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The science of behaviour change: how can digital play its part?

Here at Damibu, we like to look at the big picture. Human centred design is a big part of what we do, and for good reason. Many of our projects centre around behaviour change. It’s a topic that’s become louder in recent years, though perhaps it’s just becoming better understood.

Behaviour change is a really complex process. There are a multitude of psychological, social and economic factors that can interact to influence how we behave. However, how we behave can at times be predictable, and there are plenty of psychological theories that go some way towards explaining how we work.

One of those theories that has the potential to work digitally is self-determination theory, or SDT for short. According to SDT, every human is driven towards personal growth. In order to achieve it, we need to satisfy three basic needs; relatedness, competence and autonomy. If we foster them, then we are more likely to change our behaviour for the better and we can maintain it in the long term as it becomes a part of who we are. So how do we meet these needs?

According to SDT, every human is driven towards personal growth. In order to achieve it, we need to satisfy three basic needs; relatedness, competence and autonomy.

There’s no doubt that technology can bring us together – we have never been more connected! 95% of the UK population now owns a mobile phone and 93% have access to an internet connection. Most adults you speak to use some sort of social media, and phones are jam packed with apps of all kinds and purposes. Although this increase in connectedness is sometimes scrutinised, there’s no doubt that it has helped to bring us closer. But how can this affect behaviour change? Fostering connections through social media, bringing likeminded people together face-to-face through advertising of community groups, and seeing positive examples of people’s actions online can all help us to feel a connection. And this connection fuels our need for relatedness.

Of course, when we talk about relatedness the impact of COVID-19 should not be forgotten. Our collective experience of lockdown was in itself a uniting factor. At a time where many of us were unable to see our loved ones for a long time, we saw surges in the use of videoconferencing software as people strove to retain that relatedness. We logged into Zoom to chat to family and friends, to learn at school, and even to take part in online exercise and creative classes. Technology helped many of us to maintain some of our healthy behaviours in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago, and it did this through maintaining our social connection.

Competence, our second need, is all about fostering learning, and increasing someone’s ability to carry out a behaviour. We can foster competence within others or ourselves through helping people to learn new skills, giving them the right information or even building the confidence for a person to believe they are able to carry out a healthy behaviour. Competence could also involve giving people the means to change their behaviour, such as making public transport cheaper or subsidising food costs.

Though the internet has given great opportunity for the spread of misinformation, it equally gives us the means to ensure that information shared is of the right kind.

A great example of digital’s ability to increase competence is through the provision of information. Though the internet has given great opportunity for the spread of misinformation, it equally gives us the means to ensure that information shared is of the right kind. Most of us know to check the NHS website first when we are feeling under the weather, or to trust articles written by government bodies, well-known charities and organisations. Digital can help by bringing all of this together to improve our knowledge, and thus competence, when considering taking action.

Autonomy is perhaps the most important need of all. Giving someone autonomy is allowing them to take control of their own choices. The beauty of technology is that it connects us to so many opportunities. If we take something as simple as choosing a new GP, the internet allows us to search for a surgery in our area and make an informed decision based on its facilities, distance, opening hours and even reviews from existing patients. Likewise, Sport England’s “This Girl Can” campaign used the internet to inform girls and women of the scale of exercise and sports that are available across the country. Giving people the autonomy to take an action that they enjoy or that resonates within themselves means that they can become self-motivated and will be more likely to maintain a new behaviour in the long term.

As digital creators, if we keep in mind the three basic needs throughout our design process, we can ensure that our solution remains evidence-based and is more likely to be successful in enabling positive behaviour change.

If we take our own technology, CATCH, into account, you can see how the basic needs can interact in the same project. CATCH increases relatedness through informing users of local Children’s Centres and baby groups to meet likeminded parents. It satisfies competence through the provision of accessible information relevant to their own child. And it fosters autonomy by a) giving the user the choice to access the information whenever they need, and b) showing them a wide range of local services that they can choose to engage with.

SDT is only one of many theories, but it’s a great place to start. As digital creators, if we keep in mind the three basic needs throughout our design process, we can ensure that our solution remains evidence-based and is more likely to be successful in enabling positive behaviour change. What’s most important, though, is keeping the human being central to everything. By understanding their experiences, barriers and wants, we can decipher how we can foster their needs and increase their motivation to change for the better.

