July 4, 2024, by bbztlg

Working with future innovators

Discover how Datamango’s collaboration with the University of Nottingham’s placement programme fosters innovation and growth

Written by Dave Westbrook, Chief Operating Officer, Datamango

At Datamango, we’re software engineers and product developers. However, while clients may see some of the process and the value we deliver, it doesn’t always demonstrate what’s at the heart of what we do. We’re problem-solvers and a company where people come and grow. The solutions we create result from our ethos, rooted in our core values of pushing boundaries and being distinct, sincere and receptive to people’s needs. But, most of all, we’re agile. We want to try something new and discover new ways of working.

Our principles drive our commitment to nurturing talent. We believe in investing in people—not merely for their skills but for their potential and what makes them unique. We embrace diversity, foster honesty, and celebrate individuality, allowing us to build trust among our team and clients.

We’ve always believed in the power of early career investment—it cultivates commitment, helps embed our work culture, and builds foundational trust—so postgraduate placements make a lot of sense. The journey into postgraduate placements began somewhat by chance, coming from a suggestion from a friend working at the University. Aware of our desire to discover and foster new talent, they suggested we consider integrating postgraduate students into our team.

Full disclosure: we went into the programme expecting a lot of overheads. However, the reality was pleasingly different. The students required far less guidance than anticipated, quickly adapting and contributing meaningfully to our projects. The University facilitated a seamless integration, handling the logistics and administration efficiently, allowing us to focus on what we do best—building and growing together.

Datamango’s journey with Postgraduate Placements

The University’s Postgraduate Placement programme is structured to provide students with real-world experience and professional growth opportunities. At its core, the programme revolves around a project-based approach, where each placement is tied to specific outcomes and deliverables. Our involvement featured two roles: a Marketing Strategy and Brand Implementation placement and a Cyber Security & Sustainability Software Developer. Each student was allocated a bank of 200 hours, typically spread over part-time work. However, the programme’s flexibility allowed full-time hours in any given week, depending on project demands.

Marketing and development roles brought to life

The development placement student focused on improving our software. By diving deep into our existing processes, this student identified critical improvement areas. Working alongside our development team, this student refined and enhanced our project delivery and significantly contributed to developing the products we were working on. She brought her academic cyber security skills and made an immediate impact.
Simultaneously, the marketing placement student was tasked with a pivotal project following Datamango’s recent rebrand: to help craft and execute a comprehensive brand and marketing strategy to enhance our brand identity and increase market visibility. The objective was to help us boost brand awareness, generate leads, and drive sales through well-defined marketing campaigns.

Supported every step of the way

Throughout these placements, the University was instrumental in guiding the students and us through the process. From managing logistics like timesheets and tracking hours to facilitating the extension of placements where necessary, the university ensured that students were integrated into our operational framework. Their regular check-ins and support system allowed us to focus on project execution and student mentorship without being bogged down by admin.

This partnership allowed students to apply their academic knowledge in a real-world setting and provided a platform to impact our company’s trajectory significantly. The university’s structured yet flexible approach enabled these aspiring professionals to shine in their respective projects, leaving a lasting imprint on our projects and company culture.

The impact of placement students

Introducing postgraduate placement students into our team infused new talent into our projects and brought fresh perspectives crucial in overcoming some of our most challenging hurdles…

Transformative contributions in cyber security and development

Our development student, with an academic background in cyber security, quickly became an invaluable asset to a pivotal project: developing a sophisticated, enterprise-grade application for a cyber security startup. Despite her initial lack of hands-on development experience, her academic insights and fresh approach allowed her to resolve complex issues that had stalled significant features. Her active participation propelled these features out of the backlog and into production, significantly advancing the project’s timeline.

Her impact extended beyond just technical contributions. She played a key role in refining our development ticket management process and enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our project workflows. Her presence and approach to collaboration fostered a nurturing environment that enhanced the mentoring skills of our more experienced team members. Her determination and capability were so pronounced that by the end of her placement, we knew she would fully transition into a full-time role within our team, a testament to her growth and the success of the placement initiative.

“I had the most amazing experience. I’m glad I got the opportunity to be a part of the team and learn and develop new skills, both technical and interpersonal.”
Cyber Security & Sustainability Software Developer Placement Student

Revitalising marketing

On the marketing front, our placement student brought a robust marketing background that immediately translated into tangible benefits for our company. During a critical period, as we rolled out a new brand and marketing strategy, she was instrumental in crafting compelling content and developing a cohesive social media strategy. Her ability to inject a human element into our content resonated well with our audience, making our technical solutions relatable and engaging.

