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11/12/2017 - 14:45

Losing and replacing staff can be expensive – recruiting, training, the loss of talent and knowledge and clients’ good will, the change of team dynamics, and the dreaded domino effect where losing one key member of your team can lead others to question whether there is something better out there for them too.   

And that’s assuming you can replace employees that have moved on. In today’s world of tech, the well-documented shortage of digital skills means that competent software developers are hot property and employers really must stay ahead of the game to keep a good team in place.   

Holding onto your best tech staff is key 

High staff turnover can indicate shortcomings in a company’s management team and can impact business development and growth; for example, a high turnover of personnel will not be looked upon favourably if a company is seeking external funding.   

It is therefore prudent in today’s technology employment landscape for employers to take a strategic approach and implement measures aimed at valuing, rewarding and, ultimately, retaining their best staff.   

Here are eight aspects of tech roles that employers could be at risk of overlooking but, by considering them carefully, could reduce the chances of losing their best employees to competitors. 

1. Flexibility 

Embrace the increasing popularity of working from home. This is one trend that is not going anywhere for a while and a flexible employer can make or break an otherwise borderline role. Working from home is usually pretty viable in terms of technology teams – and the team itself will be able to provide input on how best to make this work. Once you have their feedback, ask yourself if there is anything more you can do to make this a real option for staff. Similarly, staff value the ability to work flexitime to allow for an improved work/life balance, and family friendly policies are also very attractive to an increasingly young group of employees.   

2. Professional development fund 

Consider offering key employees a budget that they can allocate as they see fit towards conferences and certifications. A so-called ‘professional development fund’ gives employees autonomy to identify those areas in which they want to develop, and also demonstrates the trust and value you as employer place on those employees. Ultimately, the employees will be more fulfilled and also become more skilled, which is a win-win for your business.   

3. Time out of the working week to spend time on non-work stuff   

This suggestion probably mostly pertains to developers who are likely to be working on their own personal programming projects out of work. Allocating a time allowance to be drawn from their working hours for them to work on personal projects will earn goodwill among staff and will mark you out as a forward thinking employer for recognising that, as your teams’ development skills grow, so too will the success of your business.   

This can still be a valuable perk for non-developers, who may choose to dedicate their ‘time out’ to working with a charity or supporting a local project. These things are great PR for a business and will reap rewards, while also satisfying employees.   

4. Equity/share scheme   

Consider how much more commitment your employees will feel to the business if they have an actual stake in its success. With the rise of crowdfunding, people are more familiar today with the idea of buying into a concept or business, and if employees feel they are helping to build the next big tech startup and stand to benefit directly from its success, they will not only dedicate themselves to their job but will likely have a longer term view of their position there.    

5. Working conditions    

It is not uncommon to hear of successful growth stage tech companies offering table tennis and pool tables, beer fridges and free gym membership to their staff. And you would be quite justified in calling it a cliché!  However, employers BEWARE. If you don’t offer perks such as these or if you don’t at least stretch to free soft drinks and occasional paid-for social events, you will stand out for the wrong reasons. It’s also important not to overlook whether the working environment is pleasant and appropriate for the role, eg is it quiet enough for developers and data scientists? Is it well-heated or ventilated? Does it have an attractive location?   

6. How ‘Joel Friendly’ is your set-up?   

The Joel Test is a simple measurement of the quality of a software team. Taking the test requires a yes or no answer to 12 questions and you score a point for every ‘yes’ you answer. Questions include ‘do you use source control?’ and ‘do you have a bug database?’ This straightforward test can be used to determine where improvements could be made to your software team. Where does your company sit on the scale? What are you doing to improve your score? If you are making a conscious effort to score higher then you will be better placed to retain staff.   

7. Regular pay reviews 

The need to review, and be seen to be reviewing, employees’ pay may seem obvious, but salaries are increasing. The tighter the employment market gets, the more offers your staff will be receiving from elsewhere, and so regular reviews (and rises) will help stem the tide and hopefully avoid the need to pull a counter offer out of the bag. The opportunity for promotion is closely linked to pay. When staff see that their effort and commitment is acknowledged and rewarded, and when they know there is a path of progression available to them, there is far less reason for them to seek alternative paths elsewhere.   

8. IT Kit 

Consider what machines you have and what software your developers use. Do employees have autonomy to choose their set up? For some developers, a certain laptop, monitor, adjustable standing desk might just matter a great deal, and if they can get it at another place of work they could be enticed away over something that could actually have been easily resolved by you. What tools are available to the team and what are your plans to keep your team and your business at the bleeding edge?     

Sam Wason & Gordon, Kaye Co-Founders and Directors at the IT recruitment agency Cathcart Associates 

01/12/2017 - 10:38



The MancML Event The first Manchester Machine Learning (MancML) event was organised by Octavia and Cathcart Associates in November 2016. Both companies wanted to create an event where businesses could discuss the exciting applications and potential of AI. Since then, MancML events have an open forum to connect businesses across the North, and led many interesting discussions about AI in a fun and relaxed environment. The event on November 23, 2017 was the biggest and most popular so far, with tickets selling out within five days of the event launch and over a hundred participants attending on the day. We heard an incredible range of machine learning applications discussed -- from the pharmaceutical to automotive sectors. Please find the summaries of these talks on the following page, and information about the sponsors, Octavia and Cathcart Associates, on the final page. We also have HD quality pictures and videos available on request.


