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Inspired students shoot for the moon after winning placements with WANdisco

Updated: 07.01.20

Inspired students shoot for the moon after winning placements with WANdisco

Will Thornhill, 18, and George Allsop-Hayes, 16, are spending one day a week at the new UK head office, working alongside engineers, testers, customer success and IT infrastructure teams.

They are enrolled at the WANdisco Data Academy, which launched at the college in September to help train and develop the next generation of computer experts and entrepreneurs.

They were selected for the placements after successfully completing problem-solving challenges set by the college and company.

Will Thornhill, who is from a dairy farming family in Derbyshire, said: “There are a lot of IT courses around but not many with a connection to a company like this."

He continued: “The founder David Richards is a local guy who grew up in Sheffield and is now a successful technology entrepreneur in California. It shows you can do whatever you want if you work hard. It does not matter if you were born in a big metropolis or the middle of nowhere.”

George Allsop-Hayes, an electrician’s son from Lincolnshire, said: “The things that can be done with computers and technology are mind-boggling. I doubt people ever imagined that one day, we would have a computer in our pocket that would be more powerful than the spaceship that took us to the moon."

He added: “My parents think this course is fantastic. My dad had a Commodore 64 computer when he was growing up but nothing like this. Here I am coming to Sheffield and working for a global company like WANdisco.”

The pair are working with different teams within WANdisco and learning how to deploy the company’s data software for customers across the world. They are based at the UK head office at Kollider, Sheffield’s new destination for the digital, tech and creative communities at Castle House.

David Richards, Founder and Chief Executive of WANdisco, said: “We congratulate Will and George for winning their placements against strong competition and are impressed they are fitting in so well at our business." 

He added: “We are delighted with the progress of all 20 students at the WANdisco Data Academy. Sheffield needs bright young people with the right attitudes and skills to join its growth industries and have successful careers.”

Highlights of the WANdisco Data Academy include specialist speakers, workplace visits, special projects, masterclasses and references. At the end of the course, all students are guaranteed a job interview at WANdisco.

Rachel Topliss, Head of Employer Academy Partnerships at The Sheffield College, said: “Feedback from our students at the WANdisco Data Academy has been incredible. Their high attendance rates show they are really enjoying their studies and the course, and are committed to getting the skills they need to go further in their careers.”

For more information about the WANdisco Data Academy, click here. For details about the College’s next open days on January 28th and March 9th, click here.

 Key facts:

  • WANdisco plc, the public software company, is jointly headquartered in Sheffield and San Ramon in Silicon Valley. Its products power hundred of the world’s biggest companies. For more information about WANdisco, please visit
  • David Richards, founder and CEO, grew up in Sheffield, attending Tapton School, and now lives in California with his wife Jane and family. They co-founded the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation with a gift of WANdisco shares to advance the education of computer science and ecology in UK state schools. For more information about the foundation, please
  • The Sheffield College teamed up with WANdisco to launch the WANdisco Data Academy in September 2019. The academy enables selected college students with a proven aptitude and positive work ethic to enhance their studies by engaging with local businesses to gain employability skills, sector knowledge and practical experience. 

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