Damian De Luca

From Naval weapons engineer to games programming at the University of Huddersfield’s Canalside Studios via the Paper Mills of Finland; Servelec Digital Academy lead Damian De Luca’s next move has brought him to another canal side – this time in Sheffield – to support the first cohort of the degree apprentices joining this summer.

Here, he talks about his passion for the tech that really changes lives, his lifelong commitment to education and why he can never say no to a call for help.

Damian De Luca is sitting in the canal-side offices of Servelec, in the very heart of Sheffield. The building is home to a host of leading software designers and developers building the tools that provides the digital connectivity behind better communication between healthcare provider and patient, between health and social care and between local authority and education settings.  

 

Damian is the lead for the exciting new degree apprenticeship programme recently launched by Servelec. Servelec Digital Academy offers a BSc (Hons) Digital and Technology Solutions Professional (Software Engineering) degree in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University. Those joining in the summer will have a full time, salaried role in the business, whilst studying for a degree, with all tuition fees covered.

 

Lifelong learning is clearly a passion of Damian’s – it exudes from every pore. But, surprisingly, he wasn’t always a lecturer. Damian started his career in the Royal Navy as a weapons engineer, from there he had a stint in the US as a service engineer, before coming back to start his University career, via a year in Finland working for United Paper Mills (UPM) in automation engineering. Back at home, it was at this point that software engineering caught his attention with a role at COE in Leeds and then a part-time lecturing engagement at The University of Huddersfield working on MPEG algorithms, followed by a full time lecturing position where he taught C++ and software development lifecycle.

"The premier league of jobs...software supports and changes all of our lives for the better."

Ask Damian what he loves about software and he will tell you that software development is one of the most exciting and rewarding careers you can have today. He describes it as the premier league of jobs – and that’s not just the impressive earning potential – but the way that software supports and changes all of our lives for the better. It’s all we want to do at Servelec – help people – after all data saves lives. How often, outside of working for a trust or local authority, do you have the ability to play such a huge part in making our health and social services better?

 

The nurturing instinct is strong in Damian. As a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, Damian, with the Schools of Engineering and Computing, wrote a games programming course. And, after recognising that there was a shortage of placement opportunities for software developers, successfully applied for, and was awarded £200k from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) to set up a software studio within the University called Canalside Studios. Recruiting and mentoring placement students over a nine-year period, Damian produced over 20 software product releases ranging from Xbox and mobile games, to educational software and training games for West Yorkshire Fire Service and local police.

 

Damian has a real passion for on the job training. He believes that you can go to any University and you can be taught software, but if you don’t make software you don’t learn it. The 12 apprentices joining Servelec in the summer under the tutelage of Damian will benefit from his attitude to learning. He is clear that he doesn’t want these apprentices to be sat in a room being talked at, instead they will be exposed to every side of the business, they will have the opportunity to work on Servelec’s flagship products alongside their experienced software developers, while also managing their own projects for local charities to hone their skills. It’s this mixture of experimentation and real on the job experience that Damian sees as key to the success of Servelec’s Digital Academy.

 

While he is insistent that Digital Degree Apprenticeships offer massive opportunities for young people who might not be able to, or want, to follow a traditional path to University, they are not for everyone. He explains that you have to want to knuckle down and work hard. This is a real job in a real company, after all, but he is also keen to highlight the benefits – after three years you are debt free with a degree, and three years of earnings and experience under your belt. In every way, you are ahead of your contemporaries.

Question Damian on what he is most excited about as the Servelec Digital Academy gears up for its first intake, and it’s the role he plays in mentoring young people from students to confident contributors to society. He believes that if you can inspire young people to work hard and achieve their goals at around the age of 14-16, then the world is full of opportunities. As part of the degree apprenticeship programme, Damian is going out to local Sheffield schools and talking to students about the routes into the workplace and what to do if there is a bump in the road. He is insistent that the only thing he wants to see is success in young people.

 

He doesn’t take this need to help lightly, Damian holds an impressive three fellowships – from the Royal Academy of Arts, the Yorkshire Enterprise Fellowship and the Higher Education Academy – so ask him to help you and he will be duty bound to do it!

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