DevBuilders: What We've Learned From Our First Year of Apprenticeship

A little over a year ago, we started the DevBuilders apprenticeship program. Our mission was and is simple: to welcome people into the field of software development. I’d like to share what we’ve learned over the past year.

Choose your own adventure.

There have never been as many paths to get into software development as there are now. The number of intensive software development education programs continues to grow. What’s been really amazing to me is the number and success of apprentices who have taught themselves using online resources. When I launched the program, I assumed we would mainly be hiring boot camp graduates, but the majority of our apprentices so far have gone the self-taught route.

We’ve had quite a few blog posts from our apprentices describing their path. Here are of few of the resources they’ve mentioned:

Many skills are beneficial; only one is essential

There are so many technologies you can use to build web and mobile apps, and there are more coming along each day. It’s overwhelming to decide where to start. And what if you pick the wrong thing? Here’s the wonderful secret I’d like to share with you: it doesn’t really matter which thing you pick. Pick something you find interesting and fun, and then just stick with it and don’t look back. Build a few decently complicated apps before you decide to dig into something else. The wonderful and terrible thing about software development is that there will be something much better coming along any minute now to make whatever you are currently doing obsolete.

And so here is the essential skill for a developer: learn to learn and keep learning. I’ve never gotten to the point where I don’t regularly feel overwhelmed and question my abilities. And that’s ok.

You don’t have to do it alone

I’ve been keenly aware from the beginning that I don’t know what I don’t know about the process of becoming a developer. Although I taught myself programming at a young age, I entered the field of professional development via the traditional route by getting a computer science degree. Our program is designed to cast a much wider net, and the majority of our apprentices have been self-taught with very little in the way of formal classroom instructions. I don’t share the experience they do, and so it’s been invaluable to have help from people in the community who’ve already gone down this road. Now that we’re a year in, I’ve gotten to see apprentices spending their own to time to pass on what they’ve learned and help people getting ready to enter the program. This, to me, is possibly the most rewarding thing I’ve been part of in my entire career. What started as an idea to make it a little easier for people to break into this field has now become a community of people that have done it helping those who are doing it.

We’ve started a meetup group to keep fostering this community. And we’re not the first or only ones: organizations like Girl Develop It and Women Who Code, just to name a couple, have made a huge difference in helping some of our apprentices get started. There’s a lot of great people working on this. We need all of them.

It’s also worth pointing out that what I mean by community is about so much more than programming languages or frameworks. It’s a truly welcoming community. Go to almost any programming related meetup and town and proclaim your newness and share whatever thing you are currently struggling with. I guarantee there will be multiple people crowded around your computer with you helping you sort it out. This really makes a difference. I’ve heard from apprentices that part of the reason they chose this field and kept at it is that the people they met went out of their way to bring them in.

Is this you?

If this resonates with you, please check out our apprenticeship job description and apply. Even if you don’t feel you’re ready just yet, we’d love to see you at one of next meetups!

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