About us - Kloodle

Embedding a culture of employability throughout education

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The Kloodle Story

 

I didn’t realise you could get blisters on the ends of your toes.  They weren’t painful. Just strange. They must have emitted some pain, but it paled in comparison to my quadriceps. They positively screamed at me whenever I moved. So I didn’t move. I just sat there contemplating the feat I had achieved. Whether it was a feat of human endurance or sheer stupidity…..well, that remained in the realm of opinion. I was erring on the side of stupidity at that point.

I had just finished the Welsh Ironman, a gruelling triathlon of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle, and a marathon to finish. I was now in the finisher’s tent, pork sandwich in hand, trying desperately to remove my trainers. It was proving futile. The energy required to bend forward no longer existed. The day had been an emotional one. I had swung from “this is the best day ever”, whilst in the crystal clear waters of Tenby’s ocean, to “that’s it, I’m quitting”, when the driving rain lashed my skin half way into the cycle. I had held on. Motivated by Jeremy Paxman’s old adage of “I’ve started so I’ll finish”, I trudged my way over the finish line, arms aloft and feet in tatters.

Was it worth it? I started my Ironman quest whilst at university. I was in the midst of applying for graduate jobs, and thought endlessly about my employability. I went as far as auditing my soft skills. Highlighting my gaps, I started to list experiences that would fill these deficiencies. “Resilience” was one item on the list, and next to it, I had written “Complete Ironman”. Half way round, I thought it evidenced “Stupidity” more effectively.

Students embark on these types of experiences throughout their educational lives. From being at high school as a member of the school council, to college and a participant in the annual production, to going to university and managing your halls of residence, these experiences define an individual and are what make education great.

We are in an age where your qualifications, be them GCSEs BTECs, A Levels or degrees, are no longer a differentiator. It gets you in the night club, along with everybody else. Your soft skills are the secret sauce. They ensure you do not go home alone. Your qualifications may get you an interview, but your personality and extra curricular activities that will secure you that job. Each website, book and blog post I read all pointed towards this. They stated the importance of developing a “well rounded” personality, and numerous examples of when you “handled pressure”, “led a team”, or “organised yourself”. School careers advisors regale their students with this advice. The best pupils heed it, the rest meander on doing nothing.

I made it my job to accrue these examples, hence my journey through the pain barrier in Tenby. I knew I could then answer “tell me about a time you demonstrated resilience” with “I swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112, ran 26 all on the same day, and lived to tell the tale”.

Trouble is, I never got the opportunity.

I sent countless applications, each one greeted with an automated, consolatory email thanking me for my application and apologising for my rejection. I had averaged 85% at university, pursued a whole host of extra curricular activities, gained relevant work experience and finished the bloody Ironman – all for the purpose of getting a graduate job – and this is what I had to show for it!

I looked over my applications wondering why I was met with such apathy. The only blemish I could see were my A-Level grades. My grades were populated by letters further down the alphabet than desirable, and were probably the reason for my lack of success. I bemoaned my ill-fate, but the experience had me thinking. Employers place importance on soft skills, yet place minimal importance on these during the early stages of the application process. How could they? All they had to go off was either an automated application system, or worse…..the CV!

 

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Putting students into sets is counter productive
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I mean, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote a CV. It’s been kicking around for years, unchanged, unquestioned and still useless. We live in a world where we can video ourselves screaming loudly whilst a sadistic friend or partner drenches us with ice cold water. Or, we can wave an iPhone in our makup-less visage, snapping our “au-natural” selves, only to cover up the results with Instagram filters. We record our lives with the click of a smartphone, yet, when it comes to marketing our qualities to a potential employer, we search frantically online for “CV templates” and produce a boring document that assigns our character and personality to one side of A4.

How mundane.

