The Skills Show & Skills London

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be asked to come and work with some of the Microsoft DPE team at The Skills Show in Birmingham.

The Skills Show is the UK’s largest skills and careers event, its focus is to let young people ‘have a go’ at various activities, and try to inspire them to choose a career path that suits them.

I went with a fellow Student Partner, Gordon Walker ; Lee Stott and Simon Michael from the Developer Evangelism team, and two members of the Microsoft Partners in Learning network, Simon Johnson and David Renton.

Our job whilst we were there was to demonstrate technologies such as Kodu, TouchDevelop, Project Spark, and AppStudio and occasionally dipping into Visual Studio and showing the attendees some real, live coding (With it’s usual risks attached!) With the aim of making IT an attractive career prospect to young people.

Project Spark received a lot of attention early on, especially with the younger attendees; they were fascinated by how easy it was to create their own game world and the characters within it, as shown below.


As the event gathered pace, and the older students started to arrive,  I had more success with my Windows Phone development stand, I walked the students through some simple, ‘plain english’ programming examples for the platform, and then deployed their created applications onto real handsets. This had a great effect, the students loved having something physical that they’d created and could interact with.  I gave away a lot of DreamSpark sign up cards to the students that responded well to my demos, and many left the stand enthused and looking forward to heading home so they could get coding!


An awful lot of people were seriously impressed by our DreamSpark program, that offers a suite of professional level tools to students developers at no cost! I’ve blogged extensively about DreamSpark, it’s benefits and how to get into coding before, so I’ll leave the links to the articles here:

DreamSpark – What is the value to you?

Learning to code the Microsoft way

We had a great time at the event, and (hopefully) we inspired many young people to pursue a life long career in IT! Go team Microsoft!


Whilst I was there, I was asked if I was available to work at Skills London the following saturday , 23rd November. Obviously I agreed straight away, another chance to do what I love? It’s a no brainer!

As soon as I got home from The Skills Show, I booked my train tickets to London.

Skills London was a similar event to The Skills Show, geared towards inspiring young people to a future in IT, this time however, I didn’t focus on Windows Phone development, instead I demo’d a platform called .Net Gadgeteer to the attendees. This instantly drew a captive audience, as the young people were really interested in the circuit boards and modular components that the platform consists of. 

Our demo setup, expertly configured by Paul Foster, was some Gadgeteer modules all connected up with Pac Man on! I demo’d this alongside Andrew Fryer, who’s always a pleasure to work with!


Again at this event I put a heavy focus on our DreamSpark program, and the benefits this has for students by getting them familiar with industry leading tools, and just like at The Skills Show, many students left our stand enthused about a career in the industry, job done!

I’m really grateful to get the opportunities I do, and the chance to work with some really interesting industry people; I just hope I repay the faith shown in me by being successful in inspiring more young people to work in IT! It’s a fulfilling and rewarding industry to work in.

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