While this episode might end up sounding like a giant advertisement for AcquiaU, it’s really not intended to be. I wanted to have you on to talk about the concept of, how a company that hires Drupal developers, can and should go about training them before they are hired.
In order to set the backdrop for the rest of our conversation, I’d like to quote a bit from the AcquiaU website:
The challenge the community is facing is one of supply and demand. Simply put, there just aren’t enough people to fill the needs. At any given time in the past 6 months, job aggregator Indeed.com has over 2,500 open position across the US for Drupal talent.
How do we close the gap? Find the people with the right passion and grow their talent from the inside-out. We're not looking for people with years and years of Drupal experience. We're looking for people who are curious, motivated, determined, and who can inspire a little crazy in us all. At Acquia, culture and a person's POTENTIAL to contribute and grow with us matters. A lot. These are the underpinnings of a successful candidate.
What I love about that is that you’re not looking for senior level developers with 5+ years experience. Because you’re not going to find them. They all already have jobs.
Mike and I ranted about that in the last podcast, so I won’t rehash it here, but what we boiled it down to is that Drupal shops need to create a talent pipeline for recruitment, which, as I understand it, is essentially what AcquiaU is for Acquia.
Ok, with all that said, I’ll shut up now, and let you do the talking.
- Can you give us your description of what AcquiaU is?
- The program is 14-weeks of hands-on training in Drupal, Acquia Products, related web technologies, and professional development skills like team building, leadership, and communication skills. We spend the first 6 weeks in a classroom environment, which is a combination of lecture, group projects, individual assignments, and self-paced learning. The most recent graduates’ project was to redesign the program’s website, u.acquia.com Each participant is assigned an Acquia Mentor who is there to not just be a buddy, but to help from a technical perspective. The next 8 weeks are spent with job rotations where they work with our customer facing Professional Services developers and customer support. Each person is assigned a client team and works side-by-side on real projects. You might think it is like any other tech bootcamp out there but we differentiate ourselves in a couple of key areas. First, we make sure we have an open job opportunity for each person who joins the program and second, we pay people to learn. Many other bootcamps have a high cost- on average up to $10,000 and while they help with job placement, I can’t say how many have jobs lined up for graduates BEFORE they join the program.
- How do you select your candidates? Or can anyone join the class?
- We have a rigorous screening process and look for people with 2-3 years of technology experience, but who might not be able to get a job with a development shop. A lot of times, this level of talent is overlooked because companies don’t have the internal mechanisms to train, mentor, and coach junior level talent. They are already stretched thin and want new hires to hit the ground running at a fairly high level of proficiency.
- What types of skills do you teach?
- We dive deep into Drupal and other web tech skills like Drush, GitHub, and Agile and a dive into our own products and services. Helping people become well rounded also means that we do workshops in team building, communication skills, and presentation skills. The next session will have an engineering focus so we will be digging into LAMP stack and web architecture.
- Do the students have any obligation to Acquia at the end of the program? (Like they have to work for you for a given time period after the program?)
- People are hired on as temp employees and we really hope they have had a great experience and want to stay on. The program’s goal is to hire them at Acquia or with one of our partners.
- What percentage of students would you say you hire on average?
- So far we have a 90% hire rate. The goal for 2016 is to expand the program and hire more people into other Drupal shops
- Do you have information about those that you don’t hire? Do you know if they’re employed somewhere else? Or did they decide Drupal wasn’t for them?
Expanding the Concept
- Now that you have a few classes under your belt, is this something you think other shops should look into doing?
- People have asked me this and I think they should think about what the end goal is. Our program is not to just train more people for Acquia, but to give back to the Drupal community by creating a long-form drupal training program with learning paths and a structured hands-on curriculum.
- We were talking before we started recording about this idea. Mike had mentioned that shops should create a talent pipeline. And while I agree with that in theory, what that means is that the shops first have to develop a training program, and one or more people who are skilled at both Drupal and teaching in a way that doesn’t alienate the trainee. From your perspective, how would you respond to that?
- Having a talent pipleline means that you have a people development strategy that aligns to your business strategy, and that you have launched that people plan long before you launch the business strategy. Most companies play catch-up and are more reactive than proactive. Being proactive means you’re looking ahead 2-4 years out and making plans for your people.
- If there is a shop owner out there listening right now, what would your advice be on how to go about creating a program like this?
- I think you really have to be prepared to commit. Budgets need to allow for hiring junior talent, the business needs to be ready to bring in this level of need. It takes a lot of planning to launch a program like this. For companies that can’t support hiring 5-10 junior level talent, they should start out with a smaller number. A really strong learning program doesn’t just focus on the skills, but on different ways that people will need to learn and being able to translate really complex ideas into ways that different people will relate to. If you’ve ever heard about the adult learning cycle and experiential learning, we know that people tend to be most successful learning new skills when they can reach back into their own experience and apply them to the new content. Being a really strong developer doesn’t always mean that you can tap into other peoples’ experiences and make it relevant to them now. So when you look at creating that pipeline and having junior level talent come on board, you also have to figure out the most effective way to do it.