We should be able to use our media-producing capabilities to create a rich online profile of our soft skills; a place to show employers what we are made of. The line “completed Ironman Wales” in my CV didn’t cut the mustard. I wanted them to see my gaunt face, the perspiration on my brow and the joy and relief I felt crossing the finish line. I wanted them to live my resilience and determination. They would’ve thought twice about clicking the “Reject” button, then. They’d be afraid I would run to their offices and cause a commotion. Us Ironmen do those sorts of things, dontchya know.

 

I wanted to make a CV that would allow you to document your whole academic journey – from primary school, to high school and on to college and university. The CV is a chronological listing of all the jobs you’ve had. A student hasn’t had many, and you end up writing irrelevant rubbish to fill the page. What students do have, however, is an abundance of soft skills they develop throughout their time in education. They’ve sat through great lessons that teachers painstakingly plan. Learning takes place on the journey and not during the exam. Why don’t we record this journey? I would’ve loved to see a video of the day I learnt my first phrase in German, or the first time I handled Hydrochloric Acid, petrified it might burn a hole clean through my hand. These experiences are what makes education, not the damp squib of sitting an exam.

 

The skills students develop on a daily basis are the skills that really set students apart in an employers eyes. I wanted to use dynamic uploads to help generate a living, breathing document a student could share with an employer, a profile that would represent their development from un-moulded piece of clay into a tour de force ready for the world of work.

Trouble was, I graduated in Chemistry and didn’t know how to code.

I regaled my long time friend Andrew Donnelly with my idea whilst at a poker night. He listened attentively to my passionate admonishment of the graduate recruitment system and how we could change it. “I know a coder” he said, “let’s meet him and see if we can get him to build this thing”.

John Coles was your stereotypical tech-dude. He even had the hunched gait, the gait of a man who spends every waking hour over some type of device. It was clear that John fitted our mentality perfectly. He had developed his skills through hours of practice and self-learning at home, and was hemming and hawing as to the efficacy of university for what he wanted to do.

“I’ll build it,” he said, and he left to eagerly knock up Kloodle 1.0. Or “Careers Agent” as we were called in that first WordPress draft.

The name was a little tame for our grandiose aim of chancing the way young people think about their career. We had to do better. It was over christmas we exchanged a series of texts trying to improve our moniker. Countless derivatives came and went, each met with the straight bat of “domain name’s taken” or “Twitter handle’s taken”. After hours upon hours of roadblocks, we decided a “made up” word was the way to go. If Shakespeare could do it, then so could we.

Our early attempts were terrible. We kept plugging away and I eventually text the group

“How about Kloodle: It means a kick-arse social network where students can evidence skills and launch their careers….”

“Domain’s available….”

“So’s Twitter!”

“And Facebook, Quick buy the domain name!”

And the rest is history. By the end of the day, John had designed a logo and we were away as a business.

We needed man power. I had started teacher training, and Andy was hard at work at Holy Cross College. Steven Cheetham had just returned from Australia. He had recently finished playing professional cricket for Lancashire, and he was between careers. “I’ll muck in. I reckon I can get us into some unis.” He’s never left!

With our team in place, we needed funding. We attended a series of pitching events where we attempted to attract angel investment. After our pitches, we heard nothing. We were disappointed, but knew we still had the makings of a great business. We got together most evenings to work on our idea. I had taught myself to code so I could help John with the building of our product, and we met most nights after I had finished teaching to progress further with our idea. We’d reach 2am on some nights. My teaching the next day wasn’t great, much to the distress of my subject mentor.

My wife gave birth to our second child in January. This was 5 months after our pitches, and we were booked in for a planned cesarean section on the 28th. On the 27th, one of the angels present at our pitch called. Can you come for a meeting, we need to discuss investing in your business. Of course I can! I dropped the baby changing bag I was packing and hightailed it to Manchester to meet.

“This is the chance to get Kloodle up and running, I’m going to invest in the business, but are you able to defer your teaching?”

Of course I was. After the formalities of becoming a dad for the second time, I rang the university and asked them to hold my course. I was going on an adventure!

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