Sage, the only FTSE 100 technology company is now 32 years old, and with over six million customers is the third largest business software company worldwide. In 1981 it was just another North East tech start-up with a feverish ambition to explore new ideas and innovate.
Whilst the company is now much bigger the ambition remains. “We’re always driving forwards,” says Graeme Fletcher, Head of Enterprise Technology & Development. “Whilst we continue to develop the highly successful on premise products that our customers love, we’ve also embraced modern technology and moved into the world of cloud-computing. For example, SageOne, our new proposition for start-up and small business, is delivered entirely online. Sage 200, our proven financial software for growing medium-size businesses, is now available in the cloud as well as being available as an ‘on premise’ version to give our customers more choice.”
Despite its huge success and global growth, the UK &Ireland, and Global headquarters remain in the North East. The strikingly modern, glass-and-steel offices in Gosforth’s Great Park is home to over 1300 employees working in an atmosphere of relaxed but purposeful intent.
Apart from a pride in its roots, there are two main reasons why Sage continues to support the North East. The first is the quality of the workforce. “The capability is here, so why move?” shrugs Graeme. “Our people are highly skilled, and we can draw talent direct from the universities and the local rich talent pool”.
Sage has structured graduate and apprenticeship schemes and is eager to strengthen its links with the region’s universities and schools. For example, Sage mentors North East students for the annual international Microsoft Imagine Cup Challenge, which is open to students worldwide to create innovative and original software applications. Mark Thompson, Development Team Leader, who mentored students for this year’s Challenge said: “It was fantastic to see the ideas the students came up with and their passion for software development. The experience connected Sage to some of the brightest up and coming minds in the North East and offered some great examples of true innovation.”
Sage’s three-year apprenticeship scheme is possibly one of the most challenging, and exciting in the industry. In the first year alone, apprentices are expected to make group presentations, participate in meetings, deliver work to deadlines, as well as get to grips with a wide range of technologies and methodologies, from testing applications to coding, from web development to data modelling. “I gained an incredible amount of experience, skills and knowledge of the IT world during my first year,” says Ryan Burness, aged 19, of his first year as an apprentice. “I worked with many teams within the development function which allowed me to gain so many new technical skills; an opportunity that not many people in the IT industry have the chance to experience.”
The second reason why Sage continues to support the North East is that the region is now a powerful and growing technology hub. “It ranges from the large employers like us, to literally hundreds of small technology companies and start-ups,” says Graeme. “and we are actively supporting the local technology industry”.
In the last few weeks, he points out, Sage has sponsored two local events: the fourth annual DIBI (Design It: Build It) conference at Gateshead’s BALTIC; and DDD North (Developer! Developer! Developer!North) at the University of Sunderland. The latter attracted hundreds of technologists from around the UK and abroad to listen share and connect. “It was a fantastic knowledge-sharing and networking forum with many different experts giving talks on varied topics, all voluntarily.” says Graeme “which we were very happy to support.”
But those North East roots are more than just skin – or soil – deep. They permeate far into the region’s communities. What many people may not realise is that every Sage member of staff is given two paid charity volunteering days a year, in addition to their holidays, and the activities undertaken vary widely.
Join Sage and, history shows, you may not want to leave. “If you have the ability, you can go where you want,” promises Graeme. “A lot of our senior leadership team have worked their way up through the organisation, where we support talent from within, and supplement with talent from outside.”
If I didn’t already work there I’d be sending in my application…