Hey there, the chances are that you are reading this because you've sent us an email asking about whether you can have a work experience placement with Scorchsoft. Firstly, great work on being proactive and self-driven in trying to secure a placement. Being new to the world of business, it can be daunting to have to contact people directly like this, especially when you don't know us.
My name is Andrew, and I'm the Managing director of Scorchsoft. I own the company, and first set it up when I graduated from The University of Birmingham in 2010.
Like you, I have a passion for computers and I first got into them in the early days of the internet. My dad would come home from work with his work laptop of the time and I'd use it to search the internet to find computer game cheat codes for Super Mario 64. On several occasions, I screwed up the computer to the point of no return where the only way to save it was to format it and install a fresh copy of Windows, which at the time was Windows 98!
It was this exploration into computers that got me into websites and programming.
When I was at senior school, I set up a website called Andy Land. This was my first experience in coding. I'd scan the website for all of the latest Flash games and host them on the Andy Land website so that people could play them in computer lessons at school. This project was amazing learning for me and is the foundation that lead me to study Computer Programming at College, and Computer Science with Business at University.
But it's more than that. Sometimes the personal projects you do, and who that exposes you to, leads you to opportunities that you never would have expected.
Take Andy Land as an example. Because everyone in School used my website to play games, who do you think that people mentioned when their family members were talking about having a website built? Me. This lead me being asked by some small local businesses to make their site for them after school and over the holidays. This was an invaluable experience both in programming, and business. I didn't do these sites for free, I charged for them.
When I graduated from university I applied what I'd learned from making Freelance websites and web projects to more commercial customers, and grew the business gradually from there. It wasn't easy, and I had several years of personal sacrifice to get things going, as I started with no money, but I kept chipping away at it until what you see in front of you today.
I say all of this because I want you to relate to my journey. At one point, I was very similar to you. Very much at the start of your journey, and trying to arrange a work experience placement to help support all of the things you'd like to do next.
The problem I have is that Scorchsoft is a relatively small team, and having students for work experience takes a lot of time and coordination that I can't always afford to give. I've had a few work experience placements in over the years, and though very rewarding, I know there is always a big commitment from Scorchsoft to deliver this properly.
What makes it more challenging is that at some parts of the year we can get five or more requests per week. I'd love to give back and help everyone, but it's just not possible. I imagine you would have noticed this struggle when contacting other businesses too, you will have to reach out to lots, most will say no, and you are aiming for that one in fifty chance that someone accepts and has you in for a week or two. The reason you will get so many no answers from people is the same reason we can't take on everyone - there are many more people looking for work experience than there are places available, especially in tech.
But please don't be discouraged. I have some suggestions to help you to make sure you get some form of work experience, even if you have to be a little bit out-of-the-box about how you go about it. This is my way of helping you and giving back.
I hear you, "Yeah, yeah Andrew. I get the back story. Cut to the chase and tell me how to sort out this bloody work experience out". Here are some options I would recommend exploring.
You should always try to explore your existing networks first. By this, I mean people that you know, or that your parent's, friends or family know directly. You are massively more likely to have someone say yes to a work experience request if they know you personally. In business, people buy from people that they like, and the same applies to you trying to get work experience. Leverage any existing relationships you have as much as possible.
If you can't get a work experience placement through your direct connections, then you are going to have to try playing the numbers game. This means contacting 20-50 businesses directly and asking for work experience. You are going to get a lot of "no" responses, or people won't reply at all, but that is the game you are playing, unfortunately. If you want to maximise your chances, then set up a profile, and try and find the owner of the business on Linkedin. This way you can address them by name in your email, or if you are feeling particularly brave, then when you call them.
If you feel like you've exhausted the above two options then you are probably feeling pretty demotivated by this point. You will probably contemplate doing something really menial or basic to tick the box so you can tell the school you've done it. Yeah, this may be a way to get the teacher off of your back, but it's not ideal, it's not fun, and it's probably not going to help you to pursue your passions. Resist compromising if you can, and go with option 3...
If this describes you, then the third option is to approach non-tech businesses, not with the offer of doing work experience for them, as the owner will only see the amount of time they have to spend supporting you. Instead, approach local small businesses with offers to create a little project for them on your own time at home, where all they need to do is give you some feedback on it once you are done.
Which sounds better:
A) "Hey there, can I please have work experience at your company? I love computers and think you could really help me to become an excellent computer programmer."
B) "Hey there, I see your business does XYZ. I'm a currently a student at XYZ and had a really cool idea of something you may find useful. I'm thinking about building a SOMETHING HERE as a side project for school. Would you mind if I built it for your business (for free of course)? I can build it from home, so all I'd need from you afterwards would be for you to give me a little bit of feedback, and I'd be happy for you use it when I'm done if you like what I've built. What do you think?"
Answer A is all about you, and places lots of responsibility on the end business to support you. I hope you can see why you are very likely to get a no from them with this approach, after all, what's in it for them?
Answer B is all about the value that you can bring to the business, and you've side-stepped their objection that you will need lots of support from them at their offices. You're offering to deliver a project of value to them for free, from home, on your own time, why would they say no to that!
The other benefit of this approach is that you are building something real. It forces you to be creative and solve a real-world problem. At the end of it, you'll have something you can show people that you delivered, and talk about it on your CV. The lessons you learn in coming up with and delivering a project will help to make you more employable as employers, like us, look for examples of where you can demonstrate transferable skills. What's a better way to demonstrate this than a real project you've built for a real business?
In doing your own project like this, make sure to get feedback from the business owner wherever you can. Ask them about their challenges and what they think about the idea you'd like to build. Then adjust what you make based on this feedback. This way you can tell your school that you worked closely with the business to create the project, which will surely impress them.
The world is becoming digital, in the future, you'll have more and more employees working from home rather than commuting into an office. So, when you think about it, you are applying this new way of working to your work experience placement!
Here are some ideas of things you could offer to build for businesses:
Find some businesses you like the look of, work out the best person or email to contact, give some thought as to a project you could do for them in a week that they might value, and get cracking on asking them if you can build it for them.
If you are unsure what to build, then take speak with a business and ask them what their challenges are, or what they might value you building for them. You may learn something new in taking this approach and create something you never would have thought of. This ask-the-business approach also means that you don't need all of the answers right now, you can simply find some businesses that you like and start asking questions. Don't forget to note down the questions you ask, the answers you get, and how this influences what you choose to make. This is valuable "Market Research", and is going to impress most people you explain your project to once you're done.
I'm genuinely interested to hear about how you get on with this. If you try the above approach and have success, then please feel free to drop me an email via [email protected] and tell me about what you've done, or show an example. I'd be happy to write a couple of sentences of what I think that you can send to your teacher or include on your CV.
All the best, and happy work experiencing! I'm sure you will smash it :-)