunities. As a woman you do have access to these opportunities, but I felt I needed to work a lot harder to be successful and get recognised. I think to some extent that is the same today.

The consistent message is that women feel, and it certainly seems to be the case that they have to work harder to be recognised.

I am lucky here that I work for a General Manager who sees the value of female managers and sees what a woman with my experience brings to the business.”

  • In terms of women in technology you have been in a great position to observe the industry for many years as an employee and as an employer. What is your experience of recruiting women in the industry? 

“My current recruiting experience is that there seems to be less female software developers in the pool now – whether that is to do with the particular personalities drawn into development, I’m not sure.

There are increasing numbers of young females starting courses but often they move into roles that have more to do with utilising communication skills.

When I worked at Response we participated in the  modern apprenticeship scheme and out of 20 candidates I interviewed, only 1 was a young female and she was successful in gaining the apprenticeship. She was way ahead of the males in terms of communication skills, she maybe didn’t have the level of technical skills that the others did but that was the easy bit to teach somebody. I coached her and mentored her and she won the award for the West of Scotland best apprenticeship in 2012. I was very proud of her.”

  • What advice would you give to women and girls trying to get into the technology industry? What can the industry do help improve things?

“If you have found something that you enjoy doing be it programming, training, business applications, just go for it.

If you don’t have a degree then find employers that will give you the time and education you require. We have invested in people here at Vet Solutions who have displayed this kind of enthusiasm. It is up to us as individuals to be more assertive.

Employers have to be open to sponsoring, developing and challenging individuals but that takes time to allow people to grow. That is how I behave as an employer.”

Vet Solutions is the largest provider of practice management software to the UK veterinary profession. They are a part of Henry Schein-  a Fortune 500® Company and a member of the S&P 500® and NASDAQ 100® Indices. Together they are the world’s largest supplier of healthcare products to medical, dental and veterinary professionals, which has enabled Vet Solutions to become firmly established as the market leader in the field.

For the latest job opportunities with Vet Solutions contact Daria on 0141 332 4422 or email!

For the latest Scottish technology news and jobs follow us on Twitter @enigmapeople and LinkedIn.

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Posted August 12, 2015 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Scotland, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Women in Engineering: Interview with Mairi Torrie

With the role of women in engineering proving to be a hot topic in the technology industry recently, we spoke to Mairi Torrie, Project Manager and Principal Engineer at indie Semiconductor – a fast growing fabless semiconductor company that designs and manufactures custom, microcontroller-based chips. Having attended state school in the North East of Scotland in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Mairi may have been an unlikely candidate for a career in engineering. However, with a very successful career spanning over 25 years in Scotland’s engineering industry Mairi helps us understand the challenges facing women in the industry and how to overcome these.

Women in Engineering: Interview with Mairi Torrie | indie Semiconductor | Electronics Scotland

Mairi Torrie, Project Manager and Principal Engineer at indie Semiconductor

  • Can you give an overview of your career post university and how you got to where you are now?

After obtaining my undergraduate degree I chose to work for GEC and studied part time for a masters degree whilst working for them. I learned a lot but decided that after 3 years it was time to move on. I chose a new opportunity with a very small company. I went from a company with 10’s of thousands of employees to one that had 11 employees. That gave me some very good experience of working in a small company and a small team which I enjoyed. This experience helped me get my next job with more experience of different tools, skills and a broader range of the design lifecycle. I joined VVL, an Edinburgh University spin out specializing in camera imaging technology, which was later acquired by STMicroelectronics. VVL was a team of 37, joining when it was still quite small meant that I was able to be involved in all aspects of the design and silicon bringup process. When ST acquired us, that opened up many new opportunities – I travelled to work with people in other countries, I moved out of pure design to be technical team lead and design team leader. ST was particularly supportive of me, and of other women, in that role.

After 16 years essentially in the same company (VVL and ST) I moved to a new opportunity at SKF, the world’s largest bearings manufacturer, to work as a Project Manager in their condition monitoring centre. This gave me exposure to a new environment and new challenges.

After a very productive and enjoyable 2 years there, I was approached by a former colleague from ST, with the opportunity to join an interesting startup headquartered in California, who was looking into setting up a design centre in Edinburgh. As I had shown in the past, I like joining new innovative projects and so the opportunity to be in at the start of something new was too attractive to turn down.

