Inspiring New Digital Talent

Shaun Hare, Digital Delivery Development Lead at DVSA, shares how he and his team inspire future talent by providing hands-on experience through a variety of outreach and work experience schemes.

Throughout my career at DVSA I’ve always tried to encourage new entrants into the technical digital careers DVSA has to offer (see my post back in 2020 during COVID-19). It became quite a challenge to work on the long game I have been facilitating. Even post-lockdown, students and people looking for placements and experience did not seem to hit my community and technical network radar.  

I decided to take on every opportunity available to us and document some of the activities we’ve been able to do in order to encourage other teams to do the same, some of which are below:

Civil Service Loan

Back in February 2021, we worked with Douglas Pollock from HMPO (His Majesty’s Passport Office). Douglas was working with the team there while also undertaking an undergraduate degree and looking to become a Software Developer. Looking to do a civil service loan to gain more experience, he reached out through the Cross Government Slack and subsequently the Cross Government Software Engineering Community, where I’m a facilitator.

After a short chat with him and his manager, he came to work for us on loan for three months. Douglas was involved in our MOT service products and Vehicle Operator API during his time with us and based his IP2 project for his course on the work he did in the MOT Testing Service team. 

Graduate Scheme

In October 2022, we welcomed Jake Turner to the team as a graduate Software Developer based out of Swansea. Jake joined us from the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) Software Developer Graduate Scheme (see this blog post to learn more about it). Under the mentorship of his line manager, Senior Software Developer Anna Dodson, he has been actively involved in rebuilding our Roadside Payments portals. He is already working independently on a vast array of development tasks from process automation, and validation to internationalisation (translation). He is soon to start some work with Anna on the Card Payment Management System.  

I was pleased to be asked to advise the scheme as it started, along with my colleagues and fellow facilitators of the Cross Government Software Engineering Community; David Heath (Head of Profession for Software Engineering, Government Digital Service), and Andy Poole (Head of Software Engineering, UK Hydrographic Office). Taking a graduate seemed like an obvious thing to do and we are so glad we did.

University Outreach

In February (2023) we saw the most recent activity. I have done numerous guest lectures over my career at local Universities and Colleges in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincoln. I was pleased to be invited back to Nottingham Trent University by Dr Beverley Cook and Dr Farhad Fassihi. I gave the students a talk on the way we use Agile methodologies at DVSA. It was great sharing the experiences and engaging with a lot of students, who I hoped equally enjoyed the experience.

“Thank you for your time and effort earlier this afternoon in preparing and presenting DevOps and Scrum approach at DVSA to our students. I have no doubt that they have learned valuable lessons which will benefit them in the course of their future career.”   – Dr Farhad Fassihi

Work Experience

The most recent activity, in February and early March, was the welcoming of Ike Nicholson, sixth form student at Rushcliffe Spencer Academy for a week’s work experience. We had a whole week in the office at Unity Square showing and getting Ike involved in our work. He was working with my team members in Software Development (Anna Dodson, Joshua License and Jake Turner), Software Testing (Ibrahim Jassat and Kyriakos Gkikas), as well as showing some of our meetings and thanks to generous colleagues learning about Business Analysis from Mark Smith, Devops from Maria Duffy and Data Protection from Angela Hale. Overall we all enjoyed the experience with Ike in his own words we think he did too:  

“I had a brilliant week with DVSA meeting a range of people from cyber security to coding and development, and I thought everyone was informative and friendly in giving me a taste of what life at the DVSA is like. I was in the office Monday to Friday and worked on things organised by some of the team, such as writing tests, checking code is working correctly, updating some projects and pushing my code to the DVSA GitHub. Overall I thought this was a great work experience which was very relevant and helpful and I feel more clear on my future options. I can’t thank Shaun and everyone enough!” – Ike Nicholson 

He was able to see the entire software development lifecycle (due to our agile nature) as well as see code tested and deployed to the AWS production account for Roadside Payments, and even get some hands-on experience himself. 

I enjoy nurturing new talent and will continue to do so as long as the agency allows me. Watch this space as we are planning an interactive workshop for some university students with colleagues from the service design teams.