I’m Jason Draper and I’m a developer apprentice here at thoughtbot in the apprentice.io program. Since the beginning of March it’s been a whirlwind of tests, code and agile development.
It’s no secret that Rails developers are in high demand right now. To offset this issue, companies have turned to training developers from the ground up and then hiring them for their own work or helping the developers find a job elsewhere. Living Social started Hungry Academy. There is also Dev Bootcamp and many others.
So why did I choose apprentice.io?
apprentice.io is heavily hands-on with actual client work. There are no “made up” projects. Sure, as apprentices we all work on our own side projects but during the day, I’m working on client code. Working on code for a client means you must write what the client wants and needs which may not be the same thing. The belief both here at thoughtbot and by myself is that you learn more by actual work.
In addition to hands-on development with client work, thoughtbot offers several workshops throughout our apprenticeship which complement our learning. The workshops give us a chance to go deeper into situations which would not otherwise arise during the course of working with clients. The workshops are immensely useful and an integral part of our training.
I’ve been writing Rails code for a while but I wanted to learn better coding skills from people who knew their stuff. If you’ve done any Rails work at all, you’ve heard of at least one of thoughtbot’s gems or projects. I’ve been using paperclip for a long time and factory_girl is amazing for getting rid of fixtures. So when I decided that I wanted to expand my knowledge, I could crack open their code and see exactly what these guys produce. I knew they had what I wanted to learn.
In Boston and in the Rails community, thoughtbot is well known and respected. I wanted to work for an organization that required a high level of quality in their code as well as their practices, not just a company that had a “one hit wonder” that took them to the top.
Though the apprentice.io program is new, for years thoughtbot has had apprentices (not interns) internally and trained outside developers via workshops.
Learning doesn’t stop outside the office. Boston has a strong tech community and groups such as BostonRB thrive with experienced and new users alike.
What I wanted to get out of the apprenticeship was going from a junior developer to the next level. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to work afterwards so I liked that apprentice.io has very loose employment restrictions. I couldn’t be more excited.
Over 150 developers and designers have applied to apprentice.io and 17 have been accepted. The majority left their previous jobs to apprentice with us and we’re currently booked through September, with some apprentices scheduled for 2013.
Based on feedback from employers, we’re changing the way the program works.
Starting immediately, there will not be a monthly fee for employers to participate in the program. Instead, there will be a more traditional placement fee of 20% of the first-year’s salary when you hire a graduating apprentice.
It is now free for employers to sign up and view all apprentices.
We hope removing barriers to entry and using a traditional payment model will resolve concerns employers have expressed about the program, ensuring that we can continue to train new developers and designers well into the future.
The cost of hiring from apprentice.io is comparable to using a traditional recruiter. We’re certain that like us, you’ve interacted with recruiters before…
They do very little to justify the expense. They spam networks to find people, have a poor understanding of current technology and designer/developer motivation, and send you individuals of a quality you could have found with a Craiglist post.
In contrast, apprentice.io starts with a selective application and interview process. We pay the apprentice a salary for 3 months to pair program with our experienced team and take days’ worth of our workshops.
The designers and developers of apprentice.io are more qualified and better trained than what we’ve had sent by recruiters.
We would make more money by hiring all apprentices and billing them out as consultants but that doesn’t help solve the shortage of talent that our friends at other companies (including our clients) are feeling.
It’s also more attractive for apprentices to have more options after they graduate from the program. Not every person wants to be a consultant. Every apprentice in our program, however, is interested in making great products, interfaces, and software.
If you want to hire world-class designers and developers, please join apprentice.io.
Every company we speak with could use a great web designer or developer on their team. We think we know where to find such mysterious figures.
Imagine a programmer next to you, noise-canceling headphones on, punishing his keyboard with forceful blows, punctuating each change by slamming the heels of his hands against his desk. While tests run, jolly meme photos float into Campfire.
Imagine this person writing test-first code that is pushed to production each day. Imagine them refactoring ruthlessly and making other team members stronger through feature branch code reviews.
37signals doesn’t have to imagine. Nick Quaranto now works with them.
Nick was an apprentice at thoughtbot. We cannot claim responsibility for his motivation, problem solving abilities, or other Nick-isms, but his time with us was not an aberration.
75% of the new team members we hired last year started as apprentices.
Last year, we met Prem Sichanugrist, a lifelong Thailand resident. You’ll find him currently ranked #32 for most commits to Rails.
Galen Frechette creates useful and beautiful stuff like this. Alex Godin was in Techstars New York before he could legally buy a pack of smokes. Gabe Berke-Williams is becoming a prolific (and often funny) open source contributor.
All are former thoughtbot apprentices.
We’ve now run an internal apprentice program for about two years. We’ve also run design and development workshops for years.
Like many things, these are easy to start but difficult to regularly do well. Apprentices will temporarily slow their mentors down. Questions will arise.
How much time should be spent pairing? Attending workshops? Reading the Pickaxe or watching Peepcodes? Reading incoming code reviews from a variety of projects?
We’re getting good at many of these subtle details. As a fairly efficient design-and-code consultancy, we’re the right team to try to push the limits.
We’re now opening up our apprenticeship program externally for any company that would like to sponsor apprentices. We’re calling this new program apprentice.io.
When you sign up on the website as an employer you get immediate access to the bios of all of the current apprentices and the others from all over the world that we already have scheduled for this year.
As an employer, you contact and interact with the apprentices directly. Over time we’ll grow the apprentice.io platform to provide mentor-to-employer updates on the progress of apprentices, and more.
For little more than you may already pay job boards and a lot less than you might pay recruiters, this money now goes to train people.
We think that’s a powerful idea: what if instead of recruiting, you educate?
Sign up as an employer.
If you’re a designer or developer interested in apprenticing, please apply.
If you just want to talk about this, please email me at email@example.com or call me at (877) 976-2687 x113.