The job seekers unofficial guide to Leeds Digital Festival – Ash from Modern Afflatus
So you’re looking for a career in digital?
Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place. Over the past few years Leeds has been transforming into one of the best hubs in the country for tech, digital and the creative industries.
I moved to Leeds this time last year with no business contacts of my own and practically no network in the city. Thanks to Leeds Digital Festival I was able to make the right connections, get my top choice as a new grad AND help run a meet-up for the digital and tech communities in my free time.
After a year of eagerly awaiting its return Leeds Digital Festival is back! Heavy hitters like Sky Betting and Gaming and NHS Digital as well as recruiters Amsource have positions just waiting for you – your only job this week is to showcase your amazing talents and personality to secure that role you’ve always wanted!
Are you ready to take your job search to the next level but don’t know where to start?
Don’t worry. I’ve mapped out an example itinerary for you that makes the most of your time this week while maximising your network reach (including food to keep you fueled along the way)!
POA: Preparation 📝
You wouldn’t run a marathon without some sort of preparation first, would you? (Okay, maybe you would but then there comes muscle cramps after the first mile so I don’t suggest it) Either way all-star job seekers are those who plan in advance. Here are some tips for the days leading up to the festival:
1. Get your tickets & register! Events are already selling out and there’s nothing more disheartening than showing up ready to network but not being let into the venue! By signing up you’re also getting in on the insider list for the events so recruiters have proof that you are someone who plans in advance along with your contact information.
2. As if you need reminding anyways but having a CV, cover letter ready to go puts you in a good position going forwards. I’d print enough for the day in advance just in case you need to update one or two things throughout the week.
3. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to to date with current information and a professional photo (you can get one for free at Castleton Mills on Monday).
5. Brush up on a few talking points. No one wants to be drilled about the positions they have open right off the bat. Remember to enter the conversation with the intent of listening to what that company needs and how you can meet that need. At the very least have a cool story to share as an icebreaker that isn’t just about the weather.
POA: Hit the Ground Running 🏃
Start the week off with some networking and free breakfast at Castleton Mills, a community of creative, marketing and digital agencies in Leeds. They will have their current job opportunities posted with some nibbles to start your day.
Amsource are giving career and job search advice during normal business hours so you can schedule an appointment and get some early feedback from a recruitment perspective (as well as get more people looking out for you). Booking required in advance so make sure to contact them for your preferred time slot!
In the evening take your pick of either Sky Betting and Gaming’s talk on Data Science and who Maxius is or Liedos’ who will be presenting on machine learning and the tools they use to find trending topics.
POA: Early Bird Gets the Worm 🐦
Skip the cereal bowl (but not the shower) this morning because we can start off bright and early with more breakfast at either:
7:30am – 9:30 am The Full NHS Digital Breakfast at The Met Hotel
8:00am – 9:30 am Growing a Digital & Technology Company at Sky Betting and Gaming
After you’ve got your fill, hurry to catch IPPR North’s Closing the North’s Digital Skills Gap talk. They’re going over their reports and findings for how talented people like yourself can find your place in Leeds 😃
In the afternoon Choose Your Own Adventure:
If you’re into cars turn to page 24.
If you’re a fan of innovation in video strategies turn to page 33.
If you’re interested in health and tech turn to page 51.
When evening rolls around realise even on the job hunt not all networking has to be serious. Meet some new people (and potentially new co-workers) at the Magpie Curveball CoCreation Workshop at 5:00pm followed by the Kwizzbit Kwizz Night starting at 6:30pm! Either way Tuesday night will keep you busy.
POA: Readjust, Revise, Regroup ☕
Okay, 2 days successfully done. Reward yourself with a nice coffee from one of Leeds’ fine independent coffee shops this morning and do a little bit of catch up. File business cards and contact details away (I like snapping business cards in my phone in a separate photo album) and follow up with people you’ve met on LinkedIn, fire them off an email or *gasp* maybe even a phone call. Send off any applications you need to before finally heading off on another day of prospects.
Wednesday is packed with big workshop days including Fintech North 2017 (unfortunately sold out. I heard tickets are going for 0.4541 Bitcoins on Gumtree? May just be a rumour though).
Don’t worry, the Digital Ladder over at Leeds Dock has plenty of friendly companies to meet and they’ll even give you a tour! That’s right, Sky, Epiphany, Ilk and more will be around starting from 10am AND if you’re coming from campus, Santander has partnered with Leeds University to offer free shuttle service! They’ll also be dropping off at the offices of NHS Digital, Sky Betting & Gaming and Bloom Agency. Can’t beat that!
By noon your stomach is probably grumbling from all that walking so grab some free lunch at Ready, Steady, (Google) Go! at The Brewery Tap where Infinity Works and Hitachi Capital will be telling some of their war stories and challenges. Did I mention the free pie?
Finish up and head to Leeds Loves Search – The SEO Conference you didn’t know you needed. From 2pm understand more about the challenges and innovations in the digital search industries as well as all the possibilities where you career could go! Wrap things up with a beer and more networking with Leeds Digital Drinks for the afterparty quiz right after the event (running out of business cards yet?).
Last year’s Digital Debate was one of my favourites for really understanding some of the real issues going on in the North. This year the top leaders from NHS Digital, The Open Data Institute, Epiphany and Zimovi will be sharing their thoughts and offering insights to what each of their companies will be looking for as they grow.
POA: No Slowing Down 🚫🐌
Yeah, festivals can be strenuous but you if got through Glastonbury in a £5 pop tent on three Gregg’s sausage rolls then this shouldn’t be a problem.
In the morning pop by Simple Usability: Is UX Research (Still) Too Slow for Agile? for some breakfast and a discussion among the UX community. Chase that with Tech North’s Digital Jobs Action Summit and make sure you register your interest with all the talent hungry companies as well as sit in on any talks you fancy.
VR Leeds 360 has your entertainment covered for the evening with speakers starting from 6:30pm and live demos plus networking for the rest of the night. Come meet other enthusiasts at The Cross Keys.
Finish the night off at the famous Code in the Dark event where 25 developers will battle it out for victory. Make some new friends, share some stories from the week and unwind before the last stretch…
POA: GOAL! 🏁
This is the big day. The HERD Digital Job Fair 3.0.
The novice job hunter would have started their job search with this event, but not you. You’ve been preparing for this all week with a fresh CV, pages of research on your top companies and understated confidence that could make Alan Sugar raise an eyebrow…and offer you a job on the spot.
Hundreds if not thousands of job seekers are going to be attending and it should be obvious that standing out with the right questions and replies will be key to nailing an interview.
Make sure you’re refreshed and get a good night sleep, have fresh business cards and CV’s ready just in case (it never hurts to be prepared). Dress to impress but don’t overdo it.
You’ll find the fair (and the queues to get inside) at the Leeds Direct Arena with doors opening at 12:00pm sharp!
Remember this is just a sample itinerary. Leeds Digital Festival is a monster and with over 100 events to explore there certainly is something to suit your preferences, whatever those may be. From my experiences last year I suggest taking every opportunity to meet someone new and don’t be afraid to share what you are passionate about. You never know where that conversation could lead…
All the best for your job search!
Ciao for now!
Ash from Modern Afflatus