Why You Should Work For A Startup Whilst At University: Advice From Red Badger

How Red Badger are solving the talent crisis

Here at Talent Rocket, nothing gets us more excited than discovering awesome startups who understand the importance of company culture. Especially when hiring, developing and retaining superstar talent. We’re not too shy to admit we have a humongous new company crush: Red Badger –  a super innovative, mind bendingly creative software agency, based in the heart of London Tech City.Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 15.36.51

Back in January this year, one of Red Badger’s founders, Cain Ullah (pictured) returned from a 10 day retreat having had something of a hiring brain wave. The question for Red Badger was how they could source and develop young talent and turn them into highly skilled developers, designers, project managers or whatever else.  The answer? The Badger Academy.

Any startup worth their salt wants to nab the best, brightest talent straight from University, for their internships or graduate positions – but how awesome would it be if your superstar interns already knew your business from the inside? And as a student, how incredibly beneficial would it be if you could add real industry understanding and expertise to your university work?

In Cain’s own words: ‘Badger Academy’s primary objective is to train interns that are still at University who will be working part-time with a view to them having a certain level of experience upon graduation and hopefully joining Red Badger’s ranks. However, it may also extend to juniors who have already graduated (as a means to fast tracking them to a full-time job), graduates from General Assembly or juniors who have decided not to go to University.’

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 15.54.32Take Albert Still as an example (a previous Red Badger student intern, now fully fledged Red Badger Software Engineer). While studying Computer Sciences at University, Albert worked 2 days a week for Red Badger, even in his final year when he was also juggling his dissertation. As you may expect, some of Albert’s classmates questioned whether this was a good idea – suggesting that the time it took up could damage his grades. But in reality?

“It did the opposite, I got better grades because I learnt so much on the job. And when you see solutions to real life problems it makes for a better understanding to the theory behind it. And it’s that theory you will get tested on at university.”

 So how does the Badger Academy work?

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To get the most out of the ‘Badger Cubs’, it is naturally essential for them to receive training from the senior members of the Red Badger team. As a result, they take one senior team member for one day a week off of a billable project to dedicate their time to training, on a rotation basis. They also rotate by the three University terms. So for autumn term at Uni, they have 3-4 senior ‘coaches’ (all from separate Red Badger projects) on weekly rotation until the end of the term. During the spring term they refresh the 3-4 coaches and again for the summer term. This way, everyone gets to teach, there is some consistency in tutors for the interns during term time and impact on Red Badger client projects is mitigated.

The Badger Cubs are also asked to blog, weekly about their experience at Red Badger HQ (check it out here) – this is a great way to record what they have learnt, both for themselves , the rest of the Red Badger team,  their University tutors, the Red Badger team and of course any aspiring Badger cubs.

And the fun bit?

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 17.21.35As if working for a ground-breakingly innovative digital agency before you have even graduated wasn’t enough, Badger Cubs get access to all the employee perks Red Badger has to offer: A generous personal training budget, plenty of beer, 2 amazing parties a year and (our personal favourite) the 2 storey shed/recording studio ‘out the back’ – where the Badger Podcast is created, covering a wide range of tech and science topics and featuring guests from both inside and outside of Red Badger.

To summarise, let’s go back to Albert, and his personal top reasons for recommending startup life to students and recent grads, over the traditional corporate route.

  • They are small and have flat hierarchies which means you will rub shoulders with some talented and experienced individuals. For example a visionary business leader or an awesome developer. Learn from them!
  • More responsibility.
  • They’re more likely to be using modern front line tech.
  • If they become successful you will jump forward a few years in the career ladder compared to working for a corporate.
  • Share options – own a slice of your company!
  • There are lots of them and they’re hiring!

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