Gold sponsors of Code Mesh

I’m proud to announce that Bytemark are gold sponsors of Code Mesh, the Alternative Programming Conference, which promotes unusual and novel programming practice. The theme is “the right tool for the job”, and the 2-day programme is absolutely full of founders, technologists and outright legends. A personal hilight is Sophie Wilson – the woman who invented BBC BASIC & ARM assembler, the two technologies I spent years studying, and that got me knee-deep in the computer industry as a teenager.

There are also some fascinating talks scheduled on unikernels, space stations and pre-UNIX computing history. It’s huge and we’re really happy to see it happen.

At Bytemark we’ve always been a company to go our own way with technology choices, which is why we designed our own cloud hosting platform and built our own data centre instead of using other people’s. Because quite often, “the right tool for the job” just doesn’t exist yet.

Code Mesh is happening on 3-4 November in Central London, and tickets are still available – see you there!

Bytemark are Hiring !

Software Engineer – Apply Here

We’re looking for a full-stack Software Engineer to join our team of five. We’re interested in someone who can take apart a web application, get to know it intimately, and then develop, fix, test, and deliver it.

You’ll need to be able to hold to a vision of a finished product, join in ongoing research and share your insights and expertise with a team. You need to know when to ask for help, and be open to discussing your work in an ego-less way.

Account Manager – Apply Here

We’re looking to hire our first dedicated Account Manager. You’ll be someone who enjoys building relationships with technically-minded customers, and helping them make friends with our creative and flexible system administrators.

Both our customers and delivery teams are made up of a core of creative technologists. We like to make things happen with simple, effective technology and defensible methods. So you need to be able to communicate well with both management and technologists


Bytemark offers a “host” of employee benefits, including in-house training, conference days, free hosting and clear career progression opportunities.

Interested ….

If you feel like you have the enthusiasm and attitude to learn and grow with us, applications can be submitted through our fair and anonymous recruitment process. Read more about how we hire and apply for either of these positions –  Apply Here !

Join us, and be a part of our growing team!

A new how-we-hire how-to

One of the most consistent pieces of feedback we have received from our research into our anonymous recruitment process is that applicants needed communication about various steps along the way. We heard you, and we’ve worked hard to improve your experience, and ultimately, your success with us.

The updated Careers site has had a major rewrite and expansion of our How we hire page. This not only makes expectations clearer for you, but it forced us to examine all the details about how we do things — that made things clearer for us too!

We’ve organised the new guidance into a table of contents and we’ve made expectations clear at each step along the way. Less wondering about whether or not your username is ok or if what you wear to the final interview matters (it doesn’t); we want you to be able to focus on making a great impression with as little stress as possible!

Although this is a big improvement, our work is never “done”. There are more important improvements in the works and we welcome any and all feedback on that. And if you’re currently job-seeking, we encourage you to apply for a future role at Bytemark and be one of the first to experience a new, even fairer way to get hired.

We’re sponsoring TestBash Manchester

We’re pleased to be sponsoring TestBash Manchester — an awesomely jam-packed conference for software testers taking place October 21st.

TestBash is organised by the Ministry Of Testing, a young & ambitious company aiming to unite software testers across the world. They are helping testers build up their craft and careers. MoT has numerous initiatives to help it achieve its goal, one of those being The Dojo, which has excellent free content such as talks and paid courses.

The tech industry’s ideal of “full stack developer” is sometimes an unrealistic one, so we’re thrilled to support an event that focuses on this vital specialism. As computing gets cheaper, testers now verify so much automatically that would have been astronomically expensive 10 years ago — that’s why lots of Bytemark customers use our Cloud Servers to run continuous integration and build jobs.

The conference is now sold out, but we’d recommend you check out their site to find out what they do, then subscribe to get a heads-up on the next one!

We’re supporting Ubuntu MATE

I’m happy to announce that Bytemark is supporting the Ubuntu MATE operating system project, which is based on a traditional computer desktop. We’re providing hosting for its community forums & wiki and bandwidth for its very popular Raspberry Pi distribution.

The MATE project’s admirable goal is “to add support for new technologies while preserving a classic desktop experience”. Ubuntu MATE combines this desktop with the well-tested OS base of Ubuntu – which itself builds on our first love Debian . All of that ensures that anyone who wants a simple computer desktop can get one, on any computer, free of charge.

