Rachael Rothwell – My First Week With SharpFutures

Growing up the Sharp Electronics building has always been part of my local landscape. Travelling into Manchester on the train it was a recognisable landmark of my journey but more as a derelict unused building. These days the train no longer runs and has been regenerated into our new tram system connecting our city better than ever. This is also true in regards to the Sharp building as it has also been regenerated and evolved into the place I’m currently starting a work placement for SharpFutures, working for the Sharp Project. It really does feel that as my landscape is changing around me in local area, so are my opportunities. I will be writing a blog to give an insight into what it is like to undertake a placement with SharpFutures, what I learn through this experience and what opportunities it presents me. It will involve the typical day to day activities of the people around me, hopefully showing what an asset this space can bring for young people and Manchester as a community.

Before taking this placement the building had always seemed a bit of a mystery to me as a passer by. From the outside you would not imagine the changes the building has undergone, and the environment that has been uniquely created to help the creative digital community grow. Being 25 and a graduate I felt that I was at a standstill working as a restaurant manager just to get by. Applying for different jobs was hard with most employers looking for previous experience, but this always created a problem. This problem is put perfectly in an article about SharpFutures that quoted Rose Marley (CEO of SharpFutures), she hears the same problem from young people all the time.

“ Without experience, I cannot get work, without work, I cannot get experience”

This was my problem until I got this chance, and realised that people are willing to invest time in my generation and my future.

Scooters, Skateboards, news and social media
I’ve never had such a varied first day on a job. When entering The Sharp Project, it could quite easily pass as a building full of conventional offices. But then you step out into the heart of the building, which I now know to be called The Campus, and you realise there is nothing conventional about this space. There was people socialising over dinner, a game of ping pong in the corner and the odd scooter/skateboard passed by.

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Behind this scene, there is a really clever idea. It exists so that all the people renting the space in the offices around can interact, and network in a relaxed way. This is important for the building to work, and as a placement something I can benefit from. Meaning that skateboarder, that ping pong player could be someone who could offer me a job in the future.
It was a really interesting and exciting first day as I realised my schedule could change instantly, offering me opportunities to gain knowledge and experience. Mid afternoon, Channel 4 News arrived to do a last minute piece on The Sharp Project, to be aired on the news that evening. I got to ask questions about the different shots that were needed, and how the shots would be used. This was followed by a meeting, which I was invited to observe, between SharpFutures and Tiger Aspect. I got an inside view on how social media works with productions to promote interaction, interest and build a fan base online. This can be done while a show is being aired, in-between episodes or even in-between series to keep interest with the audience.
The day left me with a feeling that I can really work hard and make something of myself. I talked to successful people in the industry and heard their stories of how they have progressed in this industry. Hopefully I will get to be where they are one day; everybody has to start somewhere.

Spot the hotdog
There are some perks to the job, today there was a costume sale from Fresh Meat via Objective Productions which airs on Channel 4. Held in red zone amongst the shipping containers everyone came out to see if they could purchase something special. I went along with apprentice Sophie who has been showing me the ropes. If you can’t quite see her she is the girl dressed as a hot dog. Sophie has other talents apart from dressing as fast food. She left college after one year but has been completing an apprenticeship on Front of House. She works on reception, which has given her a chance to see how the company works and has gained experience in the financial side to the business. Sophie also works on events through SharpFutures such as Digital Teapot. Working on these events she has realised it would be a possible career path for her in the future, which would be possible now she has this experience.

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I also had a chat with Colin Boulter one of our tenants from Neilson Reeves. He purchased himself a lovely array of hats, as he believes if you ever want to make a new group of people feel comfortable around each other. Make them wear silly hats, and any pretence will disappear.
It may just seem like people at a jumble sale, but this is just another example of how the building creates opportunities for tenants to socialise and make closer connections.

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Workshops influencing the next generation
If only I had this opportunity when I was younger. I remember being in school and the same careers, kept coming up Dr, teacher the traditional careers. So when I got the opportunity to accompany a school tour which included workshops, I could see how useful this would have been for the younger me. This seemed especially true when the school I was accompanying on the tour was my old school. The students got to sample workshops within different creative sectors. These included photography, green screen journalism, coding, gaming and digital forensics. The whole emphasis of the day was to showcase what careers are available. I found this knowledge valuable myself and got involved in a few. Below is a picture of some of the students taking part in a photography workshop.

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Throughout the whole day the students were engaged with what they were doing and responding enthusiastically. At the end it was nice to hear the student responses. The Sharp Project as described by one student

“ Everyone is so nice, and cool. I hope that one day I can work here”

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It’s nice to see that these students might not have to wait till they are twenty five, to find an opportunity like this.

This was just a view of the types of activities that took place in my first week, hopefully there will be some more updates in the future.