Head of Technology

Job description

Location: Sparx Head Office in Exeter
Term: Full time, Permanent
Salary: Competitive (dependent on qualifications and experience)



Projected UK public spending in the 2018 fiscal year for secondary education is £27b and there are circa 3,500 state funded secondary schools in England alone, serving 3.2 million students.

Every year, around 40% of UK students who sit GCSE Maths fail to obtain a grade 4 or higher (previously grade C).  This is an alarming statistic and is one of the fundamental issues motivating Sparx. We want everyone to fulfil their learning potential, and be excited and motivated about learning.

Sparx is a scientifically driven and research based educational technology company. We are using technology, data and real-world classroom observations to scientifically investigate the way young people learn. Using technology to dive deep into the learning process, we explore and analyse what works and what doesn’t, and deliver more personalised, evidence-driven lessons and homework that produces results.

Founded by Mark Dixon and Glenn Woodcock in 2011, Sparx employs over 70 people, all of whom are working to create a learning platform that can be rolled out across schools in the UK.  The platform includes ‘big data’, granular content and gaming, all of which are carefully brought together and fashioned into a system capable of significantly improving the pace and quality of learning.  Data captured from the lessons is truly remarkable, allowing real-time feedback which enables the re-positioning of certain concepts, to better the students’ understanding of the material.  The impact of this work is potentially transformational.  It is a major initiative and a tremendous opportunity. 
The ambition of the company is just as bold as its mission, and the directors are keen to increase the rate of progress.  Ultimately, Sparx’s vision goes beyond the UK, but this is our initial target market.

 About Sparx

Our platform for Maths uses custom built content and a powerful, data-driven web and mobile framework, to deliver a tailored set of exercises, games and incentives for students that can be used in the classroom and at home.

We’re looking for people with a real passion for education and a belief in the power of technology to improve it. Things move fast at Sparx so we need people who assume that excellence is a given and who are ambitious, creative, intelligently sceptical and highly knowledgeable. People who want a challenge; people who want to make a difference. 

The Position

Sparx is looking for a Head of Technology to join the team and build a high performing department to utilise technology, encouraging further growth and interaction.

This is a genuine opportunity to have a huge influence on the company’s technology direction and lead the design and engineering activities for the core technology platform whilst ensuring the architecture meets the growing needs of the company.

Some of the key up and coming projects that will require a focus from this role include: 

• Overseeing the migration of the technology platform to Google Cloud 

• Ensuring the new engineering solution meets the requirements for site reliability

 • Overseeing the introduction of a step change in usage in relation to automated testing

This is a broad role offering a great opportunity to develop your team, and be the driving force behind new technologies and workflows that enable the business to scale and grow.

Key responsibilities include:

 • Influencing the strategy, design and development of the company’s growing technology platform and assets, ensuring they are built to scale quickly, efficiently and fully aligned with requirements 

• Determining and agreeing priorities across the different technical areas, taking counsel from the company’s product and business teams, and transcribing these into clear objectives with timelines and project plans 

• Creating a culture of delivery and responsiveness, with clearly defined priorities.

• Contributing to the platform design process, continuing to secure input from different stakeholders (i.e. students, parents, teachers, internal employees, directors) and building on the group’s successful work to date 

• Providing mentoring and leadership for the Technology, Software Quality Assurance and IT teams, ensuring that each member is focusing on the appropriate tasks, contributing as a productive member of the team and developing as a professional within the Sparx organisation 

• Assuming responsibility for the recruitment of the Technology, Software Quality Assurance and IT teams, complementing the company’s current processes with new ideas, and serving as a ‘talent magnet’ for capable, talented technologists and developers 

• Being an active member of the Sparx management team, contributing new ideas and committing to the company’s ambition for innovation in education


About you

You will have a background in end-to-end software design and an interest in cutting-edge tools and technologies. You have significant experience of working in an agile environment, managing 3rd party suppliers, and a good knowledge of technologies such as: cloud hosting, automation, n-tiered architectures, message brokers, event based systems, databases, and front-end web interfaces. 

Industry Experience:

 • Experienced, with a track record of building and managing a technology or engineering team for a high-growth, customer service oriented environment 

• Technologically capable, with experience of successfully building platforms in technically complex environments

 • Adept at injecting focus, pace and a delivery mind-set into teams of engineers and developers.

 • Accustomed to the demands of a fast-paced environment 


• Demonstrable ability and track record of bringing passion, energy and motivation to a business

 • Strong communication skills, able to gain commitment and buy-in to a common vision and clearly stated goals

 • Experience in guiding and mentoring technical teams, including setting clear objectives and influencing outcomes

 • Organises and clearly prioritises; unafraid to set an agenda or take the lead

 • Track record of delivering performance, able to provide examples of platforms that have been delivered successfully 

Project Delivery:

• Manages the technology development process and strategy with a sophisticated understanding of market requirements, client needs and internal capability 

• Understands the importance of quality processes and systems, and new technology adoption curves 

• Demonstrates appreciation for the costs and risks associated with new product delivery in a dynamic and highly competitive market 

• Possesses strong project management skills, driving a systematic and planned approach to product development & change management 

Desired Background and Personal Characteristics: 

• Holds an advanced degree in a mathematical, scientific and/or engineering discipline 

• ‘Hands-on’ by nature, comfortable with diving into problems and developing new solutions. 

• Possesses the energy, passion, resilience and commitment required to realise goals 

• Highly capable, with the ability to understand, assimilate and synthesise complex issues and translate them into actionable items