A recent report from Accenture suggested that AI could add an additional £654 billion to the UK economy by 2030. This prediction has been supported by the acceleration in acquisitions of AI companies in recent years. Businesses in the UK have seen benefits of this increase in interest, with Microsoft and Twitter acquiring UK based AI companies Swiftkey and Magic Pony last year, which were the fourth and third most expensive acquisitions that year at $250 million and $150 million respectively.


Northern Powerhouse Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the UK

Manchester has already been primed for the development in the field of machine learning, with £4.65 million of a £17.3 million fund for the development of robotics and AI awarded to a project led by the University of Manchester. It has also been highlighted in a survey by UKTN as a ‘digital hub’, with 63% of the professionals working in the digital sector surveyed saying that they enjoyed the range of networking events on offer in Manchester. However, until 2016, Manchester had no networking events dedicated to the growing and lucrative sector of AI.


The MancML Event

The first Manchester Machine Learning (MancML) event was organised by Octavia and Cathcart Associates in November 2016. Both companies wanted to create an event where businesses could discuss the exciting applications and potential of AI. Since then, MancML events have an open forum to connect businesses across the North, and led many interesting discussions about AI in a fun and relaxed environment. The event on November 23, 2017 was the biggest and most popular so far, with tickets selling out within five days of the event launch and over a hundred participants attending on the day. We heard an incredible range of machine learning applications discussed -- from the pharmaceutical to automotive sectors.

Please find the summaries of these talks on the following page, and information about the sponsors, Octavia and Cathcart Associates, on the final page. We also have HD quality pictures and videos available on request.




The first talk of the evening was from Chris Boddington of Peak (

“Lead scoring drives revenues in the used car market” are a data analytics company, who use AI and machine learning to help

businesses grow. This year, they secured £2.5 million in Series A capital to fund the company’s ongoing investment in machine learning and AI technologies, and to further accelerate growth. Chris from Peak talked about how they used machine learning to increase efficiency in the used car market by 26%. Using only the current car registration of a potential customer, their application was able to predict when the owner would be looking to sell this car and purchase a new. Using this technique Peak were able to optimise the sales funnel for car sellers by allowing them to focus on the potential customers most likely to convert into a sale.

The next talk of the evening was from our very own Erik Mathiesen of (

“An AI Careers Advisor: Using Machine Learning to Predict Your Career Path” specializes in smart solutions for recruitment. Their technology uses AI and analytics to source and place candidates for recruiters and HR departments. In their talk, they described how they use AI, and in particular Neural Networks and Deep Learning, to analyse and predict people’s career paths. Having analysed millions of CVs, their system can now predict from a person’s CV what jobs are most likely to be next in the career path of that individual, as well as when the next job move is mostly likely to happen. By doing this, they enable companies to predict and find better candidates as well as forecast future hiring needs within organisations. From a candidate’s perspective, the use of this technology gives them the power to navigate the job market better by providing them with a clear view of their options and possibilities. Erik detailed the technologies and techniques used in this innovative application of AI and gave a few illustrative examples of its usage, before opening up the floor to a lively discussion about their technology and the general usage of AI in recruitment.

Bertil Hatt from delivered our third talk of the night on his experience of people hiring Data Science teams from scratch and when you should be hiring, rather than hiring the ‘Trophy Data Scientist’.

“How to Get a Data Science Team Started”:

Rental Cars are an international car hire service, and provide a smooth and hassle-free service. They make 8 million bookings a year in over 53,000 locations across 160 countries. They have recently established a data science team and Bertil talked to us about this journey of starting one from scratch and the many challenges involved in hiring and retaining data scientists in an incredibly competitive job market. A key issue highlighted in the talk was failing to give a newly hired data scientist clear objectives, access to data, an implementation path, and resources to fix things. The talk encouraged the audience to consider the methods and approaches to new applications for data and ML.


Mango Solutions:

Last, but not least, we had Chris Campbell from Mango Solutions ( giving us an example of how Mango have used text mining to let the machines do the work in the real world.

 “Text Mining: Let the Machines do the Work”

Mango Solutions provide complex analysis solutions, consulting, training, and application development for some of the most well-known companies in the world. Chris shared some valuable insights into their work and text mining in general. The challenge discussed was the continuing reliance of the pharmaceutical industry on manual processes, especially when it comes to searching for relevant medical research. In particular, searching medical research databases is a significant problem due to their size. On PubMed, half a million records are added a year, and 75 clinical trials a day. Chris explained how Mango have used machine learning to significantly decrease the time it takes for a medical researcher to find relevant data on PudMed and at the same time increase the precision of the data found.