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‘Shoes Off Design’: Face-to-face vs remote engagement in Human Centred Design

While designing an app for parents with children between the ages of 0-2 in Liverpool, we booked a prototype testing engagement session booked with parents at a children’s centre. Personally, this was one of my first sessions working with the company and I didn’t really know what to expect. So with devices ready and a notepad in hand, I entered the room ready to give everyone a formal greeting and reel off a mental script about the app and what it does. To my surprise, sat down on the floor already were the mums and dads with their kids, playing. At this point it only seemed natural to join them, so the shoes came off and we sat down for a play and a chat about the product.

The important thing about this story is that it’s all about getting comfortable with our users. We didn’t want to come across as the ‘techy’ interviewer guys, coming in to talk in detail the ins and outs of a new app. Instead we formed a real connection with the parents (and their babies) and got some awesome engagement and feedback out of it.

Whatever field you are in, the HCD (Human Centred Design) process naturally has one common denominator: humans! Talking, interacting, laughing, creating – it is so important to be engaged with somebody in order to better understand their needs.

Digital product design involves interfaces and their specific elements which are governed by a huge variety of different users: older, younger, male, female, public and professional. With such a wide range, the success of these interfaces is hard to determine without meaningful engagement with individual users. You can find data to support any group of users but every one is unique, so real engagement is key.

Different stages of the HCD process require different sessions and approach. For example, in the discovery stage, a session may be more about asking lots broad questions and allowing for people to talk openly to gain a wide array of answers, but always pertaining to the project scope. Questions and cues can be used in tandem, such as “in an ideal world how would tech help you?” followed by “can you elaborate on this?” prompts. We should always try to dig deeper and ask ‘why’ to really gain the motivations behind the insight. Further down the line in the development stage where testing prototypes are concerned, it could require setting up tests such as A/B, or a ‘show me, tell me’ session, with certain stricter navigation for users to follow, as we have assumptions at this stage which need to be tested. Preparing the right session for the right process stage is key.

What does meaningful engagement look like normally, and does it differ during these testing times? How can we adapt to still produce products that will add significant value to a user, and one that they will love? This article will cover the importance of getting stuck in with users both face-to-face and remotely, comparing ways and techniques in which we can gain meaningful user interactions and insights.

Face-to-Face Engagement

At Damibu we are firm believers in the importance of the engagement sessions we host. As previously mentioned, each stage of the HCD process requires a slightly different approach, whether it’s 1-1 interviews, focus groups, co-creation or product testing.

It’s important to make the most of being face-to-face with users when you have this luxury, to create a more personal experience, so the user feels acknowledged and listened to. This is because there are certain things that in-person engagement allows that remote does not (and vice versa). It’s important to recognise the value of things like bringing along snacks or treats for participants, being able to involve everyone in a group and creating fun activities for people, in order to help create a relaxed atmosphere. Some of the best sessions and insights we have had have been working with parents of young children, sat on the carpet chatting and playing – leading to really open and honest insights, which we couldn’t have gathered via secondary research: shoes off design, quite literally!

The relationships formed during these sessions are as important as the insights gathered. As designers we spend a lot of our time trying to get inside a user’s head, so face-to-face engagement is the chance to really get to know who you are designing for. We think of it as a great opportunity to form lasting relationships.

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Remote Engagement

How does this experience look remotely? Thankfully, technology allows us to keep the meaningful interactions the result from working with users. Things like video calls, online prototyping, screen sharing and session recording are all great tools which have allowed us the ability to facilitate. Yet, although the environment of a session can be replicated well, naturally there are still differences. Here are some things we’ve noticed about engaging remotely:

Good:

  • Being able to access more people than usual
  • Less crazy commutes
  • People are at home, so they’re a little less formal

Not so good:

  • Key visual cues missed that could have been used to direct the session
  • People scheduling like mad means they have back-to-back meetings, so are overworked and sessions have stricter timelines
  • Group engagement sessions are a little trickier as it’s harder to bounce off people, and again, read the rest of the group when one person is speaking

