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It’s D-Day for the future digital rock stars

Adam Graham, CEO of Weapon7 and Chair of BIMA, on why BIMA D-Day, taking place today, 10 October, is vital for the future of the digital industry.

As I write this, the day of D-Day, I'm personally very excited to be involved. Weapon7 have partnered with Hackney community college and will be working with students in their late teens. Young adults at a time in their lives when they are weighing up all of their career options. It will be fascinating to hear their views on the viability of a career in digital.

If I cast my mind back to when I was that age, I really didn't have a clue what line of work I wanted to go into. I was simply following the well-trodden path of academic qualifications, with the intention of reaching the next phase of education, which was itself another round of academic qualifications. I enjoyed Geography and Business Studies. I didn't have a natural aptitude for Languages and I wasn't interested in History. The truth is that all the Math’s I have ever needed in life, I had learnt by the age of ten. Much of the other stuff I learnt at school and, indeed University, whilst interesting and handy to know on occasion, has not impacted on my career a great deal.

When I was at University, reading Management and Law, I fell in love with the nascent World Wide Web that was freely available. I proceeded to teach myself all about it to the severe detriment of my studies. The truly amazing thing at that time was that I could learn everything I needed to know about the internet, via the internet. Thus proving to me beyond any shadow of a doubt what a revolutionary thing this was. For the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to work in what would later be termed 'digital'.

As my passion for digital grew, my patience with academic studies shrank. By my third year, I was running a small internet business from my room and had all but abandoned my course - but still partook in the student social life. I availed myself of its resources and interesting people whom I could further learn from. I would speak to the geeks about Unix, gleaning from them the relevant commands that allowed me to move files around the network, past the firewall, mount that box and then FTP up to my web server without leaving my room. They'd teach me basics in Apache and MySQL, or HTML and JavaScript - others would show me how to use Photoshop and Flash. These are the skills that helped me in my career and not one of them was learnt in a classroom.

At that time Computer Science courses were largely useless for the growing web industry. To this day there is still a distinct lack of support for this area. The continued focus of the majority of educational institutions, on academic qualifications and the completely unjustified snobbery that still exists towards vocational qualifications, is extremely disappointing. The world needs doers. Of course it needs thinkers too. But the balance in education is not proportionate to the requirements of society.

BIMA’s D-Day plays a vital role in opening up people's eyes to the opportunity of a career in a very exciting industry. One where you never stop learning. The evolution of technology will only ever increase in its speed. It is precisely this fact that keeps us so interested.

If we can inspire people to consider digital as a career choice, and point them in the direction of the resources they need in order to teach themselves the skills required, we will have played a valuable part in a great many people's lives.

I can't wait to get stuck in with the students and I know I'm not alone. It’s fantastic to see over 100 agencies and 4000 students participating and encouraging the future digital talent coming through our schools.

BIMA’s D-Day is growing year on year and for good reason too. Britain's digital economy is growing at ten times that of the rest of the economy and ambitious targets have been set by the Government for this sector to accelerate output to £7 billion per year by 2017. With this at the forefront of our minds, BIMA’s nationwide D-Day is an even more significant initiative, helping to bridge the digital skills gap and inspire the next generation to choose a career in digital.

Here's to the next generation of digital rock stars!

You can keep up to date with D-Day activities via The Drum and the dedicated D-Day Twitter account, @BIMADDAY.

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