About the Organisers:


 Octavia was founded in 2016 to optimize recruitment. The Octavia team believe that technology will improve the recruitment experience for all parties by dedicating time to people, not to processes. With their proprietary AI technology they help recruiters and employers hire their ideal candidates by quickly finding the right people and talking to them, instead of spending hours of screen time searching. Octavia offers integrations into existing HR systems as well as a standalone AI-assisted recruitment CRM.

Cathcart Associates

Cathcart Associates was founded in 2009 by two of the country’s most successful IT Recruiters. They offer a simple, professional and effective recruitment solutions to some of the UK’s most exciting organisations. As an independent organisation, with offices in Edinburgh, Manchester and Bangkok, Cathcart Associates try to understand each individual customer, beyond the basic skills of a vacancy and strike up a truly collaborative relationship. Their data analytics team specialises in helping companies across the North of England and Scotland to grow their data analytics capability. They have regularly been recognised as one of the best Recruitment Consultancies in the UK by REC, IRP and S1.

Charity Engagement

MancML is proud to support Prostate Cancer UK.



Erik Mathiesen,

Liam Wilson,

16/11/2017 - 12:03

2018 is set to be a huge year for tech companies in Scotland as GP Bullhound, investment and advisory company have recently confirmed that Edinburgh is “one of it’s European tech hub hotspots.”

With Edinburgh increasingly being acknowledged for having well known, successful technology startups, it has been confirmed that the 2018 Northern Tech Awards will take place in the capital for the first time. The awards have predominantly been held in the North of England, so this is a huge achievement for Scotland and shows how the tech scene is developing at a very fast rate.   

GP Bullhounds’s Managing Partner, Hugh Campbell, predicts “increasing investor appetite for Scottish technology companies in 2018 and beyond.”

Read more:

09/11/2017 - 15:58

According to the latest HIS Markit Report on jobs, the high demand for permanent and temporary staff is still very prominent in Scotland and the number of permanent job placements increased at its fastest rate since 2015.

Scotland are continuing to outdo the rest of the UK in the growth of permanent placements, which is hugely encouraging for jobseekers in Scotland who are seeing more opportunities with higher starting salaries.

However, with this positive news, Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, warns that the number of available candidates for jobs continues to shorten.

“The supply of candidates available to fill permanent positions in Scotland fell sharply, continuing a trend observed in March 2012.”

A huge factor for employers increasing starting salaries is to try to attract those with desirable skills to move. Kevin Green also highlights that we must continue to have a huge focus on attracting EU workers to Scotland and make them feel welcomed. With the uncertainty of Brexit, it is understandable that those out with the UK are reluctant to move and thus “we urgently need clarity around future immigration systems.”

Read more on this:

18/10/2017 - 10:36

Independent IT recruitment specialist Cathcart Associates is to expand its foothold in Manchester to meet the record demand for skilled technology staff among the north of England’s start-up businesses.


The international company projects 100% increase in turnover year on year over the next three years in its Manchester division, taking revenue to over £4 million by 2020.  Headcount is expected to double over the same time frame. 


To meet the challenge of the new workload, the business has established a dedicated training programme for graduate recruits who will work on the company’s expanding Manchester-based client list. Cathcart, which was founded in Edinburgh in 2009, has projected ambitious yet achievable fee income targets for the next three years that would be a record percentage growth for the company if achieved.


Manchester is a hotbed for technology startups and since opening its Manchester operation two years ago, Cathcart has seen demand for its specialist IT recruitment services grow steadily, as well as chalking up some significant business wins, including a partnership with one of the UK’s best digital agencies, Mando.


Outside of the office, Cathcart Associates has been building its reputation with its sell-out event series MancML, organised alongside intelligent search business Running quarterly, these events bring together some of the brightest minds in the UK in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Analytics. These informal meet-ups give Manchester-based companies that are pushing the boundaries of machine learning the chance to share experiences and hear from speakers at companies like Peak BI, Auto Trader and INRIX.


Cathcart believes in playing an active part in the buzzing technology and IT community in Manchester.  These free events, create opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs to forge partnerships, while offering a glimpse into some of the UK’s most prominent IT companies and providing businesses with support and additional learning.


Sam Wason, co-founder and director of Cathcart Associates, says: “The volume of tech success stories coming out of Manchester is impressive. Manchester’s technology sector is bursting with potential and we are excited to be part of the tech scene here and to support it as it competes with other tech hubs for talent and business.


“While there are other IT recruitment firms in the area, Cathcart Associates stand out for its quality of approach and service. We are an independent business, free from the constraints of a parent company, and our dedication is now feeding through to the results we are seeing in the business.”


The company’s graduate scheme has been set up to deliver a unique training programme that provides trainees with the highest possible standard of recruitment training.  Cathcart already has a policy of hiring only new graduates and this programme formalises this growth strategy. Five trainees make up the first cohort undertaking the tailored programme to become fully-fledged recruitment consultants. The six-month programme will see the trainees undergo intensive training, mentorship by senior team members and subsequent integration into the business.

L-R Sam Wason with co-founder Gordon Kaye

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