Employing the right sessions at the right stage of the process may be the same for both in-person and remote engagement, but the techniques used to gather insights now have to be adapted. Things like not being able to greet with touch, pick up visual cues as easily, or bring snacks for users mean that we have to find different ways to create the right atmosphere, which does offer food for thought about ways to overcome these remote barriers. This can be as simple as more of a chit chat to start with; finding similarities like working from home as that’s something most of us have in common right now (and how we find out how busy they are); the obvious weather questions; surveys and quizzes; or video sharing. These are all fun ways of creating the right environment for interaction remotely. It may be different but there is still a huge number of ways to get creative in your approach.

Summary

It’s easy to dissect each way of working and the specific differences, but ultimately both face-to-face and remote engagement require the same facilitator behaviours to achieve the same great outcomes. Rather than ‘specifics’, it’s key to think more about ‘generals’: putting a user at ease, showing enthusiasm and involvement, or facilitating a really well prepared session which has been tested to avoid hitches. You can have a great meeting hundreds of miles away from a user and still feel closer than in a poorly done session when you’re sat a metre away. So whatever the literal distance, don’t design from a distance!

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Things we’ve learnt about remote working

The move from working in a large, open-plan office with high ceilings, to working in your own living room, spare bedroom or kitchen table was undeniably strange at first. While most of us usually prefer working quietly, with headphones or in silence, we all know that we can ask questions, discuss ideas or bring up this morning’s nightmare commute, in person. Now that this isn’t an option, we’ve had to adapt to new ways of working, communicating and keeping track of workload. So here are some things we’ve learned about working from home:

Communication is key

We use the Discord app to communicate, both professionally and socially. With dedicated chats for different projects, we can hold multiple conversations over different chats without the messages for each individual project getting lost. A big benefit of online chat is that you can access the history at any point instead of being tempted to ask over and over again what that link was, or what colour we picked for that button. It’s also easier to address everyone directly at the same time, instead of trying to get them to look away from their computers while they’re furiously writing code. 

The lack of morning chats and group meetings is a definite downside – especially when motivation is hard to find, but we do regularly have voice chats and catch-ups. There have been no awkward Zooms so far.

Create a workspace and plan ahead

Home is usually where you rest, eat, watch TV, sleep, play games, read books, do a bit of gardening. Making it the professional environment required to be able to stay productive is not easy, but not impossible. Having a clean work space with no background noise from the TV and maintaining a routine are the best ways to stay focused. It’s always good to know what you’ll be doing tomorrow, so you can dive right in the next day, rather than being tempted to repot your plants or colour-code your books.

Oh, and do not work from bed.

Gifs are the internet’s gift

Every day we greet each other with gifs, say goodbye with gifs, and share stories from our uneventful weekends, with the help of gifs. I’m not sure how we haven’t run out of them yet. The point is – use them, they’re one of the internet’s greatest gifts.

Don’t sit too close to the fridge

Last but not least, the greatest temptation of all. It’s brilliant that working from home means you can cook a warm lunch from scratch, but taking a trip to the kitchen every 15 minutes in search of inspiration and coming back with biscuits might not be that healthy in the long run. 

So, there you go! We hope Damibu’s guide to working from home is at least a little helpful. Give us a shout if you have any productivity-in-the-living-room-tips of your own!

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Innovate UK funding awarded to further develop Damibu Feeds

Innovate UK funding has been awarded to further develop Damibu Feeds – a unique technology to improve management and syndication of online content.

Damibu has won funding in the ‘business-led innovation in response to global disruption’ competition related to COVID-19. Damibu’s vision is to transform the way that information is published and consumed online, improving transparency, validity and trust.

Feeds allows organisations to curate their own unique resource by aggregating ‘trusted’ data sources into custom information Feeds. These Feeds can then be delivered via any online technology: websites, mobile apps, voice (Alexa, Siri) or Internet of Things devices.

Feeds is very flexible and Damibu envisages the platform becoming ubiquitous. Societal benefits include the spreading of validated information to combat fake news and increased productivity, allowing additional customisation of information e.g. for cultural relevance.

