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How we launched team training in IT and why it's better than traditional courses

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We have already trained and employed 50 excellent front-end specialists and have no intention to stop.

Like other software companies, MetaLamp faces the recruitment issue. It also refers to the junior grades. It seems to be easy - there are dozens of responses from graduates and those who are interested to enter the sphere. The only problem is that these people have no real development experience.

It's not even a matter of development skills. It's about the ability to work in a team and interact with others.

At MetaLamp, we solved this problem through our educational project. It is free of charge for students. The program contains the theory, practical activity and team training as the most significant part. Looking ahead, I will share the results. More than 50 people have already completed team training for front-end developers. They work for us or our partners. Some of them have already upgraded to the Middle level. We trained 10 Haskell backend developers. All of them became a part of our team. 

My name is Viktor Gorbachev. I am the Education Program supervisor at MetaLamp. In this article, I will tell you how we organize the stage of team training, why we have decided to design it and what results we have reached.

What is the Education Program and why we need it

We started to create the Education Program in 2016. It included a list of recommended knowledge sources. The program has gradually turned into five tasks:

  • Two theoretical tasks where you can get fundamental knowledge of layout and programming.
  • Two practical tasks where students get to know the subtleties of layout and JavaScript. They accomplish big projects by themselves.
  • The fifth task is code review and refactoring.

Our experienced developers do a code review. We try to keep it as subjective as possible. For this purpose, we familiarize students with the company development standards. Reviewers rely on them while observing projects.

There are usually three reviewers. The first one is a graduate of the Education Program. Then we assign the project for review to a more experienced developer. The third final stage is carried out by a Middle developer.

We have two options for training projects:

  • A hotel website with all the usual functions such as registration and user authorization, booking, filtering etc.
  • An integrator, where students learn how to work with the API of third-party services. In our case, it is Google Sheets and the Trello task tracker.

The idea of the Education Program was to train motivated developers for further employment. So, it has gradually transformed into our main HR channel.

Using it, we attract people with a strong will and desire to improve their skills in development. The program turned out to be extensive - it takes 8-12 months to study on average for 30 hours per week. So, only those who are really interested in studying complete the program.

Read more: “How we created the free of charge Education Web Development Program and employed 60 graduates”

The team stage as a way to upgrade skills

At first, the training program included only five stages. After the code review and refactoring, you could take an interview immediately. If everything is okay, a graduate could apply for a probationary period. However, in 2020 we decided to complicate the Education Program.

When the first reviewer approves the project, a student is allowed to join the program team stage. We build a team of 4-6 people, and they start a new project. The conditions are close to a perfect development team. They include critical customers, an empathetic Scrum Master, a careful Product Owner, rapid examination of the new technologies and a two-way code review. Although it is a simulation, we try to bring it closer to reality. Students will face pressing deadlines and changing project requirements. As a result of the stage, they will get total satisfaction over the product result. 

Our employee takes part as a Project Manager. Our developers perform as Team Leaders and customers. As an Education Program Supervisor, I initiate this stage, control and sum up the results. After getting everyone together, the team performs on its own. A Project Manager moderates the process. A developer is responsible for the technical part. As a  Team Leader, he also answers the questions.

The duration of the team stage is two months or four two-week sprints.

Why do we need the team stage?

We decided to complicate the Education Program for several reasons.

Adaptation. After graduation, new juniors need time to master React.js, our stack library. According to our study plan, guys learn JavaScript to comprehend the fundamental principles of the language. As a rule, it is not a problem to deal with the library after the Program. But it takes time, usually several weeks. The team stage solved this issue.

Saving money. Customers are not always ready to pay for the work of a junior, who has no real development experience. Previously, we involved new employees in a project without paying for the time. So that a person didn't work for free, we paid him from our budget. Now there is no need for it. After the Program, a new employee has real experience in team development. Therefore, he can work on commercial projects. So we save from 1 to 3 monthly salaries of our employed graduates. That's how much time it took for a newcomer to start generating revenue for the company.

