Students fast-track to work

29 June 2018

University of Waikato student Mead Blackmore (left) pictured at Rocketspark with Richard King.

At Rocketspark’s office in Cambridge, the staff all have one thing in common. They are all University of Waikato graduates.

And the trend will continue, because the innovative award-winning, website-building company formed by graduates Richard King, Lee Reichardt, Jeremy Johnson and Grant Johnson has a policy of tapping into talent through the work placement programme offered at the University of Waikato.

Rocketspark has traditionally taken a student from the programme for a work placement, then retained them by offering them continued employment after they complete their placement.

Rocketspark is a platform that customers can use to design their own website or ecommerce store. It also works with an army of graphic designers nationally and internationally who work with customers.

The Waikato company was established in 2009 and while it works from offices that are almost anonymous, Rocketspark is a prominent player in the town’s business community. Staff member Greg Wallace is a board member on the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Jeremy Johnson sits on the town’s i-Site board.

Rocketspark has more than 240 Cambridge-based customers but the majority of their clients are based outside the region and around the world. The company aims to create sites that match the best on offer – but at the same time are easy to manage for the most inexperienced user and don’t break the bank.

Mead Blackmore is the latest student from Waikato University to benefit from work experience at Rocketspark. He’s studying for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) majoring in software engineering and has been with the company since last August.

Richard King says Mead came on board to do his summer work placement and that’s led on to continued casual employment with Rocketspark while he continues his studies. His current tasks include providing customer support and coding up website designs for customers who purchase extra design packages.

What makes the University of Waikato students valuable is the additional skills they bring. “Young students are innovative and arrive with challenging ideas which help keep the company on the front foot,” says Greg Wallace. “We’ve had really good success with Waikato University students, which is why we have employed everyone who has come through the programme.”

Mead, who grew up in Cambridge and has been a volunteer in the town’s Search and Rescue organisation, relishes the opportunity to work and study at the same time. “Here I am dealing with customers and working in a team – it’s a bit different from the study exercises where I am looking at one-time algorithms.”

Alongside him in the office are fellow Waikato graduates Matt Elen (Bachelor of Science) who manages the development work in this area, Natalie Trow (Bachelor of Design) whose role is mainly marketing design for promoting Rocketspark, and Greg Wallace (Wintec Bachelors in Sport and Exercise Science and University of Waikato Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching) responsible for client liaison and sales.

Web development is a burgeoning industry and the market place is a full one. Much of Rocketspark’s competition is international and includes some heavy hitters. This Cambridge company is appealing to an audience at home and abroad, with a customer base in the thousands, 40% of them offshore.