Who needs London? Sunderland is the place to start a career for bright young things

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Sunderland has been named as one of the best places for young professionals to start their careers.

While London’s economy is booming, the capital has become unaffordable for many young people - making other cities a more attractive places to work and live.

A team working for The Guardian has examined whether moving elsewhere is a smart choice, and named Sunderland as one of the UK's "other thriving tech, culture and financial hubs."

The work highlights Sunderland's Leighton digital agency, and features a case study on Lyle McCalmont, who joined the company as a developer eight years ago, while in his 20s, and has since risen to the position of CEO.

Lyle, now 34, McCalmont graduated from his local university in Teeside with a degree in business computing and initially contemplated furthering his career in London. But when the role at Leighton came up, he jumped at the chance to move back to the North East.

“I don’t know if I would have made the same speedy growth if I’d been in London,” he told he Guardian.

Leighton was relatively small when McCalmont joined, now employs around 85 staff.

Lyle is just one success story in Sunderland’s thriving software sector.Sunderland Software City, the partnership between the public sector, private sector and university.

It was set up in 2009 with the aim of making Sunderland a software hub for the UK. Much-needed infrastructure was built – including Rainton Bridge Business Park where Leighton is based – to accommodate the needs of -hi-tech startup businesses.

"We’ve got a lot of young people who work for us. There’s a really good feeling about the place,” said Lyle.

“I think people are starting to take the North East far more seriously now in terms of what it can offer from a technology point of view. It’s cyclical, really – better people, better place to work, more graduates staying in the area, businesses relocating here because they can see how well it does – and so things just start to snowball.”

Lyle said quality of life is also a key factor in attracting people to the North East.

“It’s got a lot of diversity. I like being by the sea [he lives in Redcar] and I’m very close to the North York Moors.”

Everyday factors add to the area’s appeal, with the relative ease of McCalmont’s morning commute and affordablity of housing all comparing favourably with life in London. “I do work in London now and again and I do visit the area, but I’m always pleased to come back home,” he says.