In summer 2017, Clare Streets was desperate to find work – after being a stay-at-home mum for seven years, she spent July and August applying for jobs cleaning houses and hotels or doing online admin.
Less than a year later, after accessing 16 weeks of digital training through the School of Code, the mum of two from Kingswinford, Dudley, is now an associate director at Birmingham digital firm B13 Technology.
Clare’s inspiring story led to her being invited to address the inaugural meeting of the West Midlands Digital Skills Partnership – set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to help people across the region get the right digital training and work experience to help them secure a career. The Partnership holds its second meeting today (February 6).
“I’d always planned to be a stay at home mum,” Clare said.
“But after seven years, when I needed to go back to work, I couldn’t go back to my previous industry, and I wanted to find something that worked around my children. Finding something to my interest, with flexible working, felt like an impossible mountain to climb.”
After doing a number of odd-jobs, Clare saw an advert for the School of Code. Set up by Dr Chris Meah, the School of Code runs 16-week training courses in coding and software development.
“I was too nervous to put myself forward for it at first,” Clare explained. “But the advert and application process was very easy. I had nothing to lose, I figured it was 16 weeks, and I could manage for that period, give it a bash and see if it helped me.
“The School made it very welcoming and removed all barriers.”
Signing up for the course was, Clare says, a great decision.
“I realised that software development may not be the role I wanted to do, but, given what I’d learned on the course, in combination with my other skills, I could see opportunities where I could bring a lot to the table.”
Clare was offered three roles with three different companies – and after a series of discussions with B13 Technology, opted to take a job there as a project manager. Within six months, Clare was promoted to associate director, managing a team and helping to oversee the growth of the company.
On top of landing a dream job, B13 Technology took a flexible approach to Clare’s employment, meaning she gets to do the school run every day and gets valuable time with her children.
“I feel incredible,” Clare said. “I’ve got a career that’s really rewarding, with lots of opportunities for growth in a really exciting industry.”
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, met with Clare at the launch of the Digital Skills Partnership at Coventry College.
He said her story shows that there are opportunities for everyone in the West Midlands.
“Clare had no previous experience with digital, but took a brave step and is now being rewarded in her career,” the Mayor said.
“To go from the frustration of job-hunting for roles that suited her needs, and having to take jobs cleaning houses or hotels to fit around her family, to being a director at one of Birmingham’s big tech success stories, with flexible working arrangements, is a great achievement.
“We’re working hard through the WMCA, and our Digital Skills Partnership, to help ensure every Clare in the West Midlands has the best chance to access training and work experience, and, ultimately, secure a great job in the best region to work in the UK.”
Dr Chris Meah, who set up the School of Code while studying for a PhD in computer science, explained:
“Technology presents a golden opportunity to make the world a more equal, fair place for everyone – but so far it hasn’t fulfilled that potential. With rising automation and a changing job landscape, tech skills are going to be vital for getting hired but there’s a distinct lack of diversity and variety in backgrounds among typical coders.
“I wanted to help solve this problem through the School of Code: our 16-week bootcamp is free for everyone, teaches the skills needed to leap into the tech industry, and prepares people with the tech skills to become collaborative, creative coders.
“You don’t need any previous technical experience or qualifications. Like Clare, all you need is the motivation, creativity, and interest in solving problems to succeed.
“Clare was one of our first graduates, and her efforts were recognised with the Graduate of the Year award at the West Midlands Tech Awards. We’ve seen many of our bootcampers go on to receive recognition and awards in a tech career they could never have imagined – it’s brilliant to see people making positive changes in their lives thanks to the School of Code.”
B13 Technology is based at iCentrum, in Birmingham’s hi-tech Silicon Canal area. The company was awarded the Business Post’s SME of the Year award in 2018.
Jon Swinbourne, operations director at B13 Technology, said:
“Clare has been incredible since she came in – but it’s even more incredible to think she could still be cleaning houses or doing hotel shifts, rather than working with us as an associate director.
“We’re a diverse, flexible employer and we’re delighted to offer Clare the flexibility she needs, as a mum of two, to do a great job without sacrificing valuable time with her family.
“We’re delighted to have Clare on board, and we’d encourage anyone considering a career in technology to put their fears to one side and really go for it.”
For more information on the Digital Skills Partnership, and other digital training courses available in the West Midlands, please contact Kevin Vashi, WMCA’s Digital Skills Project Manager, via email:firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the School of Code, visit https://schoolofcode.co.uk/
Image: Clare Streets, left, with her Graduate Developer of the Year award at the West Midlands Tech Awards 2017, with Dr Chris Meah from the School of Code