BUSINESS AND TALENT CENTRE STAGE AT OPENCAST’S TECH FESTIVAL FRINGE

Fast-growing UK tech consultancy Opencast this week unveils a series of five showcase events for the inaugural TechNExt festival, taking place across the North East region from 19-23 June.

TechNExt has been created to promote and celebrate the North East’s flourishing tech sector – and Tyneside-founded Opencast has put together a festival fringe programme with a sharp focus on the challenges faced by technology business and the economy, as well as offering insights and ideas for those interested in a career in technology.

Opencast’s festival fringe events, happening on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 June at its Hoults Yard HQ, convene leading figures from the regional and UK-wide tech sector, including:

Chi Onwurah – Newcastle Central MP and Labour’s science and technology spokesperson
Henry Kippin – managing director, North of Tyne Combined Authority
Jacqui Leggetter, head of integration (deputy director), DWP Digital
Neil Ross
– associate director, policy, techUK
Jenny Hartley – director, Invest Newcastle
Jill McKinney – head of skills and director, Dynamo.

Opencast speakers at its fringe events include chief executive Tom Lawson, chief people officer Cate Kalson, client experience director Sam Manson and head of user-centred design Emily Allinson. Consultants working on the front line of client projects and in its people team will also speak. See below for Opencast’s full festival fringe listings.

TechNExt has been created by regional tech network Dynamo and its partner Sunderland Software City to showcase the vibrancy and ambition of the region’s tech sector. It aims to bring together more than 3,000 attendees across the week.

As well running its own festival fringe programme, Opencast has confirmed its role as a headline sponsor of TechNExt, with a presence at the festival’s main conference at Sunderland City Hall on 21 June and at the Tech Talent Live jobs fair at Baltic Gateshead on 22 June. It is also planning visits by its specialist consultants to schools in the region.

Opencast, founded in 2012, has scaled fast to become one of the North East’s most successful technology businesses, creating hundreds of new jobs along the way. It is also one of the region’s most attractive employers, last year earning a Newsweek accolade as the region’s Most Loved Workplace.

Opencast executive Tom Lawson said: “We’re excited and proud to be supporting the first TechNExt as a headline sponsor. June’s festival week promises to be massive for the region.

“Promoting and growing the North East technology sector has been an Opencast priority since we were founded in Byker in 2012 – as has been our work to improve the lives of people living and working in the region.

“We work to make a difference to people in the North East through the work we do with government departments including HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions, both of which have bases in the region. We have grown fast to become a significant employer for the North East, creating more than 300 regional jobs.”

Opencast continues to demonstrate its backing for the North East tech economy, including through its support for the Tech Talent Engine initiative, connecting job seekers with businesses and education providers. It also works to give back to the community, with a £100,000+ charitable support programme and voluntary work alongside.

“We think long and hard about our social impact and how we can help others in the sector and our wider communities,” Tom explained. “We have a new focus on how we can make a positive difference to society and are committed to being a purpose-driven business.”

Explaining the thinking behind Opencast’s TechNExt events programme, Tom said: “We don’t just want to support the festival from the side lines: we want to be a big part of it. Our HQ sessions on Monday 19 June focus on the economy and client projects, while Tuesday 20 June focuses on jobs and tech talent. We hope that our fringe events will be among the highlights of the TechNExt programme.”

Welcoming Opencast’s participation in TechNExt, Dr David Dunn, chief executive of festival organisers Dynamo North East and Sunderland Software City, said: ”We’re delighted to have Opencast as a festival headline sponsor – and we’re impressed to see it put on no less than five of its own high-profile events.

“It’s brilliant to have a home-grown, ambitious and progressive business like Opencast play such an integral role in the TechNExt festival mission.”

Opencast’s fringe events will be available to attend both in person and online. Food and refreshments will be served at all its fringe events, with networking before and after.

A festival website – www.technext.co.uk – is live and accepting event registrations for all main festival and fringe events.

Opencast – 2023 TechNExt festival fringe events – Hoults Yard, Newcastle


Monday 19 June 8.30-10.15am

Breakfast and fireside chat with Chi Onwurah MP

Newcastle Central MP and Labour science and technology spokesperson Chi Onwurah in conversation with Opencast chief executive Tom Lawson. Fireside chat follows breakfast.

Monday 19 June, 4-5pm
Technology and a manifesto for change

A panel discussing the new techUK manifesto and how technology can transform the regional and national economy. Speakers: Cate Kalson – chief people officer, Opencast; Henry Kippin – managing director, North of Tyne Combined Authority; Neil Ross – associate director, policy, techUK. Moderator: Jenny Hartley – director, Invest Newcastle.

Monday 19 June, 6-7pm
Partnership for impact: how our work makes life better

A joint session with DWP Digital, highlighting the impact of our partnership projects. Speakers: Jacqui Leggetter, head of integration (deputy director), DWP Digital; Sam Manson – client experience director, Opencast. Project talks from two Opencast consultants.

Tuesday 20 June, 4-5pm
Grow your own way: how to get into and stay in tech

A practical session on the skills required to join the tech workforce sees four Opencast specialists share their unique ‘squiggly’ career routes. Speakers: Emily Allinson – head of user-centred design; Sinéad Cummings – senior consultant, software development; Hazel Dixon – senior consultant, user research; Judith Esrome Rosario – senior consultant, agile delivery management. Moderator: Jill McKinney – head of skills and director, Dynamo.

Tuesday 20 June, 6-7pm
Myth busting: what working in tech really looks like

This session will discuss then debunk common myths about working in tech. We’re joined by a panel of Opencast people who’ve take a range of journeys into tech. Speakers: Srilekha Ganesan – developer; Mark Hall – lead consultant, agile delivery manager; Ed Harrison – junior user researcher; Kerry-Anne Kane, practice lead QA. Moderator: Khaled Nawaz – learning and development business partner.

Book your free place for all of Opencast’s fringe events at technext.co.uk/festival-fringe

Opencast was founded in 2012 by co-chairs Charlie Hoult and Mike O’Brien. It is headquartered Newcastle Upon Tyne, with hubs in London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The company believes in making life better through the power of people and technology. It delivers human-focused solutions to the challenges its clients face – harnessing the potential of people and working together to ensure technology is done in the right way.

Opencast’s vision is to make a positive impact on society through solutions that are simpler, more sustainable and fairer for all.

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