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How to get a job in digital: London's Silicon Milkroundabout is matching up startups and job hunters

By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

March 7, 2013 | 6 min read

The digital job market in London startups is gaining more attention as an initiative set up to promote it, Silicon Milkroundabout, gathers momentum.

Growing: Silicon Milkroundabout has quickly become popular

Launched in a London pub in 2011, Silicon Milkroundabout's popularity has soared, with 2,000 people attending events and around 800 jobs on offer from 130 startups taking part.

Three years ago, as the digital jobs market in London continued to boom, the founders of Silicon Milkroundabout identified the difficulties startups were encountering attracting talent to their agencies before being snapped up by bigger companies.

"Co-founder Ian Hogarth and I were having a pint," explained Pete Smith, also a co-founder of live music firm Songkick. "As a single small startup we were one company shouting into the darkness, hiring for one or two developers at a time - we couldn't compete with Google or Goldman Sachs, even if we were an extremely attractive place to work for the right person, but get a hundred startups together and all of a sudden you've got 300-500 jobs in one place. We just figured that this jobs fair should exist, for startups and for talented people interested in working for startups."

The digital and tech sectors are estimated to contribute around £66.4bn annually to the UK economy and London's Tech City is at the centre of the buzz. However, while banking IT roles can offer an average salary of over £50,000, digital, tech and creative startups lag behind with an offering of just over £30,000, making it harder to attract bright professionals to move their businesses forward. The Silicon Milkroundabout jobs fair provides an opportunity for young people to open a door into industry, or even for those simply looking for a change of direction.

"It's very lucky that in such a tough time for many other sectors there are jobs being created in digital/tech across the country, and specifically in east London," Smith continued. "But the bar to getting a job tends to be very high. The ability to manage and manipulate very large datasets is a big skill shortage reported by agencies. This tends to be called 'big data'. It's an increasingly important area across all sectors - agencies, big companies, tech startups. It's a huge opportunity for someone doing that for a big bank in the city who fancies losing the suit and tie and taking on a new challenge."

The next Silicon Milkroundabout event will be held on 11-12 May at The Old Truman Brewery in London, and as it becomes a regular feature on the London digital jobs radar, Smith says the initiative is growing up: "We are hiring a full-time team to run it now when previously we relied on project-length contractors for a couple of months before each event. We're very excited that Cristiana Camisotti has joined full-time and we're hiring for another two roles. It's going to be very interesting seeing what we can do with this once we have people working on it year-round."

It's predicted that inner east London will see a 31 per cent increase in employment by 2031 and investment is flooding in from both the public and the private sector, with the government announcing a £50m commitment and Microsoft working on the development of an apprenticeship scheme for young people in the area. Around 1,300 businesses are concentrated in the Tech City cluster alone, leading to huge competition between agencies to find the right people to fit into their team, and Smith says companies have to be clear about what they're looking for.

"Know what you want," he advised. "So many companies don't spend time working out a clear initial hypothesis for the type of person they need to hire for a particular role. They therefore waste a lot of time meeting with people they end up rejecting, who they probably shouldn't have spent time with in the first place."

For those considering roles in startups, Smith highlighted the advantages - and the pressures - and applauded the rising number of female figures in the digital scene: "It's awesome to see more and more female entrepreneurs and leading female figures in the scene, from founders starting up, like Robyn Exton at Datch or Nathalie Gaveau at Shopcade, to others leading big initiatives, such as Joanna Shields at Tech City. The more balanced the make-up of the London tech scene is, the better products will come out of it, and the more success London will have as a tech hub.

"Joining a small team, as most startups are, comes with huge advantages: we pick our own colleagues, we're all passionate about our products and missions and we are disrupting old, often unpopular ways of doing things, but there's also a responsibility and accountability that comes with being in a small team. We tend to evaluate success very much with metrics and targets and that is a shift for people coming from larger organisations where accountability can be diffused across larger teams rather than concentrated just on you."

Companies which have taken part in previous Silicon Milkroundabout events include Badoo, Shazam, Mind Candy, GoCardless, and The App Business, with more expected to get on board. Entry to events is free, although those attending must come from a background - whether professional or graduate - in digital or tech.

To view the latest digital jobs in London, visit The Drum's job section


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