Robert Rajeswaran fled civil war in his home country of Sri Lanka and moved to the UK at just eight years old. Fewer than twenty years later, he's now a successful CEO, working to empower and educate the next generation of coders. In this interview, learn why this twenty-something CEO earned the distinction of 'Young Entrepreneur of the Year' and how an international internship played a role in his success.
TIG: Congratulations, Rob, on winning the distinction of Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the FSB & Worldpay UK Business Awards. Could you start out by telling us a little about GoCode Academy and why you were selected for this award?
Rob: GoCode Academy is a coding bootcamp on a mission to get more young people into technology. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of coders. We run after school clubs and holiday camps for young people between the ages of 8 and 18. We teach highly in-demand programming languages, like Scratch and Python. We’re part of Natwest's entrepreneurial programme backed by Dell, KPMG and Pincent Masons. We believe that coding is as important as reading and writing, and would like young people to have this skill. We were chosen as the national winner for a number of reasons. Firstly we have shown drive and ambition as well as the vision to grow the company to the next level. We have shown 18 months of sustained growth with a business plan to grown even more. Most importantly, we are a business that believes in giving young people opportunities, and also equipping them with the skills they need to get a career in this digital era.
TIG: What led to the foundation of GoCode Academy?
Rob: I was working for a successful FinTech (financial technology) company where I used to speak to founders, CEOs and CFOs on a daily basis. One of the issues that many growing companies had was hiring the workforce to do digital work, e.g. developers, digital marketers, social media gurus. And this was simply down to the fact that there weren't enough people to do the job. I found that quite astonishing because we now live in a society where young people use technology on a daily basis. An interesting stat is that young people now spend 1/3 of their day on a digital platform. I find it crazy that there are so many people using these platforms, but hardly any creating them. The issue is that schools are not preparing young people for roles or jobs in the technology sector. I wanted to fix that and give young people the opportunity to learn these skills. So that’s where GoCode was born.
TIG: What kind of opportunities exist in web development? Why should young people learn to code?
Rob: The opportunities in web development are in abundance, with only 18 million developers worldwide. From what I have observed, developers using programming languages like Ruby, C and Python are the most sought-after and well-paid.
TIG: What advice do you have for young people seeking a career in web development?
Rob: The advice I give is to be passionate about what you want to do. If that is web development then throw 100% into the profession, get the right mix of skills and experience and have the right mindset about where you want to be.
TIG: Why did you decide to intern abroad with The Intern Group? Where did you intern and what was your internship role?
Rob: I interned at TechPro in Medellin, Colombia as a Finance Assistant. I really enjoyed my experience there and made loads of friends that I still keep in touch with and see on a regular basis. It has broadened my view on life, cultures and people. I chose to do an internship abroad because I wanted a challenge, the experience and the opportunity to meet new people.
TIG: Would you recommend an internship abroad to young people? Why or why not?
Rob: Absolutely! One of the things I tell young people when I visit them is to travel as much as you can, because when you travel you become a good storyteller. It opens up many opportunities, professional and personal. An international internship is highly sought after by employers.
TIG: How did your internship abroad contribute to your success as an entrepreneur?
Rob: As well as learning a lot from my placement, I also learned a lot about The Intern Group, how they operate and also the importance of running a business with a purpose. I was able to learn this because they themselves were a growing organization.
We are pleased to announce that GoCode academy have been honoured by The British Tamil Chamber of Commerce at the LTM2017 event last Saturday. We are very happy for the recognition and would like to thank you all for your continued support 🏆⠀ #gocodeacademy #award #recognition #support #motivation #hardworkpaysoff #techies #techtalk #education
TIG: What kind of obstacles have you had to overcome in life and what advice do you have for young people facing adversity today?
Rob: So, I was born in Sri Lanka and left due to civil war. I arrived in the UK at the age of 8 after a long struggle. The first challenge I faced was the language barrier, as I didn't know a word of English... which I got over quite quickly. The next challenge I faced was adapting to the different cultures and working with other people. That was quite challenging. I also had limited opportunities due to the position I was in, but I wanted to do more. Life works in the way where you have to work hard to get the opportunities to excel, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter. For the young people who are facing adversity, I would like to say everything is possible no matter where you come from or what your views are, as long as you have the drive and the will to do better, you can and will. I have always stuck by 3 rules: Believe in yourself. Put in the work. Surround yourself with the right people.
Inspired by Rob, FSB & Worldpay's Young Entrepreneur of the Year?Apply today to boost your career with an international internship.
Photos by Robert Rajeswaran