In October we invited two secondary school girls to join us at Candyspace for a week of work experience as part of our Now+Next programme – an initiative launched in collaboration with partners to inspire, encourage and build connections for young women entering the digital industry.
At Candyspace, we were determined that our work experience programme would teach transferable skills, provide real hands on experience and help open the door to a career in digital and technology.
There was no photocopying or coffee-fetching in sight as our Candyspacers kicked off our inaugural work experience programme. Our team of tutors hosted informative sessions to give the students insights into the reality of working at a digital agency and gave them a whistle-stop tour of the basics of designing and building digital products.
Then, the students were challenged to put what they had learnt into practice as we tasked them with the discovery, design and build of an app and website that they would be able to use as a foundation for their digital portfolio.
The first stage of responding to the creative brief to build an app that put pet owners in the driving seat of their pet care – inspired by our real-life work with Mars Petcare – was the discovery phase. The students conducted user interviews with pet owners in order to develop their own sweetspot between the requirements of the business brief and the needs of users.
After completing the interviews, the students dived into Figma for some practical experience with some of the tools we use, mapping out the crucial information they had gained from users on post-it notes to help inform their design and build.
While discovery is an important stage of any project, there was a key soft skill we wanted to help the students develop as they conducted the interviews: confidence. By allowing the students to lead the interviews, we wanted them to have complete ownership over the process and the build.
Our Candyspacers were there to guide and answer questions, providing a more realistic experience of the collaborative nature of digital agency work, rather than instructing or providing rigid tasks.
Now it was time to get creative. Using wireframing sketches on both paper and Figma (a piece of design software our creative team uses), the students could get to work creating the look and feel of their apps. This is where their sessions with Senior UX Designer and BIMA100 alumni El Reeve were brought into practice as they learnt how to balance stylistic designs with functionality and accessibility. This was no mean feat either, as the students had to apply a variety of skills that they only had a limited time to learn.
This stage of development encouraged the students to actively ask for feedback and to not be afraid of trying things that might not necessarily work or make it into their final designs. We aimed to give them a practical sense of what it is like to work in digital agency and a design and development team, in which open and constructive feedback is a part of the every day of a client project.
As the final stage of the project, the students were introduced to development. They explored what software develop is and where they may interact with software beyond the obvious uses and programs they already know. This included a breakdown of YouTube and TikTok, looking at apps they're familiar with and breaking down the individual aspects and features of the different video players, as well as the sequences behind someone playing a video on the platform.
The students were then given templated APIs (a way for two or more systems to communicate with each other) that would let users create a pet profile using basic information such as breed and name. Using the pain points they had identified during the discovery process they then added in other data that users wanted to input into the profiles, including age and food type, to help meet the brief of helping pet owners feel more in control of the data they share with vets.
Then the students were tasked with tying it all together. Working on the front and back end, they created a web version of their app. The branded website was pulled together using the designs they had worked on in the previous stage, as well as basic animations, hover states for buttons and simple visual aspects.
The result was a fully realised product that targeted the sweetspot between customer and business needs, and the beginning of a digital portfolio for the students who completed the work experience.
A programme to inspire the future leaders of digital
To help tackle the gender gap in the technology industry, Candyspace have collaborated with partners to launch Now+Next, a new association that aims to inspire young women through understanding possibilities, providing connections and gaining experience in data, design and technology.
You can find out more about Now+Next here.