Personally speaking, Ubuntu MATE feels like a great model for a free software community. They run a crowd-funding campaign and write a monthly report on exactly how those funds are spent. After paying direct costs, they pay contributors to work on much-needed features, and also to developers of other projects that they depend on. While the amounts might be small, this is uncommon ambition, and a sign of a well-managed and motivated community.

Naturally Martin Wimpress, the project co-founder, takes charge of hosting and that meant costs that Bytemark could easily absorb.

I am absolutely delighted that Bytemark reached out to Ubuntu MATE and generously offered to cover all our hosting and bandwidth requirements. We now have a resilient pair of geographically separated Cloud Servers powering the Ubuntu MATE websites, community forums and Raspberry Pi image downloads. This will enable Ubuntu MATE to channel far more of the money raised via our crowd-funding into sponsored development of Ubuntu MATE and MATE Desktop related projects. In Bytemark we have found a company whose commitment and beliefs towards free software are aligned with our own. On behalf of the Ubuntu MATE community I extend my sincere thanks to everyone at Bytemark for their support.

Thanks Martin, and good luck for the future.

(written from the MD’s new Ubuntu MATE desktop – give it a go!)

BigV is now called Bytemark Cloud Servers

We’ve just renamed our old “BigV” product to “Bytemark Cloud Servers“, and redirected the web site. The documentation has all been moved, but the product is the same reliable hosting that you’ve used since 2012. Hooray! That is all.

But if you like ancient history and bad branding:

In 2012, after 8 years of selling our old VM product, we test-launched our new hosting platform, and we’d called it after its design codename: BigV. It got its own logo, a web site and a whole new brand. It even had a guitar because it was that cool:


The embarrassing part is: we gave it a different name because we weren’t sure it was going to work. If BigV blew up and ate everyone’s data, we’d retire it without shaming the good name of Bytemark!  Yes, yes, planning a new brand around its ultimate failure was a stroke of marketing genius but let’s never forget the New Coke – or as they called it in 1985, Coke:

We didn’t want to rename the old service “Hosting Classic!” if BigV went wrong. But we shouldn’t have been pessimistic. The design document showed off our work – we’d implemented live migration, where customer servers could move between pieces of hardware without down time. We’d built an API for quick provisioning, and allowed up to 8 discs to be connected and expanded. Just to show off, in 2014 we live-migrated all our customers’ servers from spinning discs to fast SSDs without anyone noticing. It really was working out fine but we held out until 2016 just to be sure.

Bytemark have now got thousands of Cloud Servers online, and it’s the product that British engineers come to us for: high-availability, automatically-provisioned, flexible servers – just what we designed! And the development practice that we built up since 2012 has now become our standard for how we build new services.

So now that BigV has become our new business, and has been our most popular server for years, we’re proud to give it a more obvious, more recognisable, more respectable, 200% MORE BORING name – Bytemark Cloud Servers.

Now you know how good we are at branding you should definitely sign up today and get £10 free hosting for a month.


We’re sponsoring RailsGirls

We’re very happy that we’re sponsoring Rails Girls Manchester, a 1½ day workshop at Manchester Digital Laboratory this August 12th. It’s completely free for women to register and attend.

Rails Girls deliver speedy, practical workshops all around the world to introduce women to programming and design, with a style that cuts through stuffy documentation to reach beginners in the technology industry. They’ve succeeded for 5 years and publish their materials, which allows the community to run the workshops and spread the word.

At Bytemark, we want see more new programmers join the industry and Rails Girls is succeeding in reaching out to this underrepresented audience.

The course is being organised by seasoned Manchester geeks Claire Dodd, Tekin Sulyeman and Ben Aldred. If you’re a looking to get into programming, Rails is an absolute treat of a technology for beginners, and Rails Girls will give you a really valuable new skill to build on.

Go now, and register! The deadline for applications closes in a week.

Bytemark are Hiring !

Customer Service Administrator – Apply Here

We’re looking for customer service representatives who are interested in getting into (or have made a start in) the technology industry.

The ideal candidate should enjoy interacting with both people and technology, and understand the discipline needed in a customer service environment.

We provide in-house training, days at relevant conferences and clear career progression opportunities.

