When Northcoders announced its acquisition of Tech Returners in early February, it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Chris Hill and Beckie Taylor, co-founders and CEOs of the respective companies, have built fascinating businesses focused on upskilling people on tech. Once the dust had settled, it made complete sense.

Listed Northcoders runs training programmes for software coding and data engineering, targeting people looking for a change in career, while Tech Returners – also headquartered in Manchester – specialises in training and placing of mid-senior level professionals looking to re-enter the workplace after a career break in the tech sector.

“From our very first meeting with Northcoders back in 2017, there was always a mutual respect,” Taylor tells BusinessCloud. “They focused on junior level talent whilst we focused on returners with a wealth of industry and tech experience. 

“Coming together was a no-brainer: we could offer our partners and the industry a holistic approach to hiring diverse tech talent.”

Taylor will discuss the opportunities and challenges around building a flexible workforce – and tips for doing so – in the opening episode of TechBlast’s new podcast webinar series, Launchpad, on July 28th. You can reserve a spot at the link below and submit a question at the bottom of this page.

Launchpad: Building a flexible workforce – with Beckie Taylor

Tech Returners is continuing to operate under its existing brand, with Taylor and her co-founder James Heggs joining the Northcoders senior leadership team. The idea of selling the company even took them by surprise.

“We had been exploring options to scale the business, and although we had conversations with investment companies, none of them felt like the right fit for us,” she explains. “Northcoders then approached us with the idea of collaborating on a programme as part of their Department for Education initiative. 

“As the conversations progressed and the project took shape, we saw both further opportunities for collaboration and a myriad of shared values. It quickly became evident that by joining forces, we could offer a comprehensive range of non-competing programmes and solutions to our joint partnership.

“To be honest, we hadn’t even considered a sale… by combining our experiences and skillsets, I believe that we have created something really special that will have a lasting impact.”

Taylor told us last year how, upon returning to her high-flying HR role following a period of maternity leave with her son, she ‘didn’t feel herself’ – and this would lead to the launch of Tech Returners.

The CEO says it has been a “whirlwind” period for her and Heggs since the cash-and-shares deal, worth £1.5m, was announced.

“Our main focus has been on integrating our internal teams, promoting cross-company learning and giving everyone a voice during the transition,” she says. “As a HR leader with experience in mergers and acquisitions, I anticipated some of the challenges, but going through it with my own business has brought truly unique learning opportunities.”

Busting the myth of 60-hour weeks

In 2019 Taylor, who is the 12th most influential woman in tech according to Computer Weekly, founded Reframe Women in Tech – the largest Women in Tech conference in the North of England – which she will continue to run and grow as part of the Northcoders Group.  

“We’ve remained committed to ongoing initiatives. Shortly after the announcement, we successfully organised Reframe WIT Manchester and we continue to support people back into tech through the various Tech Returners programmes that are currently in full swing. 

“Managing these priorities while ensuring I have time to actively listen to and support the team has been crucial.”

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