I was the first of the team in Edinburgh to start working for indie in 2013, initially as a contractor, then as a permanent member of staff when the design centre opened with 2 other core team members. I am excited to be part of a fast growing company. Next month we are moving into a bigger office that will accommodate a design team of up to 20 people. indie is growing fast and shipping millions of chips each year into applications ranging from automotive and medical to industrial and consumer, so the work is varied and interesting.

  • What first interested you about STEM subjects and how did you find you perform in these?

I had always enjoyed puzzles and this led to me enjoying maths and physics at school. My teachers made the STEM subjects interesting and relevant and helped me see how they related to every day life. They could see my talent in the subject and encouraged me to attend a 5th year promotion for women in engineering where we learned how this can be an ideal industry for girls. Before that I had never thought about a career in engineering but it inspired me to look into it. As part of this promotion, I applied to several companies asking for sponsorship and was invited to interview with a few. I accepted an offer from GEC Ferranti (now Selex). They sponsored me through university (the only female student out of 12 that they sponsored), and gave me a summer job working in different groups within the company, gaining valuable industry experience from the age of 17 onwards.

  • What obstacles, real or perceived, did you have to overcome?

At secondary school I had to get my Dad to convince the school to allow me to do O-grade technical drawing and engineering science. Up until then only boys had been allowed to do that – equally only girls were allowed to do home economics.

Upon entering University I was disappointed to be told by a senior lecturer that I was taking a space that could have been given to a boy, that the degree would be no use as I would “just go off and breed”. When I performed well I was told I did “not bad, for a woman.” That just made me more determined to succeed and I won a first year engineering prize, which surprised some of my classmates.

In my first job full time at GEC I was the only woman out of 71 in the department, where everybody assumed I was the administrator just because I was female. The people that treated me with the most suspicion and negativity were some of the more senior, older engineers. My contemporaries and those younger tended to be more used to and accepting of women in the engineering workplace.

I am pleased to say that this has changed for the better in recent years and women in engineering are now treated equally.

  • What is your take on the reason behind such low numbers of women working in the tech industry and the low number of girls coming into the tech industry?

I hear often that there is a continued push to encourage girls to take on the STEM subjects but I also hear that girls are outperforming boys in these subjects. What disappoints me is that there are so few women then entering the engineering profession. I think all children are interested in and excited by engineering and science and the Edinburgh International Science Festival is a fantastic example of this. It is just for some reason there is a gender stereotype that means that girls are less exposed to it.

I feel that generally engineering is misunderstood and misrepresented in the UK. In other countries engineers are seen to have the status of a professional like a doctor or lawyer, but this is generally not the case in the UK. There are other countries that are ahead of the UK in terms of equality in society in general. Engineering is often wrongly perceived to be hands on with machinery but actually most of my time is spent in the office, sitting in front of a computer screen. It is a wide and varied profession with a range of opportunities in different area disciplines. I have chosen to do electronic engineering where you have the opportunity to innovate, design, explore, and problem solve – no two days are the same. Whilst you have the opportunity to create and innovate you do so as part of a team, with support. For me designing something for a customer is like solving a puzzle. It is really a thrill to design something, see it go into production and see it being used whether it is a phone camera or a sensor for a huge bearing.

  • What advice would you give to girls/women now?

Have a thick skin. Although it is has lessened now, there are still people out there who think engineering should be for men only, so learn to handle that. There is still the perception that, as a female engineer you have to be that little bit better to be treated equally, but don’t let people’s perceptions put you off – just like male nurses or primary teachers shouldn’t let gender stereotypes influence their careers.

  • How can we encourage girls/women into the industry?

Sell the industry better and make it clearer what working as an engineer is really like. If you want hard hats and machines, it can be that. However, it can also be sitting at a computer designing or coding in a fun environment, with flexible working and career progression. This is a great industry for women, there are career choices that allow you to continue to develop and work structure can be flexible, which does work well with a family. There are opportunities to travel, progress, and take on leadership roles, stay technical or move on to project and people management. In my experience, women that are attracted to engineering tend to be organised, logical and problem solving, utilizing softer skills to handle customers or managing engineering teams and projects.

I think it’s important to continue the current initiatives which do a fantastic job in raising awareness and continue promoting the industry to school girls (and boys). I also think that it is helpful for women who are working in the industry, such as me, to go into schools and show young girls that there is absolutely no reason why they can’t have a career in engineering.

Women in ICT and Digital Technologies sector – Scottish Government and SDS study

With this in mind, The Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University have been commissioned by the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to undertake a survey to understand the gender imbalance in the ICT and Digital Technologies sector in Scotland. 

