Lighting a fire – Our first annual review…

I’m not sure exactly which moment I’d pick as the conception of an idea that I eventually called “dt-squad”….

  • It could have been over 25 years ago, shortly after I recruited an ex forces guy called Simon Knocker as Business Process Specialist and watched him winning fans and quickly creating value for our Audi stakeholders at the time
  • It could have been in the early 2000s when my business was facing a crisis in the battle for talent in Poland and we “realised” that the number of computer science graduates produced by the technical universities was not infinite!
  • It could have been in 2015 when an officer from the Polish Navy applied to my business at the time for a role as a Project Manager and met with a series of blockers at various levels because they weren’t a clone of our normal recruit
  • It could have been when I drafted a white paper / blog in 2016 where I advocated targeting successful midlife career changers such as veterans and parents returning to work after some childcare years.
  • It could have been when I was contemplating what my “next gig” could be when I was deep in the grip of “Post Viral Trauma” after a nasty bout of flu in 2017 and 2018

But as I write this blog in September 2023, just 12 months after Luke Davey and I dragged  dt-squad Ltd out of the ground as a commercial entity, I thought it might be worth reflecting on our “origin story” and our first 12 months of trading!

Whilst I’ve been coding for 45 years now, there have been periods when I’ve coded more and periods when I coded less. For 7 years I was a professional developer with IBM Mainframe Assembler – so I coded a lot. And for 15 years or so, I ran various operational departments and then sat on the divisional management boards for a major German automotive company – so I didn’t code very much! Ironically, one of the periods when I coded the least was when I was running and building a bespoke software development company and whilst I loved everything about my time there, I did miss coding and would occasionally decide to solve a problem I was facing using those skills. 

When the Post Viral Trauma hit me six years ago and my symptoms were aggravated by travel and noise, I needed to reshape my life and once again I fully embraced my “old friend” to solve hard problems with code. 

Goodbye Client and Board Meetings.. Hello python, Vue, computer vision, and neural nets.  Goodbye all staff briefings and contract reviews. Hello numpy, bootstrap and MySQL. 

I loved learning all these technologies. I’ve blogged about some of the problems I solved using them already. 

And once again, I was struck with the idea that these skills could be learned by many more people and help them to have more options in their careers. I went back again to the idea of service leavers. They have had successful careers already and now face a huge change in their lives where the acquisition of new skills must surely be an unmitigated “good thing”.

I needed to talk to some veterans and eventually, I found James from Tech Vets who posted a flyer on his forum for me. I will always be grateful to him for that.

So it was that I got calls from Kat and Luke and Will and Paul and Rachel and a steady stream of enthusiastic leavers who wanted to learn to code. Over the next 3 years, I helped 37 people on their code learning journey with an average of 44 hours of 1 to 1, free of charge training each. In total, it’s over 1600 hours. 

I wish I could measure the additional hours invested by those students but I know that many of them would regularly spend 10 to 15 hours in between our lessons going further than I dared hope, to build their skills.  Our youngest student was 20 and the eldest is 67 so it’s never too late to learn something new!

Of those 37, 3 have joined the business as full time employees (Luke, Stuart and Ivan) and we’ve offered a position to 1 more (John) and he joins us in October. 

And last weekend, we held our Inaugural dt-squad Great Team Awayday

Peter, Luke, Ivan, Stuart, John and Dylan (The Good Boy!)

We all met for breakfast at “dt-squad Towers” and after a hefty fry up, made our way to the amazing “We Have Ways Fest” that runs a few miles away in Silverstone. The weather was hot Hot HOT! And we had an excellent day out before returning home to enjoy a values and strategy debate over a very fine takeaway curry from the fabulous Khushboo Restaurant in nearby Brackley.

We finished the day chatting round the bonfire (whilst poking at it with sticks!) and by the end of the evening I think we all declared our awayday a success!

We made fire!!!

And so in conclusion…

Our first year of trading has been a fantastic journey, I’ve loved every minute of it and we have:

  • Won long term contracts for consultancy
  • Developed and deployed three SaaS products for the automotive industry.
  • Created four jobs for ex forces people 
  • Welcomed our 37th student into the dt-squad academy
  • Delivered our 1600th hour of training
  • Held our Inaugural dt-squad Great Team Away Day

Predictions are hard (particularly when they are about the future!) but in the next 12 months, we’ll continue to help clients create value, help students develop new skills and run our business according to our values of Win – Win, Integrity, Innovation and Agility. Whatever happens, I’m full of hope and excitement for all the possibilities before us. 

If you have some flaming bonfires in your own business and think that we may be able to create some value by giving them a metaphorical “poke”, please give us a call!