Liverpool CCG is currently deploying our Feeds on to 62 GP Surgery websites. Citizens will benefit by receiving up to date information on COVID-19 and service changes.

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Masters to Masterpiece – becoming a Design Lead in tech

We chat with Dan Gladman, Lead UX Designer at Damibu, about creativity, tech for good and the importance of asking questions.

What made you want to study design?

I’ve often had thoughts about why I feel as though UX design appealed to me, and the conclusion I have drawn is my ability to empathise. Through personal experience, like growing up around disability and being raised with good values, I have always had a natural gift to empathise with people, which I feel is a great base for making a good UX designer. This, mixed with great guidance from teachers when starting out in the subject. People who were genuinely passionate about spreading the word of good design.

How would you describe your current role?

My role at the moment is UX Designer at Damibu. I have to be very versatile – one day I could be designing and writing code for a website, the next creating a logo and brand for a new product.

What was the most surprising thing about it when you first joined the company?

I suppose there were two main surprising factors. We were in the midst of a busy time of year so the pace of delivery and turning work around was very fast. The next was the freedom within the role, I was encouraged from the start to work transparently and have never been pushed in a certain direction without firstly having input, which is great!

What’s the main difference between academic and real-life design?

Academic design can be very paper thin, and often the work delivered in university wouldn’t stand up in real life. Real life design is more rewarding, too. Seeing users engage positively with a real product you have designed is a nice feeling. I would say overall, in real-life design, there is less time for ‘head in the clouds’ thinking. That’s not to say it doesn’t get done (or demean its value), but deadlines are often tighter and projects have real clients, which is a step up from University.

What’s the most exciting aspect of working in UX for you?

UX can be applied to anything. People often think of the UX designer as somebody who designs app or web interfaces, however, it can be so much more and the creative side of this combined with a range of different projects which come through the door keeps me engaged. Personally, the fact I can apply beautiful design to great tech for a good cause is something I’m really proud to tell people I do.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Patience. Design is all about expression and creativity, which I believe are two things which you can be hot and cold with. The days when you are not feeling as creative are challenging, so when a great project comes in and the creative flow isn’t quite there, patience is required.

Do you have any words of advice for recent graduates?

Don’t be afraid to ask. Our office is very open and I know personally when I first started this can come across as quite intimidating. Nobody is perfect coming out of uni, and the only way to learn and grow is to communicate with people who have the right experience. People will respect this quality a lot more, and you will see progression in your work by doing so. I would say though this comes with a balance of independence, the ability to take decisions into your own hands when needed is also key.

I would also say it is vital for new starters to follow strictly a design process in projects. At Damibu we tend to follow the double diamond.

What have you learned so far, during your time at Damibu?

I could go into lots and lots of specific details about the wealth of knowledge I have gained, but the list would be too long! I would say, to sum it up – the industry is always changing, so keeping engaged and a finger on the pulse daily to always be learning within my role is vital. As the industry is always moving, so must I.

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CATCH annual report

 

As one of our most established projects, CATCH (Common Approach to Children’s Health) has been around since March 2016 and has over 11,000 users from seven CCG areas. Damibu produce an annual report each year, detailing general progression, feedback from users and professionals and potential impact areas.

In the year 2019/20, CATCH grew to over 1,040 articles from 28 different sources. Our new national content providers include RoSPA, Hungry Little Minds and PACEY.

This year, we found that 9 out of 10 users felt more confident to care for their children after using CATCH and would recommend it to friends and family.

“As a first time parent, every little thing makes you worry and question if something is wrong but this has helped calm me and realise what is normal (google is not your friend!)”

CATCH User

Though CATCH was originally created to address unnecessary A&E and GP attendances, a larger number of impact areas have been identified, including vaccination uptake, breastfeeding, school readiness, perinatal mental health, smoking in pregnancy and childhood obesity, which have been supported by professionals. This year, we asked users in which ways CATCH had helped them. Most popular areas were vaccinations, breastfeeding, healthy eating and exercise and play.

The identification and initial support of these potential impact areas show just how much the power of having clinical validated, locally relevant and age appropriate information to hand can have. Damibu continue to work with stakeholders to understand how we can support these areas moving forward.