The survey seeks the views of anyone in Scotland who is currently working in the sector, who manages or recruits those in ICT roles, or who teaches or studies on a relevant college or university course through a short questionnaire. It will remain open until 28 August.

The survey can be accessed here:

Other resources

IEEE Women in Engineering

Women’s Engineering Society

Equate Scotland

Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology

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Posted March 09, 2015 | Industry Interviews, Startups | No Comments »

Leadership of the Lion(el)

Say hello to Lionel Federspiel, the newest member of the indie Semiconductor leadership team. As VP of Engineering, Lionel manages the highly talented engineering team, developing their system on chip custom and generic solutions, combining mixed-signal IC design and custom microcontroller systems with supporting software.

Lionel Federspiel - Meet indie Semiconductors VP of Engineering

Leadership of the Lion(el) – Meet indie Semiconductors VP of Engineering

Lionel brings with him a wealth of experience across the semiconductor/ microelectronics industry. His impressive career encompasses a number of years at Broadcom, first as a Senior Program Manager and then Director of Systems Design. Prior to this, he held Program Manager roles at STMicroelectronics and Infineon Technologies. The Frenchman’s career has taken him across the globe, studying in Lyon, France, and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, then going on to work with STMicroelectronics in France, Singapore and California.

Both indie Semiconductor’s CEO, Donald McClymont, and Lionel’s special affiliation with Scotland means the company’s recent expansion to Edinburgh has been a fantastic move for the Californian company. They have doubled their design team here within a year, with a bigger office location imminent. I was lucky enough to catch Lionel on a quick trip over to the UK and find out a bit more about his move to indie Semiconductor.

Hi Lionel! What attracted you to join indie Semiconductor?

“One key element was that most start ups are driven by whoever owns them – the venture capital investors. indie Semiconductor is different. The management team has strong and stable ownership, financially speaking, and has control over where the company goes.

That is a very different model from 99%, of start up companies, especially in California, who are driven by their VC’s and who even die from VC’s. indie Semiconductor’s success isn’t dependent on this kind of set up. If we make mistakes, it’s our fault. If we succeed, it’s because of our hard work. I like the business model. I like the challenge it brings.”

How does indie Semiconductor’s business model differ to competitors and other start ups?

“I like the business model from a management perspective, as well as from a customer and applications perspective. indie Semiconductor addresses markets which have not, or cannot be addressed by larger corporate companies whose sole interest lies in the next big ‘Samsung’.

The business model of these corporate companies is vastly different to start ups, where development times can take much longer. You have to overcome many hurdles to reach from initial design to end product. Start ups are much more agile, with quick turn around times, and they just get things done. At indie Semiconductor you very quickly see something go from a concept to an actual product. When you work for a research department in Cisco, for example, you would never see this. Like my colleague Scott Kee describes – this model gives engineers the opportunity to gain experience across different disciplines, rather than being pigeon holed into one area.

Addressing niche markets fits the capabilities of the team extremely well. You don’t need to the same man power to fulfil these needs than if you were delivering integrated chips to Samsung, compared to niche market customers. indie Semiconductor is addressing an enormous collection of niches in the embedded space, a $30 billion market. Although we are addressing niches and smaller customers, as an aggregate the goal/potential is to make a very large company indeed, because even a small share of that market can make a significant dent in the global semiconductor space.”

What do you look for in an engineer for the indie Semiconductor team?

“There needs to be a balance, someone to drive, coach, and mentor the junior level engineers, whilst still using their skills and time productively as a senior member of the team. The requirement is always for individual contributors who can work autonomously and drive what they need to drive, without requiring too much management, but never the less there must be a balance.

The benefit of working at a company the size of indie means your individual contribution can make a difference for the company and for yourself. You have the opportunity to be a part of something that is small and growing very fast, whilst being a significant player – a rare environment for engineers to be able to enjoy.”

