Global News Organisation Seeks Young Tech Talent For Great Times, Career Growth and Exciting Projects (must have GSOH)

The Financial Times is dedicated to finding and supporting the growth of junior talent within the technology industry. This sector can be cutthroat and tough to find your footing in when starting out. Since 2016, every September we have welcomed two graduates into our Product & Technology teams for a 12 month programme which sees them rotate around three teams of their choice for six months, with the option to decide which team they would like to join for the following six months. So far every single candidate who has joined us has chosen to stay at the FT following the end of their graduate scheme, and they have transitioned to become fully integrated permanent members of the team.

In 2017 we realised by narrowing our candidate pool to ‘graduates’ we were potentially missing out on a lot of talented people who may not have attended university to study computer science. Our teams are made up of people from all walks of life, which is something we value and consider a huge asset. Why limit or place barriers in front of those who can bring something different to the table? This is why we have made the change, both in name and practice, to a ‘Technology Talent Scheme’, away from the traditional ‘Graduate Scheme’ approach. This means we’re opening our doors to those who may have zero technical qualifications, as a reflection of our open-minded culture.

Culture is inherently important to FT Product & Technology. We talk about it all the time, in meetings, hackathons, internal conferences and workshops, away days, on blogs and even IRL. We want to foster a culture which views junior developers/engineers as a vital resource with a fresh perspective on working processes. We partnered up with Makers Academy, a leading web developer bootcamp in London, to create a video to explain why we feel it is important to invest and nurture junior tech talent. We currently have nine employees who graduated from Makers Academy.

Hear from our two most recent graduate scheme developers, who joined in September 2017, about their FT experiences so far..

Cale Tilford

“Since starting last September on the graduate engineering programme, I’ve been been lucky enough to work on three teams within the FT, each serving a different role within the company and each with a unique working culture. As part of Cloud Enablement, I helped manage the FT’s cloud infrastructure by automating certain processes. I was also able to spend time on support, helping other developers from throughout the company solve any problems they had using our cloud services. After a couple of months I moved onto FT Labs – a team which experiments with new ideas and technologies to assess their viability. In this team I helped port an existing Google Home game over to Alexa and got to grips with some of the other front-end tools and libraries the company uses.

So far, I have been enthusiastically welcomed and supported within every team I have worked. Outside of these teams, I’ve experienced a fantastic culture of sharing. Developers, designers, product managers, and even journalists are always keen to share their knowledge, whether that’s through weekly lightning talks or informal workshops.

Currently, I’m working on a very different kind of team. As part of interactive graphics in the newsroom, it feels like I’m doing something different every day. After studying computing at university, I never expected that I might one day be working a world-leading newsroom, creating graphics for a publication read by hundreds of thousands of people a day. I’m super excited that by the fact that soon I’ll be able to get something published, in print and online, with the help of a group of incredibly talented designers and journalists.”

Katie Koschland

“Hi. My name is Katie and I joined the FT’s Grad Scheme in September.

I am fairly new to programming. I studied Actuarial Maths at Leeds Uni. Since my first day I’ve been fully immersed not just in the culture of the FT, but also in continuous professional development.

Since September, I’ve been working in Internal Products within the Technology Department. On the Grad Scheme, you’re expected to move departments every two months, but I’ve been so happy and felt so comfortable in Internal Products that I’ve been given the freedom to stay there.

I expected coming straight from Uni into a big firm would be intimidating. Everyone has their established roles, knows how everything works, and I’m terrible with names. The reality couldn’t have been further from my expectation. The office is warm and welcoming, and by the second week I was an established regular at FT Boardroom, a regular board game focused pub-trip at the end of the week.

My line manager has taken a genuine interest in my career development. We meet every two weeks to discuss my career progression. We set targets for things I want to learn, and work out how to go about it. I am constantly learning and moving forward at work. It’s exciting and motivating and funny, considering 6 months ago I didn’t know what continuous professional development was.