This years report can be accessed below:

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A few words about CVs and portfolios

We don’t ask for any kind of application form. Candidates are asked to provide a CV with an optional cover letter. A well written cover letter, which shows that somebody has actually researched the company, the role and taken the time to write a heartfelt response – will guarantee a good look at the CV.

CV

The first thing we check is qualifications – it is possible to get a job without a degree, but it’s going to be much more difficult to demonstrate that you have the knowledge required for the role. Although that’s a double edged blade, because a good degree does not mean you’re a good programmer.

We have to check the candidate’s location, because as a company we’re just not in a position to sponsor visas. Sadly, we have to disqualify many talented people based on that.

The overall quality of the CV is important. Some universities will essentially have a class during the curriculum where a student will be given a template for a ‘good CV’. When you’re reviewing over 100 CVs for a position, these ones are really obvious. It gets to a point when you think ‘If you can’t be bothered to spend time on your CV, why should we bother reading it?’.

Attention to detail is where lots of people mess up: making sure the text is correct and the dates all make sense. Generally if there’s an error, it won’t get your CV thrown out, but it will definitely come up in the interview. It’s super awkward when a candidate gives a 5-minute talk about the cliché, ‘my biggest weakness is my superb attention to detail’. Then has to squirm in their seat whilst they explain that they actually graduated in 2018, not 2008 as stated in their CV.

List what you did on your degree, we’re interested to know what modules you studied. This is even more important now that we’re seeing less computer science graduates and more unusual qualifications, like games design.

Realistically, anybody looking for a job in a software company should have enough skills to make their CV look good. Even if you’re awful at design (which is probably not great for a small company like ours, programmers with an eye for what looks good are very handy), you should be able to find a template to use.

Portfolio

A healthy library of projects showing code is the best way to showcase your ability. Bigger projects are preferred to smaller ones, because it’s more likely that the person will have actually done the work. Often, we see portfolios that are full of tiny ‘tutorial style’ projects, but in these circumstances you’re normally told what to do and you’re essentially following a recipe and adapting it a little. This doesn’t actually reflect real-life programming experience where you’re trying to solve a genuine problem.

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How to sell to the NHS

So you’ve got a widget that’s ready to go and you want to ‘sell to the NHS’…

Don’t ‘sell to’ but ‘tender for’

All public bodies abide by strict rules regarding how they spend public money. If the cost of any project amounts to more than £181,302 (February 2018) it must go out to public tender. This value is called the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) Threshold. Purchase processes for anything under this value will change according to which public body you’re dealing with. However, even below this threshold there’s a lot of pressure for public bodies, such as NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), to open projects for a public tender process.

The benefit of a tender process is that the buyer has, 1) already decided that they want a solution to their problem, and 2) has already set aside money to pay for it. Of course, this might not work for innovative products. If they don’t know that there’s a solution to their problem, then they might not go out to tender for it. However, there are increasing requests for ‘expressions of interest’, to review the possibilities around a particular problem.

Even if you’re not considering tendering, it’s always interesting to keep an eye on the regional tender portals, such as ‘The Chest’, the North West’s Local Authority Procurement Portal.

Don’t ‘sell to the NHS’ but ‘sell to a NHS provider’

Many companies have a widespread belief that it’s required to sell direct to a trust or a CCG, however sometimes it’s actually easier not to go directly to the NHS. There are providers to the NHS whose commissioning rules aren’t as strict, so you could instead go to a healthcare provider servicing the NHS.

This could get you in easier, with less commissioning rules, and it would provide you with a test case. In many cases, once you get to know the workings of the NHS, you may find it’s the providers that are the perfect purchasers of your solution.

On the other hand, you may have an idea or a widget that, with a bit of research, will be ready to ‘sell to the NHS’…

Don’t ‘sell to’ but ‘partner with’

Another route is to partner with an NHS organisation via a grant-funded project from UK Research and Innovation or similar initiatives. You’ll find NHS organisations are happy to partner with you and even happier if you can pay for their services. In some cases, such as SBRI Healthcare, projects can come with a partner from the start. If your targeted grant doesn’t come with a partner, there are programs and organisations, such as the Innovation Agency, one of the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), that will help you link in to the NHS to find one.

