Category: Recruitment

Diversity and inclusion at 3Squared

3Squared diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is so important within a business. But what does diversity and inclusion mean? People often assimilate one with the other and fail to realise they are not interchangeable terms – there is a difference between diversity and inclusion.

Diversity in the workplace is having variety in the people you hire and employ, whereas inclusion is having an environment where people can come to work, feel comfortable and confident to be themselves, by having their differences acknowledged and respected. Inclusion comes from culturally making the varieties work together. Then there is the concept of equality, which is about the fair treatment of everyone. Equality is underpinned by workplace legislation, meaning a lot of workers are legally protected from discrimination and other exclusionary behaviours.

Why is diversity and inclusion important?

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce are extensive. Not only does a variety of different perspectives lead to better decisions, it also increases innovation, reduces staff turnover and can improve a company’s reputation. Lots of prolific brands like Apple and Facebook now have diversity and inclusion drives, targets and teams or committees set up to specifically address the aforementioned goals.

Fortunately, many companies have started to wake up to the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, but there is still a considerable way to go. Even if people are not persuaded by the moral benefits of making improvements in these areas, the business case for diversity, inclusion and equality is compelling, as evidenced by plenty of studies. Research suggests that companies with good levels of ethnic diversity benefit from 35% improved financial returns. Employees who can be their authentic selves are more likely to perform at their best and be proud of their company. Candidates are also now actively seeking to learn more about a company’s approach to diversity and inclusion before deciding whether that’s a business they’d like to join.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to 3Squared?

3Squared has worked hard to embed diversity and inclusion into its process, culture and decision making. To us, it’s all about encouraging as many people as possible to apply for the jobs we advertise and removing any barriers to hiring people from underrepresented groups, in terms of unconscious and unacknowledged bias.

We want to make sure the door is held open to all potential candidates – anyone and everyone can apply for a job at 3Squared. The aim is to create an environment where everyone is welcomed, can thrive, and feels valued. This work may not ever be “done” but we’re proud we have made a start.

The two industries 3Squared work in – the technology and rail industry – are lacking in diversity in many areas, but efforts are being made to change this. Despite progress being slow in the industry, 3Squared is fully invested in diversity and inclusion for the long term.

We strive to promote equality in many areas such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity and religion, gender, age, educational background, physical ability, and cognitive differences. The technology industry’s staffing profiles are still very much “young, white, middle class, degree-educated males” but we are working hard to change that and will continue to do so in the coming years.

There are now organisations such as the Tech Talent Charter, which 3Squared is a signatory of, that have been specifically set up to address inequality in the sector. The idea is to submit inclusion and diversity data to benchmark progress with other businesses and share insightful learnings. Generally, if you are part of these organisations, you are showing a genuine commitment to change and will be held accountable for your level or lack of progress.

Diversity and inclusion tactics employed by 3Squared

There are numerous tactics we employ as a business to ensure we go above and beyond in the diversity and inclusion space. We have devised a 2-year programme of work made up of many smaller actions. It’s very much a sum of its parts – these actions alone might not make difference, but altogether they do. We have rolled out the following initiatives:

  • Recruitment commitments and values drafted and published on our website. These allow candidates to see the ethics in which we conduct recruitment with and will hopefully encourage more people to consider a career at 3Squared.
  • Re-design of our careers web page including messaging that encourages candidates to apply, even if they don’t meet all the requirements. Research shows women are reluctant to apply for roles if they feel their skills don’t entirely match the job description.
  • “Blind” screening candidates i.e., sending through CVs and covering letters redacted from personal details as to not trigger an unconscious bias.
  • Hiring manager training on unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training.
  • Assigning and training Mental Health First Aiders.
  • Incorporated a sickness policy that references mental health.
  • Using a job advert language checker to ensure we are incorporating gender neutral language.
  • Using a recruiter who specialises in sourcing diverse applicants.
  • Utilising a variety of job boards.
  • Making accessibility improvements on our website.
  • Performing diversity recruitment analysis when we fill a role to assess how well we have performed.
  • Stopped indirect discriminatory policies such as Christmas shut down and offered adjustments over the calendar year, so all staff feel included, i.e. Ramadan.

In addition to all the above, we are Disability Confident certified, members of the Tech Talent Charter and part of the Rail Industry Association Diversity and Inclusion drive. We are also involved in a school’s programme for underprivileged schools.

Nurturing a diverse and inclusive workforce is vital for the future

For workplaces to evolve, it’s vital that diversity and inclusivity is placed at the heart of a business. After all, it brings a wealth of new talent and increased opportunities. One positive offshoot of Covid is that there is now more elasticity in terms of working locations and hours. Employers are finally realising flexible working arrangements can work successfully, and hopefully this may be of benefit two groups in particular:

  • Females, whose statistics show that they still bear the brunt of childcare. The UK’s childcare bill is the second highest in the world and approximately 1 in 3 mums don’t go back to work after maternity leave.
  • Differently-abled people may also find it easier to secure work. The unemployment rate for people with a registered disability is double that of the rest of society. Better accessibility and different environments will hopefully remove barriers and get more people into work.