If you feel like you have the enthusiasm and attitude to learn and grow with us, applications can be submitted through our fair and anonymous recruitment process. Read more about how we hire and apply for this position-  Apply Here !

Join us, and be a part of our growing team!

Bytemark are Hiring!

Bytemark are looking for a Software Developer (Ruby/Go)

This role is for an experienced programmer who wants to work with a multi-skilled team of designers, researchers and developers. We’re a growing company — your Rails & Linux knowledge is going to be crucial to that.

Bytemark (York, UK) are looking for a software engineer to join our team of four. We hope that’s you! You’ll enjoy working with high-performance, server-side code on Linux, with a keen eye to performance and detail. We will want to see some record of achievement in programming, though this might be from projects that were personal or not developed as part of your day job.

As always, applications can be submitted through our ground-breaking anonymous recruitment process. Read more about how we hire and apply for this position Apply Here .

Join us, and be a part of our growing team!

A Research-driven Recruitment Story

[It] was initially frustrating to not be able to tell you things about who I am and what I’ve done. But it’s great that it’s a level playing field. By the final interview I was liking the process so much that I was reluctant to share my CV and de-anonymize myself.

– Successful Careers applicant at Bytemark

As many of you already know, the way we recruit at Bytemark is different. This is owing to our meticulously-designed, anonymous, decentralised recruitment process. But it wasn’t always this way. This is our story of what anonymous recruiting means to us, why we bother and how we are leading the way to a fairer, people-focused local tech community. We hope it can inspire others to think about the way they hire and make and share their improvements too.

Our problem with traditional recruiting

For the first decade or so of Bytemark’s history, Managing Director Matthew Bloch took on the role of recruiting staff. He’d put a few adverts out, collect some CVs, schedule interviews, everyone would dress up, and then he’d make a decision about who he felt would be best for the role.

Over time, this method became increasingly problematic. The entire recruitment workload was in the hands of one person. In Matthew’s own words:

I became increasingly aware of how inappropriate biases had influenced our previous process, and how slow we were to spot them. For instance until a few years ago, we used to grill prospective system administrators on the particulars of their home computer network – how many did they have, how complex was the routing and so on. We figured that because we had staff who already built overly complex home networks, this was a good signifier for the kind of sysadmin we wanted. Instead of course, we were testing for all kinds of privilege, a certain size of house, a set of interests we’d shared in college, everything but the work we wanted them to do.

— Matthew Bloch, Managing Director

In sum, we knew that we were missing many great candidates because of our “network-based” process. We treated existing candidates inconsistently, and gave them a poor (and inaccurate) impression of our company.

These local concerns about bias were reinforced by bigger, more global problems in the tech community. Stories of harrassment were gaining publicity, highlighting how toxic the environment had become in some circles. At the same time, new awarenesses surfaced about problems with diversity in tech, the challenges for minority groups to stay in the industry, and the issues surrounding environments where there was minimal to no processes for hiring, e.g. Heddleston’s null process.

These problems necessitated a rethinking of how we do things at Bytemark. We needed to build a better team through better hiring policies.

A new Recruitment Process

Doing some research into the subject, Matthew stumbled upon an innovative solution from an entirely different field. A paper by Goldin & Rouse (2000), Orchestrating Impartiality, had highlighted the positive effect of an anonymous audition process (e.g. where the candidates play their piece behind a screen) on gender diversity in US orchestras during the 70s and 80s. The authors showed that women who auditioned through this method were 50% more likely to advance to the second stage of the audition process compared to when they were visible to the panel.

Taking the idea of an anonymous audition as his cue, Matthew pieced together a technological version of the stage ‘screen’, and in early 2015, was born.

picture of anonymity, the Careers app aims to be fair and inclusive. It provides a focus on skills first and foremost. With help of the entire team, Careers also aims to be efficient and collaborative. The work of recruitment is shared; each job opening has an assigned interview ‘panel’ of 3–5 current employees. With this method, staff gather input from each other, and learn to lead in the process.

Bytemark Careers Today

As of today, we’ve received over 200 applications, hired eight staff through this process, and we’ve retained seven. The roles we’ve recruited for have ranged from Office Manager to System Admins to Developers.

