Dan Rae, Hydrogen

My Digital Day

What’s it like to go back to school and inspire the next generation of digital talent? Hydrogen’s Daniel Rae left Hamilton Grammar School (as a student) in 2000. On Digital Day, he headed back as a (sort of) teacher and discovered that “the future is very bright for the Scottish Creative sector.”


What it felt like to go back to your school. Any specific observations, emotions or recognising old teachers?


Today was one of only a couple of occasions I’ve been back to Hamilton Grammar School since I left in 2000. It’s a strange feeling – very familiar, but also quite different. The school building has been extended to accommodate a greater number of pupils, and it was in this new extension that we were based for Digital Day 18. One of my closest friends is a teacher at “The Grammar”, so I’m kept up to date with what goes on there. I also still live in the area and know that one day, assuming I still live where I do, my daughter will attend.

We were hosted by the Business Education & Computing Science faculty and there were a couple of familiar faces. Our host, and the principal teacher of the faculty, Ian (Mister to the pupils) Arthur, was a few years above me at school and Mr Haggarty, one of the computing teachers, taught both me and Ian when were pupils there. Mr Haggarty, or Harry, as I can now call him, retires next month after 35+ years, so it was nice to wish him well.

Another thought I had – owning an agency where most of my employees were born in the 90s makes me feel old (83 for me, I’m 35). Telling pupils that I finished school before they were even born made me feel ANCIENT!


How did Digital Day go for you and your students? (your tweets were great).


This was my very first Digital Day, and it was a first for Hydrogen as an agency too. Putting nostalgia to the side, the whole day was fantastic. We were made verywelcome by the faculty staff and the pupils selected to participate were all excellent – attentive, interested and incredibly skilled.

We had around 16 pupils from S3 and S4, so decided to split the class randomly into three groups, and assign each with one of the three pre-defined challenges so that each group worked on different briefs. While we set aside plenty of time for brainstorming and refining the ideas, the groups were incredibly quick and moved through the stages faster than we expected. There was a real drive to visualise the responses to the challenges and many of the participants used tools like Photoshop, video editing software and even code to bring their ideas to life. Already impressed with the Photoshop skills of a group of 14 and 15 year olds, I was blown away that one group had developed a functioning demo of their augmented reality solution, showing how items could be added to a shopping basket.

If there’s one thing I can take away from Digital Day 18, it’s that the future is very bright for the Scottish Creative sector – I saw plenty of budding developers, designers, marketers and client services professionals in the room!


Will you be up for taking part next year?


I’m sure Hydrogen will participate again next year. It’s probably not fair on the other Hydrogen team members that we got to attend a school that’s a 15 minute walk from my house – we might have to visit a school nearer some of my other employees next time, but I think it’s a great experience for our team and I hope that it was of real use for the pupils who took part.

On a side note, we’ve already offered some support to Hamilton Grammar School in terms of careers advice, work experience and talking to business studies pupils about the reality of running your own business, so Digital Day may be a trigger for more collaboration.



What would you like to see BIMA do to grow Digital Day (or do something different) in Scotland?


I think the set up of Digital Day is very well done. Partnering with real organisations to create uniform challenges across the UK is a great way to do it.

Could Scotland do something different, or additional… maybe!

I don’t think that school pupils really know what they want to do in terms of a career. Why would they – they’re young! But greater awareness of the paths people take and the digital jobs out there might be useful. Perhaps BIMA Scotland could contribute to careers advice, or careers fair-style work, to raise awareness of the types of roles and the skills (they already possess) that could be useful for those roles? We (team Hydrogen) made a point of talking about our educations and careers today – would greater openness and discussion about job roles be of use, particularly with a Scottish slant on what we need in terms of skills? It might even provide an opportunity for people with the same roles/titles, but from different member organisations, to come together – designers from agencies, social media folks, etc.

Rambling… but I think people in education, whether at school, college or uni, need better insight into the “real world” of jobs!