This identifies two new areas of underrepresented talent in our industry to further explore and we hope to see more applications from candidates across these categories in time. I hope that in my lifetime, we will be able to have truly meritocratic workplaces, employing people who represent UK life in the 21st century.

How to best implement a diversity and inclusion strategy

For those businesses looking to embrace a diversion and inclusion strategy, I would advise taking a long hard look at what you do now and asking your staff members for honest feedback. We’ve inadvertently made mistakes in the past and we’ve learned from them and done things differently the next time. You will need to brace yourself for difficult conversations and be committed to really listen to individuals’ thoughts and feelings.

It’s just as important to think about who is best to carry improvements forward at your workplace. For example, as the HR Manager, I am a white, middle class, degree-educated female. My gender makes me a minority in rail and tech, but the rest of my demographic profile is very industry typical. I can easily think of diversity and inclusion from my perspective, but I’m very aware I shouldn’t be speaking on behalf of others. Our frames of reference are all different. Our values and ways of thinking vary depending on our background, age, ethnicity, and social circles etc., so I’m aware I need more perspectives before rolling out processes or practices that only I’ve designed.

You also need to embrace a two-pronged approach in terms of addressing the needs of your candidates’ pool and existing staff – you have got to consider and act at both ends, increasing the variety of people through the door and supporting the people to work effectively and empathetically together.

A key motto we champion here at 3Squared is “you get out of people what you put into them”. When it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees, people will always remember how you made them feel at work, so create values you can live by and include everyone – it’s up to everyone to make a change but it’s often down to a couple of individuals to act as “ambassadors” or “champions” to highlight areas that need to improve and drive any advancements.

To find out more about the work Cherry and 3Squared are doing to support women in rail, read Lucy Prior’s (Business Engagement Director) recent interview with the European Observatory for Gender Smart Transport here. To find out more about how you can join the 3Squared team and the current opportunities available, please visit our careers section.

Working as a woman in the rail technology industry

Amrita Pradhan, Head of Quality Assurance

Everything around us is data. We encounter data in every element of our lives. From doing our weekly shop, to paying the bills, to monitoring our sleep, data is around us every second of the day. On the face of it, rail technology and its associated data may appear to be distinctly different. However, within the bare constructs, it underpins a huge part of our life in getting us safely and seamlessly from A to B. Something, which, when you pause to think about, you might not have considered before.

Experiencing rail in my previous role marked an exciting turning point in my career. The intricacies of the data, the innovative projects and the people that make up the industry, really drew me in and led to me joining 3Squared in April earlier this year. The industry has huge swathes of data to unpick, and we can use this to obtain insights that are beneficial and can truly transform the rail sector. A fantastic example of this can be found in the industry’s reporting, evolving from being paper led into digital. This has been a huge industry undertaking, with an incredible amount of documentation and information to translate and talented minds coming together to provide solutions.

Working with the technical and non-technical team at 3Squared, we use this rich information to develop processes and roadmaps, to help the team to deliver high quality products and services to a market-leading standard. We work collaboratively with our customers to solve challenges and create solutions, taking them on a journey to show them the possibilities that data and technological solutions can provide.

A significant challenge that we often encounter is how to use data streams, unpick the information that is collated, and then how to translate it to create a great product. When developing apps that can have a complex architecture, understanding the system design and data flow helps us to overcome these complex problems.

We are constantly evolving and learning, developing apps that aim to streamline the customer journey; every day there is something new to learn thanks to the advances we have made in technology.

Looking ahead, I look forward to being part of an industry that will continue to use data in increasingly exciting and innovative ways. For example, how far can we leverage the use of GPS transmitters? They have already made waves in terms of better managing train delays and keeping passengers informed. They harbour such rich potential for the industry – it will be exciting to see how they can be harnessed further. We truly can-do wonders with future digitisation and data.

To me, gender does not play a part when working in the rail industry. If you are technically minded enough and love a challenge, then it is the place for you. It is a collaborative and welcoming industry, with a thirst for the future and making a positive change. So, if you are looking to make that leap, then I would say – jump in!

To find out more information about how you can join the 3Squared team, please visit us here.

What are the Benefits of Academic Partnerships?

3Squared Academic Partnerships

3Squared employees Rachel & Lucy at a careers fair. Lucy was previously a placement student at 3Squared but will now join the team as a graduate.

Successful academic partnerships can create amazing opportunities for all parties involved; the student, the business and the education establishment. A successful collaboration with a well-suited college or university provides a company with a multitude of benefits. However, it is important to remember that a fruitful partnership is built on mutual interest and investment in the students, the industry and the wider community, and it’s essential to ensure the student and employer are well-matched.