Indie semi logo

indie Semiconductor are expanding their 30+ team of engineers and recruiting for Digital Design Engineers and Analog & RF IC Engineers & Chip Leads. If you would like to work alongside Lionel and the indie Semiconductor team, contact Ben Hanley on + 44 141 332 4422 or email

To find out more about indie Semiconductor, visit or read our exclusive interviews with CEO Donald McClymont and CTO Scott Kee:

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Posted December 09, 2014 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Scotland | 2 Comments »

Making Chips and Having Fun

I recently spoke with Scott Kee, Chief Technology Officer at indie Semiconductor about how they built their highly successful multi-million dollar global semiconductor company. In part 2 of the exclusive interview, Scott delves deeper into the technology behind the company and some of their current projects: 

Describe some of the projects you are currently working on as a company. What are the challenges involved?Scott Kee - Chief Technology Officer - indie Semiconductor

Project 1: indie is currently designing a highly integrated chip that will integrate Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) into a single device. Right now there are a lot of electronic systems interested in adding communications capability without otherwise changing the basic functionality of the system. A typical example might be a medical test for a given condition. Providing a BLE chip which is very integrated and very low cost will allow the medical application to add communications to a Smartphone. Doing this design is challenging because we have to pick a single process technology and integrate everything – processor, memory and radio – all into it. Everything we do has to be considered in the context of both die area and power consumed, so it’s challenging on multiple levels.

Project 2: indie is building a new chip to form the heart of a consumer product that is part of the food and drink industry. The chip has to be very low power, as it has to be always on, activated by a sensor that detects when a human wants something from it. It has to turn on a powerful heater and LED lights but also has to handle cryptographic functions to ensure the authenticity of its supplies. Data on usage must be stored and then uploaded when it “docks” with its container. The whole assembly has to fit within a very small housing so the chip and its package is only 3x3mm. Creating something like this is a challenge not just from the design perspective but also in terms of the architecture of the system.

Where do you see future markets or growth for indie
Semiconductor? How do you see the market growing?

I see a very large amount of market growth for what we are doing in general. Not just for the semiconductor market specifically, but market growth for the medium-to-high volume customised system-on-chip market.

Unless you have a very well oiled engineering process flow to make such chips, then you either have a team that is incapable of doing it or you have a team which cannot do it on the fixed cost model that is required.

For us, we don’t have a hard time finding customers. In terms of various kinds of designs that are out there, I’m almost agnostic to what we design. I believe we can do just about anything. What makes indie special is the business model of how we put chips together and how our engineering flow is, rather than any particular product area. With that said, we do various communication products and there are certain things we do well mostly because we have done them in the past. For example, we have a lot of radio expertise, as a lot of us have been radio designers in the past as well. But basically whatever the customers need then that is what I want to make.

I do find that I enjoy bringing in techniques that are more advanced than what would typically be applied in the customer’s field. Due to our experience, we know a lot of the advanced techniques that are out there and a lot of the customers just don’t get somebody with those capabilities ever coming to talk to them. So sometimes we go to the customer and they think they want something and then we say ‘that’s not what you want, here is this technique over here, we can do that for you and it will be better.’ It’s consultative, part of our added value. We can bring the advanced knowledge of system on chip; not just bolting chips together, we actually bring some cleverness to it as well. In the markets we are competing for, sometimes that cleverness is lacking.

indie Semiconductor presents excellent opportunities for engineers looking to take ownership, build capabilities and create fun stuff. Being a flat organisation, it allows engineers to have a full visibility into everything that is going on, gain experience across multiple disciplines and be involved in the full life cycle of a product they helped build.

Scott tells us “The distinction between a design engineer on the implementation side or the technical marketing product specification side of things is less clear in our company as people get to be involved in both.”

“A lot of engineers never actually get to hold in their hand the part their design ended up in. For engineers who like to see the customer side of the product and are interested in taking ownership of the product, you get to see the whole thing.”

If you would like to join the indie Semiconductor team in Edinburgh or Southern California then contact Ben Hanley on + 44 141 332 4422 or email

Click here to read part 1 of Scott Kee’s interview. 

Or if you want to know about indie Semiconductor’s expansion into Edinburgh, read our exclusive interview with CEO Donald McClymont.

Indie semi logo

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Posted November 17, 2014 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Scotland | 5 Comments »

indie Semiconductor’s Technology Tale

With over $10 million in global semiconductor sales and a growing design team in Edinburgh, indie Semiconductor is a Californian company coming to Scotland with a bang. After getting to know their CEO Donald McClymont and find out why they chose Edinburgh, I wanted to find out more about the technology behind the company and how they came to be, so who better to speak to than Chief Technology Officer, Scott Kee.

As CTO, Scott is responsible for the technology decisions and the direction that the company takes. He is a skilled software, analogue and digital engineer, meaning he is involved in all aspects of the designs that indie Semiconductor does. With an impressive background, he is one of two indie semiconductor founders who obtained their Ph.D from the world-renowned Caltech University in California.

