Matt Thornfield and Richard Knowles met at the University of Hull in 1991 when they both studied Mathematics. Since graduating in 1994, between them they have worked in defence, banking, risk analysis, financial management, information management and web consultancy. Now they have founded and run their own business, Virtual Pair Programmers, an online training platform for full-stack Java programmers.
Matt and Richard would like to give back to the University of Hull community, and are offering a discount to students and alumni. If you want to take the next step on your career path as a full stack Java programmers then get in touch with them now:
“We offer a general student discount of 50% on a monthly recurring subscription. Hull students can get an even bigger discount on longer term subscriptions – 60% on 6 months and 70% on annual subscriptions. You can get the lower pricing automatically if you use a hull.ac.uk email address. We are also extending this offer to our fellow Hull graduates. In order to take advantage of the offer just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add your details to the scheme.”
In this interview we find out a bit more about them, their time at Hull, and how they hope that their careers and business will progress in the future.
What attracted you to study at the University of Hull?
We attended separate open days and were both impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the campus. There was something rather nice about the place being compact, on one site and with everything you might need within easy walking distance.
Where there any staff that influenced your future paths?
Matt: I remember in probably one of my first lectures at Hull with Dr Ekkehard Kopp, I raised my hand early on in the lecture to say that I didn’t understand something. I hadn’t realised at the time that while this might be the normal thing to do at school, it wasn’t the sort of thing you did in a lecture (I hadn’t really understood the difference between a lecture and a tutorial at this point). Dr Kopp could well have at this point chastised me for interrupting his lecture, but instead he seemed to be impressed that I had the guts to ask a question in a crowded lecture theatre, and so answered my question. I think that encouraged me to be more questioning, but also showed me that the way you respond to a learner’s question can make a big difference to how they think about you.
Richard: Dr Peter Sproston was fun. He had a talent for explaining difficult concepts in an approachable way, and the subject he taught – cryptography – is something I’ve continued to study in later life.
Have you had a chance to visit Hull recently?
We recently visited C4DI – Hull’s digital tech hub. We were really impressed by their facilities and the support they give to local tech start-ups. The regenerated docks and the surrounding area was equally impressive.
Tell us about Virtual Pair Programmers
We run an online training platform for full-stack Java programmers. We’re aiming to build the best quality and most comprehensive library of training to help everyone from novices, those switching languages, and experienced programmers gain the range of skills needed by employers. Our aim is that our training should be a genuine replacement for face-to-face workplace training courses, and as far as we know we’re the only people online who cover the depth of knowledge that modern programmers need, in a really accessible way. Our biggest market is currently in the USA but we train significant numbers in Europe, India and 76 other countries around the world.
What does the future hold?
We definitely want to continue to grow the content library, and keep it up to date, while maintaining the high quality and consistent approach that our customers know us for. Our core customer base today has a large proportion of individuals who are looking to get a promotion or a new job, or contractors who need to keep expanding their skills.
Our aims for the year ahead are to further expand our reach into larger corporates where we support whole teams, often in different countries, to learn in a cohesive manner. We are also focussing resources on forming strategic partnerships with other learning partners. We were part of a pilot project in Sweden set up by the government and two other parties, where our material made up part of a blended learning programme aimed at targeting the gender imbalance in the IT industry. The pilot was seen to have a positive impact on both gender inequality and on unemployment in Sweden and is being rolled out with more courses planned for 2018. It is our aim to be involved in similar projects in other countries around the world.