Kentish Town: a hive of tech activity as old warehouses become dynamic startup hubs Pic: Stephen Emms

Kentish Town: a hive of tech activity as old warehouses become dynamic startup hubs Pic: Stephen Emms

There’s been a huge yet largely unnoticed shift in the kind of work available in Kentish Town in recent years. Not only that, but many of the professional roles that currently need to be filled didn’t even exist a short while back.

The reason for this unpredictable, yet ultimately exciting development, is the clustering of tech industry companies in the area, a phenomenon now celebrated monthly with an informal social drinks beano (see below for this month’s event details).

Although all this presents some attractive new career opportunities – particularly if you live nearby and put value on a commute-free quality of life in London – it can be difficult to know where to start in this brave new world of employment.

So we spoke to some of the leading local players, all of whom are recruiting at the moment, to discover their tips for standing out from the crowd and landing that perfect job.

MVF team photo at their K-Town HQ

MVF team photo at their Ryland Road home

Ryland Road’s MVF Global has been in the press a lot recently, not only for climbing The Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies To Work For list in 2014, but also for launching an astonishing £3m recruitment drive that will see 100 new positions filled at their K-Town HQ over the coming months.

“Research the company and really know who they are and what they do,” says Lexie Newnham from their HR team. Casually Googling an About page simply doesn’t cut it, particularly with an organisation like MVF, that specialises in cutting edge customer acquisitions strategies for major brands.

“A real interest in digital marketing and the tech scene is key,” says Lexie, “and at to impress us in the interview stage you have to demonstrate you have the same levels of nous and passion of our founders.”

Lucy Minton from rent-a-parking-space app innovators Just Park, based in the new Piano Yard development, backs up the value of decent research.

“We speak to far too many people who think they want to work in a tech startup company, but know very little about what that means or about the business they are applying to. This research should go beyond things like the culture and focus on the details of what makes that specific company an interesting place to work.”

Do your research: tech jobs in great environments can be found across NW5

Do your research: tech jobs in great environments can be found across NW5

She advocates getting in touch directly rather than simply scouring the jobs pages. “Don’t worry if there isn’t a particular suitable job on the website. If you are really interested in working for a company, send them a speculative email. Growing companies are always on the lookout for smart and enthusiastic people and you may just get in there before the vacancy goes public.”

Zoe Cunningham, MD of Highgate Studios-based tech developers Softwire highlights the industry’s thirst for the best people as one of the key advantages when looking to work for a forward-thinking tech operator.

“I’d always recommend trying to contact the companies directly and speak to the person who makes hiring decisions,” she says. “Startups tend to be smaller and adopt more modern business practices, meaning that the people in charge see it as part of the job to be really friendly to any potential employees.”

Zoe is also passionate about good networking, so much that she’s co-founded Tech Talkfest, a project that aims to help people polish their skills at making great connections. The next event takes place in Kentish Town on September 15th in association with fellow expanding Highgate Studios business and student marketing experts The Beans Group.

Digital careers: jobs nobody had heard of 5 years ago

Digital careers: jobs nobody had heard of 5 years ago

Their founder, James Eder – who will speak at the next Tech Talkfest – agrees that networking at every level is essential. “Reach out personally, follow us, find us on Linkedin, connect,” he advises. “Do your research online and attend Kentish Cluster’s monthly drinks. These are all good ways to be in touch for when an opportunity does come along that fits your profile.”

Something all these companies have a common is their belief that the fast-paced social changes brought on by digital technology present an amazing opportunity.

This might be at odds with the views of many people who’ve seen tech advances threaten their chosen vocation, but with the creation of new careers nobody had event thought of half a decade ago, it might simply be time to reassess the marketplace.

“The world around us is being transformed,” says James. “The job creation and opportunities far outweigh the disruption we’re seeing and long-term this is the only option for the UK to compete on a global stage.”

He backs up the view with some simple business stats: “With almost 50 of us now at The Beans Group, 15 years ago none of these jobs existed.”

Highgate Studios: old carpet centre now stuffed with tech industry newcomers

Zoe Cunningham agrees: “There are loads of new job roles opening up. One million more computer programmers will be needed by 2020, and more and more digital and interface designers will be needed too. Tech is enabling small and startup businesses, which tend to have really flexible roles and great learning opportunities too.”

And the rapidly shifting goalposts present opportunities to carve a niche for yourself, even if that’s not what anyone foresaw at the start. “At MVF, we’ve had people start in one role and end up in a completely different one as new avenues emerge,” says Lexie Newnham.

All this is happening right here and now in former carpet warehouses and piano factories as Kentish Town’s commercial face adapts once more. The area’s unique mix of the industrial and the residential makes it a highly attractive place for today’s tech companies to prosper.

“We love Kentish Town because it is filled with character, independent shops and great places to hangout after work, so we want to employ people who love it too,” says Lexie.

“Lots of people who work for us already live in the borough of Camden, if not within walking or cycling distance, which gives Kentish Town an almost ‘campus’ feel at times. Some of the best brains in London work here, and the Kentish Cluster is a fantastic example of this in action.”

So come along and find out what is bubbling away here in NW5. Kentish Cluster takes place at a different local venue every month and is at The Oxford, 259 Kentish Town Rd this Thursday, 28th August. 6pm-9pm Register now for a place including free drink.

Useful links: jobs pages at some of Kentish Town’s tech leaders:

The Beans Group MVF Global Softwire Mumsnet
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