Welcome to STP: Sponge

Welcome to STP: Sponge

Sponge is one of the largest, independently-owned custom digital learning providers in Europe. Last year, the company opened offices in Bristol and Dublin, as well as expanding its London office and growing headcount at its Plymouth headquarters. In January 2019, Sponge opened its first office in the north of England.

We spoke to the recently appointed Head of Project Management, Sam Lydiat, about why Sponge chose Sheffield Technology Parks (STP) as its new northern base.

Who or what is Sponge?

Sponge was founded by entrepreneur, Louise Pasterfield, in 2004. What started out as a family-run business 15 years ago has today grown to become Europe’s largest, independently-owned custom digital learning providers. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands such as Coca-Cola, Toyota, Specsavers, Tesco, AstraZeneca, AXA, the NHS, Royal Mail and the United Nations and our solutions are used more than 124 countries worldwide.

Our workplace learning solves multiple business challenges, from risk and compliance (e.g. cyber security and health and safety) to business transformation, people development (e.g. employee onboarding) and skills enhancement. Our solutions, which harness the latest in cutting-edge technology, include learning games, motion graphics, simulations, interactive video and immersive experiences such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

I started working for Sponge in January 2019, but I’ve worked in the digital learning industry for 20 years, primarily in project management, team leadership and client services roles. I studied Software Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University. In my role as Head of Project Management at Sponge, I manage a team of 16 people, based across our UK offices. I’m hopeful that numbers will increase with the addition of our Sheffield office.

Who makes up the team?

The Sponge team comprises of Project Managers, who work closely with account teams and client stakeholders to ensure the smooth delivery of projects; Learning & Visual Designers, who bring together messaging and design to meet learning objectives; and Developers, who turn the learning vision into a reality. We’re looking to hire across all those disciplines in order to grow our Sheffield office into a northern hub. We believe that being based in the Cultural Industries Quarter will support this goal.

In addition to the above roles, there’s Sales & Marketing – these teams are responsible for raising awareness of Sponge, starting conversations with client prospects, and growing existing business. They help identify the right solution to meet our customers’ business and people needs. We also have the usual business support functions such as HR, Finance, Admin, IT and Research. We are currently looking to hire people for roles in all departments across our UK and Ireland offices. Check out our current vacancies page for further information.

We’re flexible when it comes to the location of our people. For example, a Project Manager in Plymouth can be working with a Graphic Designer in our new office in Sheffield.

How is Sponge different from other digital learning providers?

Despite being a rapidly growing business, Sponge retains a family feel and there is huge passion for the work we do. 

What sets us apart? Sponge is highly regarded in the digital learning industry. We’ve won 18 awards over the past 15 years, including 13 gold awards in the last 3 years. Sponge was named Learning Provider of the Year at 2019 Learning Awards and won silver for Company of the Year at the 2018 Learning Technologies Awards.

Our ambition is to grow the business across all departments and geographical locations. Sponge is also planning to increase its footprint further in the UK, Europe and North America in the next couple of years. The ultimate goal is for Sponge to be the ‘global leader in creative digital learning’ by 2020. With this in mind, we’re working to grow awareness and interest in Sponge in the UK and overseas.

Are there any interesting or exciting projects you’re working on?

We recently worked with Royal Mail on a virtual reality (VR) project highlighting the risk of dog attacks amongst postal workers. There are 44 dog attacks on the UK’s postmen and women every week. Using 360° video, we created a fully immersive experience enabling postal workers to ‘experience’ a threat without actually being put in harms way.

We’re also currently working with a leading global restaurant brand to develop an augmented reality (AR) card game aimed at educating several hundred franchise owners on cyber security best practice.

How did you end up at STP?

We wanted to be somewhere with good commuter links, so having the station bang on our doorstep is great. The shared office and meeting rooms in STP are lovely spaces with a good vibe.

The Sheffield office is our outpost for the north. It serves as a convenient place for clients based in Yorkshire and beyond to meet. The student footfall, artisan coffee shops and the surrounding creative studios all add vibrancy to the area.

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