Employer Interview: Gary Ludgate, Phorest

In our most recent white paper, “A job in software development – where to start?” we look at the career change journey into software development. As part of the paper, we interviewed a selection of employers regarding their thoughts on career changers. 

In this interview, we spoke with Gary Ludgate, Talent Manager of Phorest. The interview can be viewed below. 

What non-technical skills does your company look for when hiring a new developer for your team?

Gary: It sounds really basic, but attitude. It is something that is difficult to qualify in an interview, and it’s certainly difficult to qualify from a CV, but I think that software development now is way more than coding, and that’s something that we’re realising the bigger that we get.

Phorest has been in the fortunate position of having doubled our R&D team over the last year/eighteen months, which means we’ve met a lot of people and we’ve hired a lot of people, but somebody who is not afraid to go and ask a question from the product team. Someone who is curious about the marketing solution and how it works. Someone who wants to understand Phorest Pay and all of the different contributing factors that make that successful as opposed to maybe the older school attitude which “was give me the spec, I’ll code it, and then I’ll hand it back to you” 

So I think that people are picking up a lot of soft skills. People are picking up a lot of life skills that are hugely relevant to the world of software development without necessarily realising it, and that’s definitely something we’ve noticed. 

What do you think of career changers?

Gary: So, not just in my current role, I’ve worked with programmes, and I’ve hired career changers in the past. I personally, well, I suppose I’m a big fan based on my experience. I think attitude, and this again comes down to maybe experiences I’ve had in the past. I don’t want to ever not be positive about fresh third-level graduates, because of course, we want to make sure we’re giving everyone an opportunity. 

But certainly, what I’ve personally found is there’s almost an expectation when someone comes out as a freshly-minted university grad that the job opportunities are going to present themselves. Or that the fact that they’ve now completed this nearly, you know, means that it’s on us to provide a job for them rather than the other way around. Whereas I find the complete opposite attitude with career changers. 

I think somebody who’s taken the time, it’s an intimidating thing to decide, “right I’m going to move away from everything I’ve known and try and move into a new space altogether”, and I think that somebody who does that, who achieves the qualification, or who achieves the background that they’re looking for, turns up into employment, number one like a sponge. They just want to learn more, and they’ve been in an environment of learning, which really helps. But also, I think the company gets the benefit of tremendous loyalty, and somebody who recognises that not every company will give an opportunity to someone who’s not, you know, the perfect candidate on paper, or whatever way you want to put it. We’ve definitely benefited from that here at Phorest, and I have throughout my career. 

So, my attitude will always be the same. We’ll always be open to it. We’ll always encourage it, and if we can help with the likes of this, then we’ll always turn up.

Have you ever hired a Code Institute graduate, and how are they to your team? 

Gary: Yeah, so, yes, we have hired two Code Institute graduates just this year, and I’ve been delighted with how they’ve been working out. 

So, I think the benefit with the two that came into us, both had experience of our industry. Both had an experience of our sector. So, we provide software to the salon and beauty industry. One had worked directly in the industry, and then the other had been more around point of sales and payments terminals. But again, in that retail space. In that salon environment. 

What we found is that where we can hire sometimes a new grad out a university, and they’ll have all these great academic qualifications, but they haven’t the life skills. We need to teach them what Phorest is; we need to teach them how a salon operates. We need to teach them maybe the pressures that are on a salon owner and staff because one of the company’s values is we do it for them. You know, everything that we do is in order to try and make life in the salon that much easier with technology. 

I think bringing in two people who have that perspective, who are able to nearly explain that to us, has been hugely beneficial to us and the team. The fact also that they have been in that learning environment and a deep learning environment with practical, real-world applications for the duration of their course means that the ramp-up period has been quicker with us than maybe it might be otherwise. 

At the moment, we’ve got both on our escalations team, so they’re spending time on the front line. They’re learning more about our clients. They’re learning more about our software, which will, you know, hopefully, make them even more well-rounded to have a look to kick on into our development teams in the future.

Download the paper

It has always been a pleasure talking to Gary Ludgate and his team and if you are interested in hearing more from Phorest, you can follow this link. Likewise, they have an amazing blog, which can be found here. If you would like to download the full whitepaper from where this interview came from, go to the form at the bottom of this page. 

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