Community, Team

Developer Apprentice Program 2021: Midway Update

How time flies!  In September 2021 SmartLogic kicked off its second Developer Apprentice Program, welcoming Rachel Kahtan and Bilal Hankins to the team. Now we’re halfway through the program and a lot has changed.

Our apprentices have been learning new skills and growing in their confidence as developers. Additionally, we welcomed new Developer Apprentice Mary Dick to the team. We are so excited about the work everyone has been doing, and are celebrating National Apprentice Week with an update on our apprentice team’s progress.

Mentors: Joel Meador, Anna Dorigo and Alex Housand

“I would like to transmit the good practices that I have been learning during my time in SmartLogic.” - Anna Dorigo

Mentorship is foundational to our program. In order to help  our apprentices bridge gaps in their experience between bootcamp and full time work they are partnered with experienced members of our software development team. They ask technical questions, practice their communication skills, and learn from their mistakes through pairing sessions, office hours, 1:1’s and daily standups with their mentors.

Mentor Anna Dorigo notes that the apprentices “have provided a nice sense of curiosity and young energy. They have helped to increase (in my case) my communication skills. To be able to mentor and help someone is completely new for me. It is nice to see new faces and have the team grow.”

Mentor Joel Meador says that the new apprentices are “killing it!" and that they're enjoying overcoming technical problems together.

“It's been a particular kind of fun dealing with the environment issues the apprentices are having, since they are on completely different hardware than the rest of the dev team," Joel says. "These kind of hardware issues can arise over long-term projects anyway, and it’s an unusual and interesting hands-on learning and teaching opportunity."

Mentor Alex Housand notes “Bilal and Rachel have been really productive working through tickets. They've worked on a variety of technical issues. I think working in an active legacy codebase has been challenging in both good and bad ways, there are a lot of examples of different types of work. But also the codebase is very large and can be hard to navigate.”

So far, our mentees have advanced in technical skills including git, React, semantic HTML, testing, dev environment management, CI, debugging in Ruby and React, collaborative coding, testing, Rails skills (migration), and working in SCSS files.

Mentor Alex Housand notes, “I've enjoyed helping them through problems they've had, and watching them grow through our weekly syncs and 1:1's. Getting them both set up on the project was hard due to a whole host of issues, but I think it was a great learning moment for everyone involved.” Anna Dorigo is similarly inspired, saying “I love to see young people so full of energy, enthusiasm and hungry to learn. They are very smart and they learn very fast. They have found in SmartLogic, a healthy environment where they can feel empowered and guided.”

Next, the mentor team will be teaching new skills. Joel is excited to teach “more git stuff and active record 200 level courses,” while Anna Dorigo is looking forward to getting deeper into the project functionality as well as diving into Rails and automated tests. At Bilal’s request, Alex is excited to “set up some pairing time with him so he can get a brief overview of working in the Elixir language.”

Mentees: Bilal Hankins, Rachel Kahtan and Mary Dick

The Apprentice Program recently added a new third apprentice, Mary Dick, to the group. “I heard about the program through Flatiron School's career services team and thought it sounded like a perfect fit for what I was looking for,” Mary said. In her short time within the program Mary is enjoying working with her colleagues although she finds herself working on separate projects while she catches up. “That being said,” Mary adds, “my mentor, Anna, has been very helpful when I’m stuck and I have no shortage of resources at my disposal.”

While working mostly on infrastructure updates for her project, Mary is excited to get into the nitty-gritty and make some more tangible contributions. “I’m still very new to the industry so I think getting hands-on experience is the best way for me to learn.”

Bilal and Rachel are already midway through the 14 week program. “The program has been great!” says Rachel. “It’s been really rewarding to be able to contribute to a team effort, and I was surprised at how much change I have been able to make to the project despite my relative inexperience with some of the technical aspects.”

While working in Ruby was intimidating at first, Rachel was excited to realize that she was able to translate her previous experience learning JavaScript in bootcamp. “A lot of the same concepts and data structures underpin both languages.”

Bilal has been excited to learn new skills in Ruby, Rails, HAML, ElasticSearch, and SCSS. “I have learned a lot about my abilities to pick up new technical skills and programming languages at a quick pace.”

Learning new languages in a real time work environment can be intimidating for any new dev out of bootcamp, but access to mentorship is an asset for each of our mentees. “The emphasis on mentorship and personal career development in this program has been a really unique experience, and I am excited for the opportunity it is giving me to grow as a developer,” notes Rachel.

Bilal says that “When I was self-employed, I felt the burden of wearing multiple hats to achieve success. At SmartLogic everyone has a role to play in the team. It really feels like one big family.”

Bilal is not the only one feeling the warmth of the team. While only a few weeks in, Mary notes, “Everyone has been so kind and welcoming to me since I started the program. Every day I've been meeting with different people from the team and just chatting with them. It's been great to get to know everyone and know that I have a strong support system if I need it.”

We’re very proud of our team and look forward to seeing how they progress throughout the rest of the program. Stay tuned for our January blog post to learn more about the conclusion of this year’s Apprentice program!

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske

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