In either case, if you’ve got a widget ready or you’re going to develop one, nobody’s interested in your technology – they’re only interested in what your technology can do for them.

Don’t ‘sell the tech’ but ‘sell the benefits’

You will need to put your solution in a context that somebody in healthcare will understand. Google ‘NHS Business Case’ to find an NHS Business Case template on the old National Innovation Centre website. This format is a well-known way of putting a business case to NHS trusts. The sections’ content applies whether you’re selling to the NHS, a provider, or asking for a grant, so in either case filling in the Business Case won’t be a waste of time.

When applying for grants, you must make clear how your idea is aligned to national policy in the NHS. For example, if you’re doing something related to GP surgeries, you have to explain how and why it links to the GP Forward View or another relevant policy.

If you’re going directly to the NHS, you need to remember that to get to the stage where someone is assessing your project, you need to have already done all of your testing and you would have already passed all of the hurdles related to referencing national policy. This means, that you have to adjust your applications: text that you have previously written for a research and development grant may not be suitable for an NHS trust tender or proposal.

It could work, but if you join everyone else in saying, ‘we support the 5 Year Forward View’, then you won’t stand out. It’s best to point out the benefits which the reader can naturally match to their policies. For example, the Cheshire and Merseyside Sustainability and Transformation Plan focuses on prevention and children’s health. When writing about an innovation which addresses this, you could say specifically that this will prevent children using GP surgeries. Concentrate on those particular issues and what benefits they can bring.

So you’ve got your innovation, you’ve written your Business Case and you want to start ‘selling’ into an NHS organisation…

Don’t ‘sell to the NHS’ but ‘sell to a person’

The first thing you need to do is to find a ‘sponsor’. This would be somebody who might not have direct control over the money, but will have control or a strong voice in your solution’s clinical area within the organisation. For example, a Children’s Clinical Lead within a CCG, if this is what your product refers to. Your sponsor will be prepared to vouch for and promote your product within their organisation. A sponsor is vital when ‘selling’ innovation.

In the world of innovation, you often have to ‘sell’ the problem before you can even start to think about selling the solution. This takes time, energy and tenacity. There needs to be a strong emphasis on patient involvement in innovation. As much as your product can be clinically relevant and viable, it must have patient feedback behind it too. If you have no access to patients, your sponsor – given the right ethics sign-off – may be able to help you. First-hand experience and continuous evaluation are essential.

However, it’s very doubtful that your sponsor can just buy your product. They’ll have to fill in a certain amount of paperwork – how much depends on what your product costs. If it’s £5,000 then it might be 2-3 pages, but if it’s £100,000 then it will be a much bigger process. However, if a sponsor has to spend two weeks doing it for one innovation but only a day for another, then they’re going to spend less time but more promotional energy on the latter. This is where a well written Business Case comes in. A well-structured Business Case can give the answers your sponsor needs for their paperwork.

So everyone wants it, but there’s still a problem…

Don’t ‘sell to’ but ‘tender for’

Yes, we’re back to this one. Even having gone through all of the above, you’re still left asking for money from a public body. Not only does the paperwork increase as the cost goes up but also the ‘strictness’ of the acquiring process – each NHS organisation has different levels of power and ownership of budgets.

If you’re selling a product for £1,000 then a senior staff member may be able to sign it off. However, even at, say, £5,000, a head of department might need to get two or three verbal quotes, and at £50,000 they might need three written quotes. Also, even though the formal OJEU Threshold for public tendering is £181,302, many public bodies have policies that demand public tendering at a far lower level.

So, in the end, you’ll probably end up tendering anyway.

Finally, don’t ‘sell’

Generally, clinicians don’t like being ‘sold’ to. Working with the NHS should be seen as a partnership for the good of patients. Anything you produce should have full and true patient involvement throughout. Co-create during development; user test during prototyping; and evaluate during delivery. In the long run, this will deliver a far better product that the NHS will want to take advantage of.

