Diversity in Technology: Partnering with Haverstock School
When I was at school, nobody came in from the outside working world to explain what all this learning would lead to. We didn’t know how the subjects we studied would influence our choices when it came to further education or the pursuit of a career. Career officers were few and far between, so it was down to helpful teachers to advise where they could, and family members and older siblings of friends to share their experiences of university or work. But that was back in the 1980s.
Today, there is an abundance of information across a multitude of platforms providing information on further and higher education, career opportunities, apprenticeships, and so on. Yet it can still be difficult for young people to visualise themselves in a career without any exposure to the people doing those jobs. Of course, some students and schools will be fortunate enough to have contacts within different industries, meaning they can get direct access and insight into careers. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the case everywhere and there are many schools and individuals not able to benefit from this hands-on experience.
At Icon, we have created a working group focused on improving Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion. A main initiative for the group this year has been to look at how we can inspire the next generation and reach a wider audience to bolster Diversity in Technology. To achieve this Icon’s people have been sharing their career experiences with students from a variety of backgrounds, communities, schools, and levels of education, showing the opportunities that lie ahead for them in the field of Information Technology. Just don’t mention IT – it’s “so old”!
We are delighted to have established a partnership with Haverstock School from Chalk Farm, Camden and in October, welcomed our first set of sixth form students to the Icon offices in Wimbledon. We hosted the students for the day, talking them through the various areas of our business. From an introduction to software engineering, solution architecture, business analysis and product management, to marketing and solution selling, programme management and client services. We showed the various routes taken to enter these careers, the skills required, career paths, and earning potential which sparked a lot of interest!
We made sure this experience was more than a set of presentations to endure, opting to make it as interactive as possible with quizzes, practical activities, and teamwork exercises. For one task, we separated the pupils into two groups to see how they collaborated in a time pressured situation. It’s fascinating to see how different characters interact. Who takes the lead, who asks questions, who takes over or sits back and observes before coming up with a brilliant suggestion. This got the students thinking about how they would behave and cooperate in a work environment to achieve a desired outcome. Understandably, after an apprehensive first 30 minutes they came alive with great enthusiasm, ideas, and energy, which was incredibly rewarding for all involved.
The energy from the groups we’ve hosted so far has been awesome, with feedback that they “didn’t realise there were so many different roles were available in IT” and “it’s not just about software development.” Importantly the pupils recognised “IT is essential to every job in the future”, but it’s okay if they don’t know exactly what role they want to pursue now. They should try many things to work out what they are passionate about then see what careers could span from that, understanding that “if they wanted to change direction to a different role within the industry they could”. It was interesting to discuss the range of skills and capabilities essential to different careers, particularly the softer yet core skills like communication, relationship building, empathy, teamworking and organisation.
We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our knowledge and experiences with the sixth form groups from Haverstock School so far. It’s easy to think young people know exactly what they are doing and where they are going because of the confidence they exude, but I recognise the uncertainty and lack of knowledge and experience, like myself when I was their age.
We look forward to welcoming more groups and intend to have hosted all 150 students within the next six months (that’s 100 pizzas ordered!). Icon will then be offering three lucky students the opportunity to join us over the 2022 summer for work experience.
Katie Metselaar, Assistant Headteacher and Head of Sixth Form at Haverstock said:
‘For so long, career opportunities in our school have been for the few. Icon Solutions have broken this mould by welcoming all 141 students from Year 12 into their home. For some this has been a game changing experience that has shifted their career plans from the generic to a possible career in tech. For others it’s been an opportunity to team build in a warm and friendly setting with adults who have made time to support them. For most, it’s been their very first visit to an office space, breaking down the barrier and allowing them to interview for the jobs of their dreams going forward with the positive experience of Icon Solutions in tow. Thanks Icon Solutions, we are so grateful to be working with you!’