Her passion for marketing shone through as she navigated a new industry, bringing a refreshing perspective that invigorated our marketing efforts. Her enthusiasm influenced the projects she worked on and inspired our entire team to embrace a more dynamic and engaging approach to communicating our work.

A culture of enthusiasm and mutual growth

The presence of placement students on our team catalysed a deeper engagement with our projects and instilled renewed vigour among our employees. Their flexibility, adapting to roles as needed, exemplified their commitment and alignment with our company’s agile and responsive ethos. Their journey from academia to industry was marked by enthusiasm, rapid learning, and a drive that enriched our company culture and enhanced our collective output.

Learning lessons

Our journey through the University’s postgraduate placement programme was marked by enlightening challenges and valuable lessons that have reshaped our hiring approach.

Navigating the selection process

The selection process for the placement students was much more competitive than anticipated, drawing a high volume of applications. From detailed forms provided by the University of Nottingham, we outlined the expectations and requirements of the roles. After processing by the University, we were presented with candidates from which we selected the top five for interview. The final decision was tough, especially when it came down to two outstanding candidates for each position. The selection process—based on their skills, work examples, and compatibility with our team dynamics—was essential, ensuring we matched the right student with the right project and team.

Effective management of remote placements

One of the primary concerns with managing remote placements was the potential need for close monitoring due to the students’ relative lack of industry experience. This concern was quickly alleviated as both candidates demonstrated remarkable self-sufficiency and eagerness to engage with their tasks. Regular weekly check-ins were held, not just to review progress, but also to ensure that the students felt supported and integrated despite the physical distance. These sessions were led by non-departmental leaders, providing a broad perspective on the students’ development and allowing any necessary adjustments to be made swiftly.

Key lessons for the future

The experience taught us several crucial lessons. Firstly, the importance of not underestimating the capabilities of postgraduate students. Despite initial concerns about language barriers and professional maturity, both students excelled, communicating well and adapting quickly to their roles. This has encouraged us to adjust our future placements to allow more rapid advancement into responsibilities, reducing oversight steps gradually as trust and capability are proven. We also learned the value of flexible, supportive management that adapts to the needs of remote workers, ensuring they are empowered to succeed.

These insights will influence our future placement strategies and enhance our broader approach to recruitment and professional development across the company.

Lasting benefits and future opportunities

Integrating postgraduate placement students into our team has exceeded our expectations. They have brought lasting benefits that have boosted our company’s operations and outlook.

Enhancing team dynamics and project management

Adding fresh academic perspectives to our seasoned professional expertise has boosted our development team. The placement students introduced new skills and methodologies that enriched our approach to building products. Our project management processes have also seen improvements—more effective tracking of development tickets, more comprehensive documentation, and more robust and streamlined operations. These changes have contributed to an elevated quality of our work.

Impactful contributions to full-time talent

The transition of our development placement student to a full-time role has been particularly impactful. Her continued growth and integration into the team have allowed her to take on mentorship roles, guiding other interns and helping across the board. Her ability to manage significant portions of her workload independently and her increasing technical leadership in major projects have made her an indispensable asset to our company. Her journey from a placement student to a key team member exemplifies the profound and lasting impact these placements can have on individual careers and company success.

Future prospects and engagement with educational institutions

Our positive experiences have firmly established our commitment to further exploring postgraduate placements and deepening our engagement with universities. This involvement has already extended to speaking at events at one of our local universities and setting project briefs for final-year undergraduate students, broadening our impact and connection with the academic community.

Our approach to talent acquisition has evolved. We are more open to diverse hiring avenues and recognise the unique value that academic collaborations bring to our business… At the end of this month, we are welcoming an undergraduate intern from a local university!

Embrace opportunities for growth and innovation

Our journey with the University of Nottingham’s postgraduate placement programme has been transformative. It affirms the immense value of integrating fresh academic talent into our professional landscape. The placement students have enriched our team dynamics and technical prowess and left a lasting impact through their innovative contributions and enthusiastic participation in key projects.

Discover the potential in postgraduate placements

We strongly encourage other businesses to consider the potential benefits of engaging with postgraduate placements. These programmes offer more than just additional resources—they bring in fresh perspectives, cutting-edge academic knowledge, and a drive that can invigorate your existing teams and projects. The University of Nottingham has provided exceptional support throughout our journey, making integrating students into our operations simple. It’s an investment in your company’s and emerging professionals’ futures.

Bridge the gap between academia and industry

We also call on students to actively explore placement opportunities. Engaging in a postgraduate placement is a chance to apply your academic skills in real-world scenarios, significantly boosting your employability and professional network. It’s an opportunity to see and participate in the practical applications of your studies, providing a strong foundation for your future career.

Posted in PlacementsResearcher Academy