A year’s placement shouldn’t be a case of carrying out a year in a work environment for the sake of improving a CV or to acquire cheaper staff members, it should offer a wealth of opportunities for all involved to reap the benefits both now and in the future.

Our partnership

At 3Squared, we have a long-standing partnership with Sheffield Hallam University that has existed since the start of our business in 2002. Co-founders, Tim Jones and James Fox, both Sheffield Hallam alumni, have ensured 3Squared is well and truly committed to its partnership with the university. In the last 18 years, we have taken on 60 placements from Hallam, and our current workforce is made up of 60% Hallam alumni, clearly demonstrating a track record for converting work placement experience to real-world employment.

As with most placements, these are offered between the student’s third and final year, giving them the opportunity to transfer the skills they have acquired so far in the academic environment and build on those in the working environment. We have also recently been able to expand our partnership to include colleges, providing internships for students.

A successful partnership between a business and a university or college can create a scenario where all involved can reap the benefits.

Benefits for the student:

As well as the opportunity to build on their already learned skills and knowledge, a placement can help an individual to mature and grow personally, making them even more desirable to an employer upon graduation.

A well-placed student who is matched to not only the industry, but the business itself, has the potential to really shine. The student will also have the proven ability to integrate into a workforce, or more specifically, in a ‘team-based’ environment, as opposed to the individual working style of academia they are used to.

Placements students will gain skills specific to the industry or their chosen subject, while increasing their knowledge of the chosen sector. This offers a fantastic foresight into an industry, allowing the student to better consider their future choices in terms of employers or specific areas of a chosen field.

When a placement is a successful match and the student makes an impression on the business, there is the opportunity for employment after graduation, or at least the chance to reach out to those contacts made during their placement period for employment opportunities.

Crucially, for any student who undertakes a successful placement, being able to clearly demonstrate their ability to transfer their skills to the workplace, evidenced with references, will give them a distinct advantage in a competitive graduate recruitment environment.

According to Prospects, the graduate career experts:

‘Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can provide students with fantastic practical experience, so don’t discount them when it comes to work placements. They’re often overlooked, but small businesses are great for allowing you to act on your own initiative and develop your own way of working. What’s more, they provide superb opportunities for networking. If you’re a confident, creative and motivated team player who is prepared to get stuck in you could quickly become an asset at an SME.’

We completely agree.

There is no doubt that a placement at an SME can serve as a great stepping stone for students looking to climb onto the career ladder and gain invaluable insights into the working world. In fact, many of our past 3Squared placement students have gone on to have successful careers. Take former 3Squared placement student, Meg, for example. Meg used to work for 3Squared as an IT & Support Engineer and told us all about the vital experience she obtained and how it helped to shape what she is doing now. Meg said:

“My day-to-day responsibilities consisted of trouble shooting and solving any client issues, attending weekly check-ins with the clients, applying best practices and lessons learnt logs to improve current and future projects.”

She is now a project manager on the largest transformation programme within Co-op which is expected to bring in £70 million in benefits realisation and is currently overhauling the way it uses its stock system.

“My placement year helped me understand the next steps in my career as it gave me the opportunity to see what roles there are in the ‘real world’. I was able to figure out what I wanted to pursue after university.”

Like Meg, Simon Rose undertook a placement at 3Squared as a Software Engineer and has since gone on to achieve great things. He said:

“I worked in the .NET team at 3Squared from September 2013 to September 2014, then part-time (full time in the University breaks) until May 2016 whilst I finished my Masters”.

After graduating, he then left to do a PhD in Computer Science at Sheffield Hallam.

“I published papers and worked as a lecturer during that time (some of the recent placement students at 3Squared have been taught by me!)”

Since then, Simon has acted as the end point assessor for the Digital and Technology Solutions Specialist degree that is run by Hallam, gone freelance and started a digital marketing business. Simon added:

“I loved working at 3Squared and the skills that I gained there have definitely helped me in what I’ve done since. Both my programming & presentation skills improved hugely.”

Benefits for the education establishment:

The most obvious benefit to the education institutions who have proven placement partnerships with businesses is they can improve their reputation as a provider who not only offers the specialist education required, but is forward-thinking regarding a student’s future and employability, putting itself ahead of its competitors when attracting the best talent.

Working with local SMEs, as demonstrated by 3Squared and Sheffield Hallam’s partnership, gives an opportunity for the education establishment to form relationships with key local employers, clearing demonstrating its commitment to its surrounding community. This shows real social responsibility by keeping the skills and talent in its locale.

Benefits for the business:

Providing opportunities to placement students offers a host of benefits to your business. It is a fantastic opportunity to discover the next generation of talent that could be attracted into your industry, and the ability to fully engage those students before they enter the job market. Working closely alongside them as they take their first steps towards employment enables you to hone and develop the practical skills they need to succeed within your business. This gives you the chance to connect and build a relationship with them that can result in a permanent role in the future.

