Meet our computing employer partner, Razor

Razor is a fast-growing digital agency based in the heart of Sheffield. As digital experts, Razor help businesses to refine their technology, ensuring that it’s efficient, effective and perfectly fit to meet their needs and objectives.

The company has worked alongside clients from a range of industries, including retail, travel, ticketing and utilities. Over recent years, Razor has made a name for itself within Sheffield’s burgeoning tech-sector and beyond, with a model predicated on results.

Recently, Razor have been sharing their expertise and mentoring computing students at UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park. We met with Project Manager Ellie Mosley and Software Developer Elliot Chaim to find out what they’ve been doing.

What does Razor do?

We help businesses to get the very best out of their technology and software. Through our discovery process, we get an in-depth view of what the business already has in place, and what they want to achieve. We then provide our recommendations as to how their technology can be adapted, updated or where new technologies should be implemented.

We develop our own solutions, apps and software, tailored to our client’s needs, providing them with technology that works. We all know that technology is a massive enabler for businesses, but it’s important that it’s done right so that it can perform as effectively as possible and doesn’t waste a business’ time and resource.

We help businesses to get it right, providing recommendations, and developing tailored approaches, but also providing ongoing development and support so that technology continues to work.

Can you give some examples of the kinds of projects you work on?

We recently worked with Virgin Trains East Coast to help them to bring their on-board tech up to date. Some of our team accompanied staff on a real-life journey to see how they used technology, programmes and apps, how these worked in-situ and how they could be improved. The changes that we made to their technology have helped to make their on-board staff’s jobs easier, as well as providing an enhanced customer service.

We’ve also been working alongside ticketing site Ticket Tannoy, making improvements to their website. Their site struggled to cope during periods of increased traffic, regularly going down whenever it got busy, jeopardising sales and customer experience. We helped to increase the capacity of their site by 700%. Now there’s no down time, even at crucial busy periods, and we were able to reduce the cost of hosting at the same time.

How did Razor start?

Razor was founded by software developer Jamie Hinton and project manager Steve Trotter. Jamie and Steve both have vast experience in software and technology development, having both worked with a number of blue chip clients.

Originally, Razor was set up more as a side project, but after its success, and seeing just how much demand there was for what they were doing, they set the company up in 2009. Since then, the business has grown significantly, now employing 13 members of staff, working with a range of freelancers and consultants and some of the UK’s leading businesses.

How are you working with UTC Sheffield?

Sheffield has a thriving tech sector, and as a successful business, we wanted to help share our expertise and use our experience to help others who are looking at a career in the industry.

In order to do this, we’ve been mentoring UTC students, providing advice and setting project challenges to give them an insight into what it’s like working in the industry. We’ve attended mentoring events and have spoken to students, providing advice and insight into what we do.

What sort of projects do you set the students?

The first one we set was all about UX – user experience. Elliot and myself also did a brief for the students, to create what we call a ‘tech radar’. As a technology company, we’re continually trialling, testing, reviewing, adopting, and sometimes rejecting new and current technologies. This is vital so that we have a broad view of the tools we can use to benefit our clients. To help us keep track of emerging technologies, or ones we have used or tested previously, we use a ‘tech radar’.

This task really helped the students to learn more about different technologies and how to evaluate their effectiveness and usefulness. As well as this, it taught them about important client-facing skills such as managing expectations, identifying client wants and needs, establishing set objectives and budgeting.

How did you brief them about the latest project?

The UTC students came to the Razor office for a half-day session when we did an initial presentation to give them a flavour of what a digital agency is like and how we work with clients.

We then did a requirements-gathering exercise with them, where we role-played the client and gave them an initial briefing paper and encouraged them to ask questions to capture the full spec of requirements. We wanted them to dig down further about things like budgets to develop their commercial awareness. Requirements capture isn’t just about the cool techie stuff, it’s how long things are going to take and how much it’s going to cost as well. It was a really good exercise and they exceeded our expectations, asking all the questions we’d kept up our sleeves.

What about the coding work itself – how did they do?

We gave them a month to complete the first half of the project, but in all honesty we didn’t think they would be able to get much done in that time. We were surprised by how much they’d actually done; especially given all the other projects they were working on.

At the final presentations, it was as if they were presenting to a client. Their work was fantastic and was really up to a professional standard. They’d worked as a team, taking different roles within the project, and overcame obstacles to do a great job.

Creating the tech radar was a difficult task, they were unfamiliar with the relevant technologies, but this didn’t hold them back, they used their existing skills to learn it for themselves, with great results. It’s this kind of hands-on experience and mentoring that can really inspire and benefit more young people to enter our industry.

What do you think of the UTC?

We were incredibly impressed with the UTC’s incredible facilities. We thought the user experience lab and the robots were amazing. It doesn’t feel like a school, more like a university.

What next?

We’d like to do another project with the UTC, it’s great to see the impact that it’s having on the students. Mentoring is a brilliant thing to do, and it’s good for us to learn what the students want to know, what kind of tasks they will benefit from, and how we can best help them. It’s great to see people who will be working in our industry in the future and give them a helping hand on the way.

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