Chief Technology Officer, Scott Kee - indie Semiconductor

Hi Scott! Firstly tell us how you got into electronics and how you got to where you are now?

Growing up I was just a natural engineer, I guess. I was the kind of guy who liked to take things apart and put them back together again, mostly back the way I took them apart but not always. I come from a family of engineers so it was natural I suppose. I liked to take apart electrical stuff, I like music a lot, so amplifiers and guitars, plus I like computers, so both those things combined together pushed me in that direction. Went to school, liked it, and then kept going.

I went to University of Delaware, which was an interesting school at the time because they were attempting to make an ambitious leap from a mid level school to a top-tier school and so they hired a bunch of young engineering professors who were looking for research assistants. There was a great mix; you got these young guys who were really ambitious with lots of great interesting ideas and the sort of older crowds from the traditional days who were more interested in mentoring students and taking them under their wing. It was the perfect combination for me so I decided to go there.

One professor I had been working with at Delaware had got me involved in what was almost borderline applied physics more than electronic engineering projects, which made me an interesting candidate for a group at Caltech. There I met indie Semiconductor co-founder Ichiro Aoki. (This is actually company number 3 for Ichiro, who had founded his first highly successful electronics company whilst still in school in Brazil). Ichiro and I worked well together as engineering buddies.

The work we were doing in school was quite compatible with starting a company, making cellular phone power amplifiers far cheaper and at lower manufacturing costs compared with competing technologies at the time, and in theory could increase integration with other parts of the cellphone, reducing not just cost but size too. We wanted to strike while the iron was hot so we recruited Donald, who at the time was VP of Marketing for Axiom Microdevices (a multimillion dollar electronics company later acquired by Skyworks), and took it from there. We kept adding more customers and adding products and here we are.

Our very first customer as AyDeeKay (indie Semiconductor’s original company name) was actually Ichiro’s previous Brazilian company, and their product is still selling today.

Following this success, what advice would you give to young aspiring engineers? What opportunities are there for them at indie Semiconductor?

It depends on what they are looking for. When I was an engineer all I wanted to do was learn things, build more capabilities and create fun stuff. In terms of what opportunities there are in our company then we’re a flat organisation; everyone, not just the engineers, has full visibility of everything that is going on. The distinction between a design engineer on the implementation side or the technical marketing product specification side of things is less clear in our company as people get to be involved in both.

You find that if you are an engineer in our company, you have more ownership of the product, you’re more likely to be interacting with the customer directly and you are going to be experiencing multiple disciplines, not just one. Participating in multiple disciplines is down to your abilities and your interest but you are at least going to be in much more variety than you might in a larger company where you may be pigeon holed into one particular little work area.

It would be highly attractive for me as a student/ young engineer. It’s sort of down to your personality – how much do you like to see how things are done? A lot of engineers never actually get to hold in their hand the part their design ended up in. For engineers who like to see the customer side of the product and are interested in taking ownership of the product, you get to see the whole thing.

I have found the engineers here are often better rounded, which is compatible with what we are looking for. We are trying to get people to understand how the systems are put together, generate their own specs, directly speak to customers and find out what they want and well-rounded engineers are ideal for that.

Because of the opportunities available in south California, a good percentage of engineers there tend to get specialized; they tend to be better at working in large teams, having somebody tell them what to do and following instructions. Which means that if you hire them in then they wouldn’t be quite right for a company which likes you to work independently and use your initiative. We have been impressed with the quality of engineers here in Scotland for these reasons.

The design team is in Edinburgh with the head office in California. How do you envisage the Scotland team and the US team working together as the team gets bigger?

So far it’s been easy as the disciplines have been split but it’s unlikely that will continue. Right now the bulk of the digital design expertise is in Edinburgh and we are building out our CAD and EDA expertise here too. The genesis of the design centre here was the personal contacts with digital engineers in the area. We needed digital engineers, so that was the solution to the problem and I am glad we have come here and met some very talented people.

In terms of the interaction, we run a large amount of small projects compared to some other companies where you may have a team of say 30 people all working on one project and it’s tightly coordinated. It works pretty well, the chips individually might have a smaller group of people working on them and even those tasks can be segmented fairly easily.

Time Zone is tricky however a large portion of our time is between 5pm and 6pm calls to handle the cross Atlantic difference, a lot can be done via email or various other electronic means, however it hasn’t been a problem so far I have to say.