The management of placement students also offers the existing workforce the chance to nurture and mentor, building their skills and competence at the same time. For smaller businesses, younger people can provide fresh perspectives that may just change the way you do business – which is critical in an innovative company such as ours.

As with the education establishment, there is the social commitment to the local community that every business should strive to achieve where possible. Bringing in talent that has been honed on our doorstep is something we are committed to doing wherever possible.

Placements can also bring improved diversity and inclusivity to your business by attracting a wide range of individuals from all kinds of backgrounds. Diversity is beneficial in so many ways, helping your organisation to better understand its customers, boost innovation and increase company performance.

How it works in reality

3Squared’s alliance with Sheffield Hallam University has provided numerous benefits, across the board, for many years now. It not only gives us access to the next generation of digital workers and helps us obtain fresh perspectives into our industry, but it also enables us to cultivate top talent at a grassroots level.

Sheffield Hallam benefits by being able to develop students’ employability via a local business they trust and share a close relationship with, and students are able to gain meaningful experience. Working for a SME such as ourselves, as opposed to larger corporations, exposes them to different areas of the business. Working in an intimate environment means they are easily able to form valuable connections and make contributions that make a real difference.

Everyone’s a winner

In the rail and tech industries, many companies and institutions work together incredibly successfully, providing placement opportunities that are fit for purpose and mutually beneficial for all involved. The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) is a fantastic example of the rail industry acknowledging the skills and knowledge available within higher education and how it can be used to accelerate new technologies and provide a step-change in innovation for the rail industry.

When it comes to forging successful academic partnerships, our view is that everyone benefits if the placement is carried out thoughtfully and when the student is matched with a business in which they will thrive. Many institutions and business offer placements, but crucially it is the partnership between the two that results in the success stories for all of those involved.

To find out more about our partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, take a look at one of our recent blog posts here.

Sheffield’s 3Squared celebrates 18-year partnership with Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University 18 year partnership

Thanks to a fantastic collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University, digital solution specialists, 3Squared is celebrating the 18th year of awarding work placements to its students.


With each placement lasting 12 months, 3Squared has now provided placements to more than 60 Sheffield Hallam students, from its Department of Computing and Business School.


During 2020, 5 new placement students started their journey following 3Squared’s involvement in the university’s Preferred Placement Scheme, and next month sees the 60th graduate start a full-time position with the company along with 10 more confirmed placement students starting this Summer.


James Fox, co-founder and Commercial Director of 3Squared, comments:

“I’m really proud of our partnership with Sheffield Hallam. We have been working with the university since our business began back in 2002, following our own graduation from the university. We understand from our own experience how valuable work placements can be, particularly in such an innovative sector, and we’re delighted to be able to offer something back to the university and the local Sheffield community. Over 60% of our current staff are graduates of Sheffield Hallam, and the majority of our placement students have gone on to become 3Squared employees. This is a fantastic track record for us and the university, and really demonstrates both the power of the partnership and the calibre of the students in the area.”


Mike Heselton, Computing Employability Lead at Sheffield Hallam University, comments:

“We are incredibly proud of our relationship with 3Squared and the real depth of the partnership that has offered advantages to so many students, year on year for nearly two decades. The quality of 3Squared’s placements ensures our students are not just shadowing others in the workplace but are spending 12 months in a real, paid job and gaining valuable insight into the working world. The 3Squared team shows a real understanding of what creates a worthwhile placement, through the support they give, not only during the placement year, but also beyond. The success of our partnership is clearly evident in the number of permanent roles that have resulted from placements and we look forward to many more students working with 3Squared in the years to come.”


Simon Rose, who now runs his own digital marketing company, comments:

“I undertook my placement year with 3Squared from September 2013 until September 2014 and also returned to work there while studying for my Masters and during holiday breaks. I worked with the .NET team and the skills and experience I gained there have definitely helped me with what I have gone on to do since. In the three years I worked with 3Squared, my programming skills hugely improved and also my presentation skills and confidence developed through dealing directly with clients. I also learnt a lot about business processes from watching how clients were moved through the system. It was a great place to work with a really supportive team and I’d highly recommend doing a placement there.”


3Squared is based at Fountain Precinct in the city and offers pioneering digital software solutions, with high profile contracts and clients including HS2 and Network Rail. Founded by Sheffield Hallam alumni James Fox and Tim Jones, 3Squared was established in 2002 following their graduation and so began the long standing and incredibly successful partnership. James, Tim and the 3Squared team are committed to investing in the next generation of digital talent, especially if it comes from the local area and the ongoing partnership with Sheffield Hallam University is just one of the ways they are investing in the city and their local community.


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