The tech industry is a bit of the Wild West when it comes to entry points of access and cultivating talent along a career path. Self-taught programmers, boot camp grads, and CS Majors all can learn and do engineering roles, with varying levels of success that don’t always speak to their formalized education tracks. Doing the job however doesn’t mean they get the opportunity to be hired.
Questions Around Access
Engineering leaders and managers don’t talk publicly about the inherent disconnect between DEI, HR/ Recruiting, and hiring teams. Most agree that they want more underrepresented talent in their open technical roles. The “how” to get there is often in contention.
Biases often exist and can exclude capable talent. Most companies say they need mid to senior-level engineers (right now!). Hiring managers typically want traditional CS majors with shiny resumes in their backgrounds, under the precipice that anyone else may not be able to do the work.
Do we know this to be true though? Do we know that talent, coming from a nontraditional background can’t do the job? How can we ever become more inclusive as an industry if the same ol’ selection processes apply?
When there aren’t clear standardized pathways to becoming “production-ready” as a software engineer, how do we know what success looks like? Who holds this information and how can it be accessed?
With so many resources out there, candidates can become lost in trying to navigate a pathway to success and career advancement. So much of what it takes to become an experienced engineer is riddled with misinformation or industry knowledge that isn’t open-sourced.
I challenge us all to think differently.
Many companies like Google, Twitter, AWS, etc use hiring bands to determine the job requirements and professional experience needed to perform in an engineering or technical role. These are company-specific and many companies don’t use them at all. What determines a mid to senior-level developer can also flex anywhere between 3, 5, and 10+ years. The reality is that the number of years is not as important as how one spends those years.
While there are so many different niche disciplines and areas in engineering, there are standardized phases of development that can be applied, universally.
We can standardize the learning process. We can standardize levels of experience so companies and candidates alike are not left to guess what’s next for their careers. Finally, we can standardize the craft and what success looks like.
The goal isn’t to turn every engineer into the same carbon copy of one another. We all will have different specialties, however, we have no baseline or oversight around foundational learnings and working styles.
While this may not seem critical, think about how software now impacts our daily lives. From hospitals to banking to wearables that can save or cost a life. More and more software is mission-critical. Everything is a gray area and we can do better.
For example, an automated test suite should be a rule and not a nice-to-have. The same thing should apply to version control and code review processes. It’s minimizing the eventual tech debt of the future but more importantly, can prevent catastrophes of the present.
Invest in Talent Along the Way
If you are trying to hire an experienced software developer then you know about the talent shortage that exists. Mid to senior-level engineers, especially underrepresented ones are very much in demand right now. Salaries are up 20% and above to account for the shortage. The need for tech talent is projected to grow with 66% of all companies hiring for mid to senior roles in 2021 alone.
Is there truly a talent shortage, though? Or are we not effectively nurturing the talent that exists?
This was the initial rationale in developing our own Software Residency program, in partnership with LEARN academy. The goals of the program were to 1) develop a sustainable pipeline of new talent and 2) to establish a support system for the development of this talent on a technical team.
How are we solving the problem?
Many of the greatest innovations are the result of taking something that is working in one industry and applying it to an industry that is struggling to solve the same problem. Rather than starting by reinventing the wheel, we first began by researching several industries which had clear paths of progression from entry to expert. The medical industry and other industries like legal and trade sectors all have programs that standardize what success looks like within their unique disciplines. The software development equivalent to a medical residency, for example, seemed to be a missing piece in our industry. So we decided to create one with the Software Residency program.
As a consultancy, we are able to work across industries and disciplines. We get exposure to the best practices, teams, and technologies. Also, as favored stacks, programming languages, and niche disciplines change regularly, our industry doesn’t have standardized measures of success like many other industries do. If we could standardize the baseline learnings, along with expert mentorship and intentional onboarding with partner companies, could we support the next generation of inclusive tech talent?
The answer is yes. The next step of course is scaling this impact through industry enlistment and continued education.
We’d love for you to join us in this work. Learn more about the Software Residency or connect with us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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