Digital Festival – Inspiring Young People in East London
By: Amy Blacker, Marketing Coordinator, Salesforce.org EMEA
The digital sector is one of East London’s fastest growing industries, however, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ findings show 43% of vacancies in STEM roles are difficult to fill due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills (UK average 24%). wearedotdotdot, a digital learning directory, youth engagement and advocacy network aims to tackle this, by closing the gap between young people and digital technology opportunities.
The Digital Festival featured a range of technology companies and entrepreneurs, who brought interactive technologies for the attendees to engage with. Create Education had a working 3D printer, which dramatically speeds up prototype development. Tech Will Save Us showcased their DIY technology kits which included all the components one needs to make devices such as game consoles or synths – their idea was to show attendees what’s inside everyday devices so they can start to fully understand technology.
There was also an Ohbot robot. This codable robot head can speak and make facial expressions, and is designed to be suitable for newbies to tech, so it’s a great way to spark an interest in technology.
Many more organisations were also onsite, such as Tech Up Nation, and Dragonhall who showcased a virtual reality headset. This experience allowed young people to engage with technology in a new way and push the imagination – as one attendee put it – “Entered unsure, left inspired”.
In true Salesforce spirit over 20 Salesforce employees volunteered at the event with many doing 1 to 1 mentoring sessions. Mentees got personalized feedback and direction from people who have excelled in the Tech Industry. Salesforce employee Tom Cannon says “it was inspiring to meet so many smart young people, from all sorts of backgrounds, who are passionate about technology. I came away from the event feeling energised and optimistic about London’s future as a digital capital.”
Feedback from attendees was really positive. We heard lots of remarks like this – “after this event I have left now knowing what career route to follow within Tech.”
Salesforce employees sat on a panel alongside other professionals to critique business pitches. Some great ideas were explored such as a Tinder Style app for people working abroad and an ephemeral social network. One of the pitchers said “I like how passionate they were about my idea, they made me think of things I didn’t consider, and left me with many things to work on” and others used it as a confidence builder “they gave me amazing feedback, I was nervous but improvement just comes with practice.”
The event gave attendees an opportunity to network with over 40 companies, there was a wealth of experience in the room and everyone was really eager to share their story and offer guidance and advice. The incredible turnout of innovative businesses aimed at getting young people into tech created invaluable experience for the attendees and for some it was their first experience of networking “before I was scared to network” but they realised it is not too daunting.
During the evening we heard from speakers from both large companies like Google, and smaller start-ups who are just kicking off their adventure. Attendees got a good look into the world of tech and what it takes to make it.
Ryan, a Lead Global Analyst from Google told the audience about the importance of understanding the technology we use. He also spoke about the need for diversity in the technology sector, and left the audience with 3 pearls of wisdom:
- Understanding technology is hard but if you’re passionate about it, give it a try.
- Focus on something that makes people’s lives better (ie. if they use it twice a day)
- You don’t have to work at a tech giant because – there are small startups with innovative ideas everywhere.
Bejay Mulenga, 19 year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of Supa Academy spoke about the challenges of finding young tech talent and the importance of following your passion for a successful and enjoyable career.
The evening also contained a 1 minute speech challenge, where anyone could promote a company, discuss an issue, or present an idea against the clock. Maggie Philbin, Director of Teen Tech and former host of Tomorrow’s World, made a guest appearance and was given a friendly grilling by the attendees.
The event fulfilled its mission and resonated with young people “Honestly hand on heart, the Salesforce event was ‘the one’, like it was the LICK for 2015!”, leaving people coming away inspired and accomplished. Erica Neve from wearedotdotdot says: “The Salesforce Digifest allowed us to show that there’s a vibrant young community that are interested in tech, and to connect this community, through partnering with Salesforce, to the tech sector.”
Check out @wearedotdotdot on Twitter to learn more about how they guide young East Londoners in their digital careers or enroll in a digital learning course yourself!
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