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Developing an Early Career Program in Technology Organizations

Building A Team
Hiring
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Career Path

12 October, 2022

Praveen Cheruvu
Praveen Cheruvu

Senior Software Engineering Manager at Anaplan

Why companies should invest in early career programs ?

Let’s start on why companies should invest in early career program before the how’s.

Few are some of the reasons and drivers

1.             Great opportunity to build diversity from ground up

2.             Availability pool is high

3.             Cost of acquisition is low

4.             Less pressure of finance for sustaining

5.             Amazing avenue to mold and train as per team and organization needs

6.             The ramp-up and lead time to productive is manageable

7.             High energy booster for team

8.             Fresh eyes and perspectives

9.             A means to get feedback from the younger segment of population

10.          Better team organization with a better alignment of team pyramid

11.          Provide leadership opportunities to existing team members

12.          Doing the company part for creating employment opportunities for the students graduating – comply to social responsibility

13.          Access to new ideas and problem-solving techniques

14.          Network affects for company products as they share information about their work with friends and family

15.          Social media presence as the early career folks might be very active on the public platforms

16.          Free advertising based on #15

17.          Contribute valuable insights to future proofing the product fit and extend use cases

18.          In some unique situations, it could be a growth accelerator – example TikTok

Now the factors that are not very conducive if the company is Angel or early stage. In these situations, there is not enough experience and expertise for the support structure. In the early-stage companies need both breadth and depth of skills. In addition, prior experience in the space that the company is building product might be extremely important, example security and cyber security.

Now, when it is decided to build the program, following are the tactical steps of achieving it.

The first and the foremost requirement is to have a separating recruiting for the early career program. Hiring of the experienced and professional is different ball game. The recruiting strategy for students in terms of process and dynamics are different. How to go about this? Hire someone who has already done this before. If that is not option, engage a consultant in the area and train the existing recruiting staff. In addition to training, network with career counselors in various universities and schools that your company is targeting. LinkedIn is great platform to target the early career population segment.

Once the team is in place or before putting together a team together, develop a timeline of schedule. It is very. Important. Example, if the goal is starting the program mid of following year, the baseline plan should be no later than October. The companies who rely on early career talent, complete the initial steps of engagement with students and campuses by November/December. Since during second of December holidays kick-in, there would not be much traction and collaboration from university coordinators.

In January, the assessment process is scheduled, and the offers are rolled out by end of the February or mid-March. If this sounds too early or ideal in the case. If this schedule does not fit your situation , there is still hope, but it limits the options and companies cannot selective.

Now for assessment, it is upside compared to the professionals. The main attribute the companies are looking is

1.    Culture fit

2.    Curiosity

3.    Collaboration

4.    Attitude

5.    Ability to learn

Baking them in the interview loops needs rework to assessment currently in the company. Unless the organization have robust early career program the existing employees might not have interview skills to assess students. The next tactical step is to build the training program [ couple of hours or based on the need] and train engineers.

1.    Adjust the meet/greet protocol in the interviews. There is certain expectation for the new grads on the engagement and this need to be part of the training

2.    The type of problems used in the assessments. They should be relevant to level of their exposure

3.    The instructions on the problem should be clear and explicit. There should not be room for confusion and ambiguity. Some of the students might be shy or intimidated to ask clarifying questions

4.    The scope of the problems and acceptable solutions must be readjusted compared to experienced hiring. This is area critical in the training

5.    The prompts and volunteer to help must be more often to ensure the solution can be completed in the specified time and make them feel comfortable

6.    The assessment rubric must be reworked

7.    There should be flexibility in the final solutions accepted

8.    More focus on the approach, problem solving strategies employed, ability to recover from mistakes.

9.    Ability to listen and take cues from the conversation with interviewer and pick up on the hints and tip provided

10. Gauge the attention span,, taking feedback and course correction if they are on wrong path during problem solving

11. Once the assessment is complete, reach out to them quickly within 1-2 days of the interview

Go through the offer process and welcome them. After the offer letter keep the engagement model with a weekly email, sending swag before couple of weeks before their start date. You don’t want to loose any potential candidates after all hard work that went in. Then 1-2 weeks before the start have virtual meeting to provide sneak peek on the on-boarding process.

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