My experience hasn’t been confined to the office. Attending the Amazon Web Service conference was enriching, and I’m off to Berlin with my team for the CSSconf and JSConf EU in June. Can’t complain.

Of the many advantages of working at the FT, those that stick out are the tech talks given in-house, both from internal and external speakers. They’ve covered a range of topics; Artificial intelligence, Voice UI and Good User Experience. FT Women is also an amazing thing. Google it.

I’ve also got flexi-hours. There’s a lower limit of course, but I’m given the freedom to decide how I structure my day and I can’t explain how useful that actually is. Not to mention discounted gym membership.

I feel like the only one amongst my friends to actually look forward to going to work in the morning. (Really). The FT is purposeful in giving those on the scheme the freedom to develop their skills. This week, I’m enrolling on the online course ‘An Introduction to Computer Science’ in conjunction with Harvard University.

I feel incredibly well supported by my team and the wider community at the FT. If you are interested in applying, check out the link below.”

If you are looking to start a career in tech and would like join the FT’s progressive teams, we are accepting applications for our Technology Talent Scheme until February 14, 2018.

Engine Room Live 2017 – The Low Down

This year we held our third ‘Engine Room Live’ conference for the Product & Technology teams at the FT. It being the third time we have held this we had some previous learnings to bear in mind. The ‘original’ Engine Room committee decided it was time for ‘Gen 2’ to have a go at organising the event, for a fresh take on some hardy matters. So, with minimal hand holding and a solid process in mind, 12 people raised their hands..

Step 1. Make a plan

Our new planning committee held its first meeting all the way back in June. The first thing we did was pick a date. We scanned our diaries and set our sights on a time post summer holidays and the mad rush month that is September at the FT. We stumbled upon Friday 13th October. Were we asking for bad luck? Could this be a complete disaster? Never ones to be swayed by superstition we settled on it. Having four months to plan ahead we kicked back on our metaphorical laurels safe in the knowledge we had more than enough time to plan every minor detail. Then Summer happened. Our team of around 12 helpers steadily diminished as people went on holiday, were pulled in to pressing projects and one volunteer even went to the extreme length of pregnancy to avoid further involvement (just kidding, that would be terrible grounds for creating a new life). We sent out a google form with a few suggested topics and asked people in Product & Technology teams to pick the subjects that appealed the most to them.

Step 2. Easy pickin’s

Post-summer break the ‘survivors’, now a measly 4-5 people, reconvened to discuss next steps and pick our panel topics. The favourite topics, by a landslide, were product goals, Agile project management, what we choose to measure and tech culture at the FT. One topic which was a close runner up was ‘How can we learn from failure?’ which is good food for thought. Maybe this is a topic we can pick up at next year’s Engine Room Live..

It was settled. We had our panels and now looked to the task at hand; finding willing panelists and panel moderators. We sent out a call to arms and were lucky enough to receive some replies. With a bit of prodding several more volunteers appeared from the wood work. Good stuff. We had everything in place panel-wise.

Step 3. Don’t forget the snacks

The most vital part of planning any event is providing a delicious incentive for guests to attend. Conferences have t shirts. The oscars have lavish goodie bags. We had PIZZA and BEER. Two traditional tech staples. This year’s Engine Room Live also included highly requested soft drinks and some lighter snacks so as to be inclusive for those who do not drink alcohol or would prefer a healthier option.

Step 4. Audience participation on the sly + the best quotes of the day

We wanted our audience to feel included in our panels without the interruption and hassle of microphones or catch boxes. Nobody likes microphones, the poor mic runners have to dash to make sure questions are heard without having to be repeated, then the microphone will inevitably squeak and crackle for the first 5 seconds of use leaving the speaker overly self aware of their own voice so they start using a warped tone and begin to audibly question their whole existence. Not fun for anyone. To avoid this shy introvert’s nightmare we used slido which allows audience members to ask questions anonymously, or by name, from their phones or laptops.

