Graduate Case Study – Craig Burgess & James Sheriff – Genius Division

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Genius Division Website Screenshot
Genius Division — Branding, Web, Apps & Print — Barnsley

Former students Craig Burgess and James Sheriff have been running their own agency since 2010. ‘Genius Division’ design and build ‘digital stuff’ including websites and mobile / web applications, as well as creating brands for local, regional and national clients. They have a history of employing FdA Web Design students, and their team now includes alumnus Aaron Linley in a Front-End Developer’s role. We asked Craig and James to reflect on their time on the course and what the future holds.

Everything I learnt on the course was really valuable. The autonomy that it instilled in you – to go away and learn new things – not just to ask questions all the time and expect to get an answer, really helped me, said Craig.

James added: I tried two universities before joining the course. I learnt more in just a few months on Wakefield’s FdA Web Design than I ever did at university.

Craig believes the industrial focus of FdA Web design was particularly beneficial. He explained: I was Project Manager for the course's professional / commercial projects so that really helped me. I had never done anything like that before. I’d never led a team, so learning how to be ‘professional’ was really useful.

He continued: Anyone interested in pursuing a career in web design and development should definitely consider FdA Web Design – it's one of the best I've seen in the country. Since leaving University and setting up the business I've met lots of people that have done similar courses, specifically from universities, other Foundation Degrees and HNDs, and personally I think this one was much better.

It gives students a really good grounding in the basics of web design and development and also provides a good view from the employability side as well. People tend to finish the course knowing exactly what they want to do within web or digital design, which is valuable for an employer because you want someone that's focussed and knows where they want to be in a few years' time.

We asked Genius Division what they considered were the most important employability skills for new graduates in the Creative & Digital Industries.

Craig: For me, especially as an employer, it’s soft skills and being able to learn things independently. One of the most important things when you go out into the industry is being able to advance your knowledge from what you have already learnt on the course, commented Craig. Because the industry is moving so fast technologically, you have to keep learning things all the time. So for me it’s being able to learn stuff and not let your knowledge go stale, and soft skills such as being able to talk to clients and give presentations.

James agreed: Being able to talk to clients is a really important one, and I think that's something the course really does well – allowing you to deliver presentations; stressing the importance of communication skills; and being professional.

He continued by crediting the impressive network of contacts the course has developed over the years, which has lead to over 50 graduates getting jobs in the Creative & Digital Industries: Even years later, we regularly contribute to the course, and take an active interest in the student’s progress. We’re still in touch with a large amount from our time on the course, which is testament to what an unparalleled network the course spends so much time crafting.

Craig now leads a Web Development module on the course, teaching students about Content Management Systems [CMS] like WordPress, and James is a visiting speaker on the topic of managing a Creative & Digital business.

We concluding by asking Craig what the future held: That’s a really tough question. When I left the course I really wanted to run my own business – that was always a major goal of mine – and now I’m doing it. What do you do next? It’s really difficult to say in our industry where we are going to be in five years time. One thing's for sure though, I’ll still be learning new things, as I do every week.

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