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Tuned in to the beat of technology

As a former nightclub DJ Graeme Gordon is familiar with the rush of adrenalin that comes with entertaining a crowd.

He admits to feeling a little like that hosting what has become one of the rock and roll events of the business calendar.

Gordon chairs ScotlandIS, the software body whose 20th ScotSoft conference featured some of the top names in the industry.

One of those leading figures, Scott Hanselman, a coding expert for Microsoft, has just finished speaking to an audience kept enthralled by his insight into the latest thinking back home in the US.

“Scott is a rock star in this industry,” says Gordon. “We are attracting some of the best global people to speak to the best local people and he’s an example.

“They are keen to come here and that is great for us. It pushes our thinking, raises our game. It means they go back home and start talking about the good things going on in Scotland.”

The impact of such an event goes further; bringing investment and other talent into the country.

“It certainly keeps us on the world’s radar and has brought jobs here. Amazon has something like 400 developers in Edinburgh. JP Morgan employs 1,500 in Glasgow.”

He chooses a slightly indelicate way to describe how the bigger companies help the smaller ones to grow: “We need the unicorns [billion dollar companies] to leave some unicorn shit around.”

He laughs at the analogy. “Okay, some rich soil,” he says. “You know what I mean.”

The growth of Scotland’s tech sector is well-documented, as is the chronic skills shortage which has created 11,000 unfilled jobs, ironically a consequence of the sector’s growth. It begs the inevitable question about the impact of Brexit.

“It’s a yet-to-be-finalised threat,” says Gordon. “Scotland is a fantastic place to live and I’m sure it will help retain and recruit people. Of course, the skills issue is there and we have to deal with it.”

A recent success has been the development of the CodeClan academies in Edinburgh and Glasgow which teach coding skills to those seeking to re-train. CodeClan was driven by ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis and is looking for a successor to Harvey Wheaton who led it from its inception two years ago and stepped down for personal reasons in the summer.

Gordon says education is key to the sector’s growth but is struggling to keep up with developments, largely because of the pace of change.

“Any product from Apple that is more than six months old is regarded as vintage. How do we keep up?

“The government is listening, and that represents a step-change. We also have a generation under 35 who now see technology as a fundamental part of everyday life, not something that is bolted on to what they do.”

Attitudes are changing too, he says, as more young people enter the sector. The geek and nerd are now things of the past, replaced by the “hacker” (the engineer), the “hipster” (who makes the technology understandable), and the “hustler” (who gets it to market).

“We’re all tech geeks now,” says Gordon. “Everybody who uses a filter to send a photo on their phone is showing how tech know-how has crept into the sort of things we all do every day.

“It’s helping get the message over to the young that there are quality jobs out there in a growing industry.”

Source: Daily Business

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