Our panellists and moderators were all excellent. Here are some of the top quotes of the day:

  • “I read a blog post on how to be a moderator so that’s why I’m so great at this”
  • “Instagram’s that photo app.. Right?”
  • “We’re a news company.. In case you didn’t know”
  • “It was the hoodies in the garage, not the suits in a meeting room!”
  • “You could say that a group of 12 men could have figured that out but actually, they didn’t”
  • “It’s not offensive because penguins aren’t a marginalised group”

Step 5. Humble brag

We had a great turnout with over 200 members of staff attending in person or via livestream throughout the day. This was an excellent example of grassroots engagement, staff were actively participating either on stage, as audience members or by asking questions to panels.

Step 6. What did everyone else think?

The week after the conference the committee sent out a form requesting feedback from attendees. 83% rated the event as 8/10 or higher on satisfaction level. Aim to please!

Lots of people complimented the frank, impassioned discussions that happened and how panels felt ‘honest’. A new joiner commented that they found the conference ‘refreshing’ for its openness. Another person noted the panel on tech culture was ‘one of the most interesting explorations of the subject I’ve experienced’ and they were happy to see debates not dominated by the ‘usual suspects’. Several people commented that they were pleased by the ‘inclusiveness’ and diverse perspectives showcased.

On the flip side one person thought the panels were too long and would’ve preferred more, shorter panels. One person felt there were too few senior faces in the crowd, although they applauded the senior team members who moderated or participated as panellists. Finally, one person’s only negative suggestion was to ‘be less nice to each other’, which I personally wouldn’t call a sign of defeat.

We also asked people if anything ‘unexpected’ happened. The responses were very interesting. Some people were pleasantly surprised at the discussions which took place. One other unexpected aspect which surfaced was the candidness of our panellists and their willingness to talk about deeply personal experiences within the workplace both at the FT and previous jobs.

Step 7. So, what did we learn?

Here are some takeaways from my perspective:

  • We have a great culture of respect, openness and honesty in FT Product & Technology
  • Some people here will go the extra mile to help others without expecting anything in return
  • Apps like Slido are a great way to encourage and enable smooth audience participation
  • People are motivated by a combination of product goals, their managers, teams, personal objectives and remuneration
  • It is really interesting to hear diverse viewpoints and learn about others’ take on subjects such as goals, how we work and what we choose to focus on
  • Inclusivity means including everyone in the conversation and the implementation of change

If you are a member of FT staff you can watch the panel recordings on Workplace by following the links below:

‘Are people motivated by product goals?’

‘Do we only measure things which are easy to measure?’

‘Are we actually ‘Agile’ and does it matter anyway?’

‘If you could change, and keep, one thing about FT tech culture, what would you choose?’

Until next time..

The Year of Lightning

Approximately a year has passed since Salesforce announced the new Lightning experience. And what a year for Salesforce! At first I thought ‘this is going to take a while, there’s going to be a learning curve, probably known bugs to deal with’, we tentatively started switching on the New Lightning Experience to play around with the new User Interface. In a short while we tested some visualforce pages embedded in the new Salesforce application. Finally, this summer we made the leap to building the first Lightning components and Lightning application.

Lightning Components framework is a set of out-of-the-box components build on the open source Aura framework. Developers can utilise Aura to build their own custom components and extend framework. The key here is that Lightning Components are client-side based. Lightning Components Framework has an event driven architecture and relies mostly on Javascript on the client side to manage the UI and application data. Hence it is much better performance wise as opposed to Salesforce classic technologies that rely heavily on the server. You can find more information by visiting these links:

Lightning Components Framework: https://developer.salesforce.com/docs/atlas.en-us.lightning.meta/lightning/intro_framework.htm

Open source Aura Framework: http://documentation.auraframework.org/auradocs

the-flashOne of my favourite series as a child was ‘The Flash’. He could miraculously find himself from his home dressed in pyjamas, down the street in front of a shop window within seconds. When I built my first Lightning app this year, the images from ‘The Flash’ running around with the speed of light immediately came to my mind. Three words: fast, simple, beautiful. No wonder they named it Lightning. Continue reading “The Year of Lightning”