When deprived of information, people fill in the gaps

With new process come new issues. We found that while reducing biases in some areas, we introduced new ones in others. Because candidates had no frame of reference for our process, they started to make (often incorrect) inferences about what we were up to, and how they were being evaluated. A common source of anxiety was about staying anonymous:

I’m always thinking about whether or not I’m accidentally giving myself away.
Answering reveals too much about my background, but didn’t want to be vague either. These questions didn’t let me shine or share relevant things about myself.

– Successful Careers applicants at Bytemark

We also encountered many obstacles which were situational or involved miscommunication of some form. For example, when our (new and not-yet-added-to-our-website) HR Manager, Pam Hinds, responded to candidates by text messages including her name, several of these candidates started to wonder who the mystery ‘Pam’ was — an anonymous person? an acronym (perhaps ‘Personal Application Manager’)? a nickname (a ‘P’ for Patrick or Pete?), or possibly even a friendly chatbot. These are the sorts of findings you can never anticipate, but you must discover and address!

We were filling in the gaps, too. Without research, it’s difficult to know if we’re attracting more diverse candidates. We also recognised that the process doesn’t work well for some roles and needs adapting, but how should we do that? And most importantly, our guesses about the psychological barriers our candidates faced were just that, guesses. We needed to find out what these realities were, how they were affecting people, and then take action to address the unmet needs.

A Research-Driven Recruitment Update

By slowing down and vetting product & design decisions more carefully, you can uncover gaps and weaknesses that would breach your core users’ trust, and avoid costly problems down the line.

— Eric Meyer, Design for Real Life

It can sometimes be challenging to know where to start with a project that may potentially have several important issues that need addressing. However, with a carefully-reasoned approach, some practical empathy, and a supportive team, it becomes clearer not only to see what’s most pressing but how to implement an effective solution for each aspect of the problem.

With this in mind, our Research Manager, Kim Witten, recently led a 6-week development cycle. The research included:

  • 12+ hours of interviews
    • six with anonymously-hired candidates
    • four stakeholder interviews
  • 3-hour data workshop
  • More than half the company was involved in the process in one way or another

What we’ve accomplished

MethodKit activity during research interviewOur research team uncovered many psychological barriers that we’d unintentionally introduced through anonymous recruiting. However, our biggest challenge by far was setting expectations and communicating well with candidates.

This led to us revisiting the entire process and resulted in an extensive re-write of our current recruitment guidance for both candidates and staff. Additionally, the research alerted us to several bugs, feature requests and other issues needing to be addressed. In our 3-hour workshop, we prioritised and sorted these findings. This resulted in over 80 separate issues, all of which we tracked, assigned and completed during the final two weeks of the development cycle.

We also learned of many encouraging insights about our process, and our successful candidates too! Our anonymously-hired staff were unanimously positive about the anonymous hiring concept, they appreciated the focus on skills first, and they were enthusiastic about research that would improve the process based on their feedback.

What we’ve learned

Design and development are so much easier when you understand people’s needs. Decisions make themselves, instead of an endless back and forth of second guessing. What would have been features distill themselves into tiny text changes. You are not implementing notifications, you are making sure people don’t get ignored.

– Steve Urmston, Product Manager

Bytemark is changing in a lot of ways. We’re maturing as a company, we’re becoming more collaborative, and we’re taking a more research-driven approach across many projects. We’ve found that going from silos to teams is challenging but rewarding. Development is faster with clearly-defined, research-driven features that are born out of specific needs. People accomplish more when work is shared, and they feel better about what they’ve achieved. We’re eager to take on more of this, and to keep making discoveries about how we can do better.

Where we’re going

This is just the start. We are always striving to get better at what we do. There will be new features, bugs, and opportunities to improve the way we communicate. Recruitment is only the beginning.

In the next five years, we hope to grow to a 100-person company. That means that we will not only use and improve our Careers process, but we will focus on advancing the careers of all of those who’ve joined us on this journey. If you want to be a part of this too, we’re hiring now at

[I] read about Bytemark, about the fresh air cooling and other things — 
a company can say they’re environmentally friendly but is that just words? However, the recruitment process can’t be bullshit, because you experience it, going through the process. This lined up with the 
things I care about.

– Successful Careers applicant at Bytemark

Goldin, Claudia and Cecilia Rouse. 2000. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians.” American Economic Review, 90(4): 715-741.