Introducing our new launchpad courses
In 2016, the Infinity Works Academy was established to help address the technology talent shortage. Our career entry scheme helps people from a variety of backgrounds start their careers in tech by focusing on the core full stack and data engineering skills they need. Its success has more recently enabled us to develop tailored versions of the Academy curriculum to deliver bespoke client programmes and partner with charities including Generation.
But with our career entry course well established, we felt it was time to look at ways to help upskill our own people, giving them opportunities to challenge themselves and develop their own careers by learning new, in-demand technologies.
It led to the idea of our Academy launchpads – tightly focused training programmes aimed at our experienced engineers who want to gain valuable skills and try new things.
The first Academy launchpad we developed focused on iOS mobile development skills. We designed a two-week course which equipped people with a solid grounding to enable them to immediately apply their new skills on a client project.
Andrew Cowling, a Consultant at Infinity Works, was someone who took part on the first run of the mobile launchpad. He’d been a software tester for a long time, but had no background in writing mobile apps.
“My tech roles have mainly been server side stuff. I’d never done any front end, visual user interface (UI) work. Being able to diversify and expand my skills was a big part of the appeal of taking part in the mobile launchpad course,” he said.
His interest in doing something was piqued when he was assigned to an account to perform mobile app testing and he started to think about how mobile apps are put together. He added: “What really excited me was the possibility of moving into app development. I knew there was a worldwide shortage of pro app developers and it looked like the place to be.”
Launching the launchpad
Clem Pickering, Director of the Infinity Works Academy, was pleased with how the first course went and the feedback from the people who took part.
He explained: “We designed the course to include a mix of taught sessions and practical application of the new skills gained using a short project. The format is based on learnings from our main Academy programmes and it seemed to work really well in this context too. Nine people took part in the first course and they built some cool Pokemon-based iPhone apps; the non-serious aspect of this made the course great fun which is a great way to learn.”
The mobile course is just the first of a series of internal launchpads that Clem and the Academy team are planning. The next is a course on React Native and then one focused on data engineering. Each of the launchpad courses are led by a specialist practitioner in their field, with a mix of classroom learning and strong hands-on project work.
Growing our own expertise
When deciding upon which topic to focus on first, Clem explained why it was an easy decision to focus on mobile app development.
“It’s extremely hard to hire mobile specialists in the current market as it’s such an in-demand skill and so many companies are going after the same talent. We have a group of talented mobile specialists at Infinity Works with deep knowledge and expertise, so we decided it would be valuable to share this knowledge internally to meet the growing demand from our clients for mobile app development skills. By sharing these skills with our full stack developers, we’re able to maintain our approach of offering clients small, cross-skilled teams with knowledge and expertise in different disciplines.
“Our plan is to build upon this first successful launchpad and create more of them which align with market demands and the skills we’re being asked for by our clients. But, most importantly, we’re going to run more so that we continue to give opportunities for our people to develop their own skills and experience.”
Our plan is to build upon this first successful launchpad and create more of them which align with market demands and the skills we’re being asked for by our clients. But, most importantly, we’re going to run more so that we continue to give opportunities for our people to develop their own skills and experience.”
Expert led courses
Simon Burrows, a mobile specialist at Infinity Works, was someone who helped develop the curriculum for the launchpad.
“Part of my role at Infinity Works includes communicating my mobile knowledge to my colleagues who are already highly competent engineers but who’ve never touched mobile,” he explained. “My background prior to joining the business included learning mobile at university as a hobby developer before going on to build a small business focused around mobile engineering. It was a great opportunity to help develop the mobile launchpad and share my experience with others.”
Simon’s enthusiasm rubbed off on his colleagues on the course. Ann Barr, a Consultant at Infinity Works, took part in the first mobile launchpad course and said: “It was great to be one of the first to benefit from a launchpad course. Simon was the expert course leader and he planned and developed an amazing two-week programme alongside the Academy team. He was able to respond at speed to feedback and evolve the programme in real time which was really helpful.”
Andrew Cowling is also in no doubt about the value of the skills he gained. “I learned enough to be confident in my ability to join a client account to work specifically on mobile. I’m now in my second role doing mobile app development and I haven’t looked back. I’m gaining an incredible range of skills in this engineering discipline. There’s a huge, industry-wide demand for people who can build mobile apps, so it was great to be given the opportunity by Infinity Works to upskill.”
Based on the learnings from this first run of the mobile launchpad, we’re keen to push forward with the approach. Next up will be our React Native version of the mobile launchpad and work has started to design more diverse courses including one on data engineering.