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Do you want to work for us? Read this

At Damibu we like to hire graduates. By hiring local graduates and training them up to be developers we can help young people come into the industry. It stops the vicious cycle of asking for lots of experience and references for a junior-level role when the candidate hasn’t had the opportunity to gain that experience yet.

The most important qualities that we look for in a potential employee are quite cliché things. We need someone who would fit in with the team, enjoy the role and want to be a part of what we’re trying to do as a company. Somebody who shares our vision.

We’re most interested in people who are constantly improving their skills – the perfect employee will push the company to keep up with them, rather than us pushing the employee to improve. We want problem solvers, which is why the most important part of our interview process is a practical problem solving exercise.


No professional experience is usually required, although it does, obviously, look really good. University experience is less interesting because, very often, it’s based on group projects where it’s very difficult to discern exactly what the candidate did from the rest of the team.

We’ve had interviews with graduates who have achieved a first in their degree, but did zero programming and provided evidence of experience for projects where their role was as project manager. Not to say this isn’t a good experience to have, but it doesn’t reflect the skills that we’re looking for in a developer role.

The best experience comes from having a pet project, something that the candidate is passionate about and have been working on in their own time. This best reflects what working life is like: you need to be self-motivated, find solutions to problems yourself and work independently to goals you have set.

Any experience that can demonstrate a person’s work ethic is always good. Sometimes people leave things off their CV because they feel it’s not relevant, but if you’ve been pulling 12hr shifts in McDonalds whilst doing your degree, that’s very important information that we need to know – it says a lot about a person’s character.

There are some common myths and interview advice that many applicants believe, such as turning up really early to an interview. We are a small company: we all work in an open plan office; there’s no reception or waiting room; and usually if we’re doing job interviews we’re trying to cram as many in each day we do them. If you turn up 45 minutes early for an interview (yes, it’s happened) we’ll tell you to go away.

If your interview is at 3pm, the appropriate time to press the door buzzer is 2.55pm or later. And if you’re running late, that’s fine, give us a call or drop an email to let us know.

Nobody ever contacts us prior to an interview but our office is hard to find, parking is basically impossible, public transport is not particularly easy. Why not ask about this kind of stuff before the interview? We work here every day, so we can probably advise the best places to get a parking spot or which buses to avoid during rush hour.

We have a very relaxed dress code, but people turn up in very fancy suits on very hot days. We’re doing the interview in shorts and t-shirts, whilst the poor candidate is being cooked alive in his three-piece skinny-fit suit and clip on tie. If people sent an email asking what the dress code was, they would probably be much more comfortable in the interview.

There are some university-inspired traits that aren’t actually that helpful in a real job. There’s a big challenge with trying to make graduates realise that universities are money-making organisations. Obviously, many students are paying for their studies with student loans, and are at a point in their lives where those loans don’t really mean anything.

The truth is, if universities stopped making money, they’d stop being open, so much of what the university tells the graduate has to be taken with a grain of salt. Often candidates have completely unrealistic expectations because the university has told them things would be a certain way, but that’s not how it works in real life.

Throughout academia you are told to not copy other people’s work, to not talk in class, to not use Google. This is because they want to test their students’ independent knowledge but in real life, building on other people’s successes, communicating as a team and the ability to research before spending time on something are super valuable skills. Again, this is where real life practical experience comes in. A pet project can solve many academic issues.

Here’s our top tip. We’re looking for programmers – people who are passionate about solving problems using computer code. We’re not interested in people who have learned the language and are just after a nice job. Passion about what you do is important to us.

There’s a big difference between someone who can read and change code that somebody else has written (in the older days we’d call this a ‘script kiddie’) and somebody who writes code from scratch. To be fair, in real life you spend a lot of your time adapting things that other people have made, often the manual you are following will suggest certain ways to do things – of course you should follow that suggestion. But the most important skill for a good programmer is to know that one day you will face a problem that nobody has faced before, the answer can’t be found on Stack Overflow, the manuals aren’t going to help you – and in that situation you must have the skills to sit down and write something from scratch.

You need to be able to solve the problem. All of our recruitment cycle is about trying to find a person capable of this one skill (that you will rarely use) but it’s what separates the script kiddies from the real developers.