So tell me what do you love most about being in Scotland?

I like the city, Edinburgh. I like to walk around, it’s very much a walking around city. The verticality is impressive, walking down to the medieval part of the city is great and people are nice here. You can go into the pub and people will just talk to you, it’s a friendly city. The atmosphere here allows you to sit around, meet people and talk. The food’s good too, I can eat a large amount of haggis.

So there you have it, a closer look behind indie Semiconductor’s technology tale. If you would like to join the indie Semiconductor team in Edinburgh or Southern California then contact Ben Hanley on + 44 141 332 4422 or email

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Posted October 13, 2014 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Scotland | 6 Comments »

[INTERVIEW] Donald McClymont – Why Edinburgh is Right for indie Semiconductor

indie Semiconductor is a $10 million dollar Californian company which has started expanding into Edinburgh. Recently rebranded and recruiting tech talent in Scotland, this is an exciting, high profile technology company which can really make a difference to Edinburgh’s electronics market. I had the opportunity to meet with CEO Donald McClymont and find out a little bit more about them and their Scottish expansion.

Donald McClymont – Why Edinburgh is Right for indie Semiconductor

Donald is a born and bred Scot. After studying Electronics at one of Scotland’s top universities, the University of Glasgow, Donald launched his career as a design engineer at Wolfson Microelectronics, before spending several years in Germany and then eventually settling in sunny California in 2000. Donald and his now current partners launched their semiconductor start up AyDeeKay (now known as indie Semiconductor) in 2007 and have now grown into a global electronics company, with 3 locations – United States, Scotland and China.

What made you decide on Edinburgh as a location to expand indie Semiconductor?

My connection to Edinburgh and its good, stable engineering pool is what attracted us here.

Recruiting in the United States was becoming difficult, particularly for digital and technical talent, which wouldn’t allow us to grow as fast as we needed to. It’s more acute in the US than in the UK and being co-located with 2 of the world’s largest semiconductor companies proved to be an issue for attracting talent in terms of salaries and competition for the best people.

People like living in the south of Scotland and once they move here they typically don’t leave. My personal pet theory is that the Scottish University system tends to produce well rounded, mature individuals who are capable of working in a team and taking responsibility, and can do so with social ease.

Scotland has an extremely high average in terms of what is available in talent and in maturity, not only in age and experience but also in the social aspects of work;  how people deal with colleagues and the ease with which teams work together. In my experience there is very little drama, for want of a better word. That is what I appreciate about Edinburgh; people have an excellent level of education, they get stuff done, they work well in a team and they just get on with it. In terms of the culture, perhaps it’s the national culture; it is more suited to building teams who work hard and get projects done. As our industry matures and moves less from research and more into development, Edinburgh is a great step for indie Semiconductor.

Talk to me about recruitment plans for indie Semiconductor?

Totalling a team of around 40 people at the moment, we are going through an aggressive planning and growth phase between Scotland and California. We are hoping to recruit about 10 more people ranging from graduates to senior level engineers, but the focus is on the side of seniority at this point.

The requirement is for people who can work autonomously, drive their own projects and don’t require too much management. There must however be a balance of people who can motivate and coach junior level engineers and still work productively. The soft skills of an individual are just as important as technical skill, especially to keep a good atmosphere in a small company.

What can indie Semiconductor offer to Scottish Engineers?

Aside from competitive salaries, there is the opportunity to be a part of something small that is growing very fast, and to be a significant player in a small pool. This is an environment where your individual contribution can make a really big difference for the company and for yourself. There aren’t very many places where you can enjoy that – most startups in Edinburgh have become subsidiaries of bigger companies.

The office is very centrally based in St Andrew Square for ease of travel, but also to be part of the vibrant city centre. indie is a fun, exciting place to work, growing fast, with an alternative business model to traditional semiconductor companies. Projects come to fruition quickly, and the variety in the work is something I enjoy very much. Our engineering teams are close to our customers and directly interact. When I was an engineer that was something I found very motivating and fulfilling, seeing the customer really value the end product. This is something you don’t often get to enjoy if you are working in a large conglomerate, where you can often work on a project for 5 years and never see it come to fruition. Most of the good engineers I have met over my career are motivated by making a difference and indie is a place where you can make a real difference.

If you are interested in joining the indie Semiconductor team in Edinburgh or California then contact Ben Hanley on + 44 141 332 4422 or email

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