SCRUM training. A modern developer should not only know a programming language. He also should be good at teamwork and perform according to methodology. Of course, there is no perfect Scrum on real projects. It is designed and adapted to the team. But in our simulation, we can imitate it and demonstrate the general principles to beginners.

Close relationships. As a team, we need to upgrade the soft skills of our employees. At the team stage, future developers learn professional communication. They practice interacting with critical and demanding "customers" who check the results every two weeks. Here we consider a personality. If something goes wrong, we pay attention to how a person communicates, behaves and whether he takes responsibility or not. 

Soft skills are valuable for commercial teamwork. For example, a beginner does not meet the deadlines. What will he do? Maybe he will work hard at night to complete it? Or will he try to renegotiate and report the problem in advance? Finally, will he start looking for someone to assign blame and making excuses? It is a good idea to find out about a developer's behaviour in difficult situations before hiring. We can help to notice and close these gaps. The team training solves this issue, too.

How the team stage affected the company

Now the 7th and 8th teams are studying at the team stage. 35 people have already completed it. 35 people, who are ready to do commercial projects at the level of a highly-skilled junior. They know how Scrum works, how to plan time for tasks and are able to communicate with colleagues and customers. You can entrust them with a complex project without spending time on an experienced mentor.

After the team stage, our partners or we arrange an interview call for students. So far, there have been no unsuccessful interviews.

We employ graduates, who completed all the stages of training. The result is 100%.

When we launched the team stage, the number of graduates decreased. The guys gave up studying because the program became more complicated. It required to devote a minimum of 15 hours a week to the team project for two months.

The amount of students has decreased. However, the quality of preparation has increased. Now we are confident not only in the technical skills of a potential colleague, but also in his ability to work in a team.

Team training as IT trend

There is a big difference between individual courses and team training. If you look at the statistics, you can see that only a few students complete individual self-education courses. It is reported about 5-15% in different sources. Only 20% of Russian online schools were able to boast that almost all students completed their course or program. And a subject doesn't matter. People spend money, but most of them finally quit.

I can not explain the reason. Lack of motivation seems to be one of the explanations. Online courses are based mainly on self-education, and the results are checked only at the end. So, it is a low engagement process.

Team education is different. The number of people who completed the whole course is about 70% or more. The difference is ten times and more.

I consider the success of team education lies in increasing engagement. Interaction with other people increases motivation after all. Rapid feedback from us and other students is also valuable. The engagement rate remains high throughout the whole studying process.

Of course, it is not an exclusive innovation. There are similar internships in other companies. They can be chargeable or free. Although, we managed to bring something new into this industry.

  • We offer a combination of self and team education. First, a person studies on his own. We analyze his motivation, will and ability to comprehend complex material. We also pay attention to his attitude to web development. The team stage helps to find out more about the personalities. We can see how people work together in a team and improve their communication skills.
  • Access to the Education Program. Internships are usually competitive at the companies. They train a certain number of people and then the company selects the best ones. Our approach is different. The Program is available for everyone. You take a short survey and that's it, you can start. There is no tuition fee and other obstacles.
  • We guarantee employment. If a person passes all the study stages, it means he is a great specialist and an excellent potential colleague.

Instead of conclusion. Why our juniors are highly-skilled

There is one detail relating to the employment after the Program. When partners hire our graduates, they provide a one-time payment after the probationary period. So, there haven't been any cases of unsuccessful probation results.

For the Program graduates, partnership employment is an option. It helps to choose the best working conditions and is still completely free.

Companies pay us for training juniors without experience. It may sound strange. You can post an opening and recruit several dozen people the next day.

However, the partners are satisfied, and those are our juniors who they come back for. Also, there is a high demand for future graduates, and now they work for eight companies. I am sure that there will be even more of them after a while. And we will help the market to meet the demand for highly-skilled juniors.

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