For the past two years, I have ran not one but two successful Junior Engineering Programs (JEPs) at Culture Amp. The official number of developers that I have trained there is 19. But I trained a bunch more developers from time-to-time as well. So the proper total would probably be in the range of 30-40 developers at Culture Amp that I have helped train, support and grow over the past two years. I am really proud of this work that I have done and I have really enjoyed my time doing it.
Unfortunately, Culture Amp has decided not to run the JEP in 2020 and are yet to make any decisions around future programs.
I understand this decision will be surprising to hear for a number of people who have been expecting to be able to apply for the program when applications open. Especially as I have been doing a little bit of a "speaking tour" recently talking about the JEP. It was surprising to me when I heard it, too.
I am grateful that these two JEPs even happened in the first place. It's very "Culture Amp" to have even talked about doing one, let alone doing it as well. It started as an idea from a hackathon we ran internally -- then referred to as the "Graduate Developer Program". The (slightly-embellished) story I tell is that I had a one-on-one with my Mentor, Jo Montanari, about 4 months after the hackathon and I asked her "why aren't we running this program? and she shot back: "Why aren't you running this program?".
The rest is history.
Culture Amp continues investing in learning and development
Culture Amp ran JEP for two years, but still does a lot of great work towards investing in the learning and development of their employees outside of this program. I'd like to mention two of them quickly here.
Culture Amp has the "Learn Yourself Up" (LYSU) program, $1k USD per-camper per-year to spend on whatever learning & development expenses you want. If it's related to your job, you can expense it up to 90% off. If it's something outside of that, you can still use this budget but expense only 50%. This is an excellent initiative; and something I think more tech companies should think about doing.
The second of these is the Mentoring assignments that every single employee gets. When you join Culture Amp, you get paired up with a Mentor who can give you "strategic" career advice and be an advocate for you in the organisation. I've been fortunate enough to have Doug English (the CTO), Jo Montanari (now Director of People & Culture), and Paul Hughes (Backend Practice Lead) as my mentors for the 3 years that I have been at Culture Amp.
Thanks to both the LYSU and mentoring, I have grown more as not just a developer but as a person faster than anywhere I've ever worked before. It has been the best time I've ever had working at a company in my entire career.
I will continue advocating for juniors
I have spoken at places such as RMIT, Le Wagon, Coder Academy about this program. I have had many 1-on-1 chats with juniors about their learning progress and how they could prepare themselves for the JEP. I have replied to many emails from interested juniors about this program, giving them similar levels of advice. There are literally hundreds of excellent junior developers out there. I'm happy to keep talking to juniors about their career prospects and what I sought out as someone who actively hired them.
I have even given feedback on juniors that have attempted either the 2017 JEP coding test or the 2018 JEP coding test. I am still going to keep doing this in to the future as much as I can. I think that technical feedback / direction like this is something that a lot of juniors are missing out on. They can read all the great tech books, follow all the cool screencasts, but that's pretty one-way. How do they know if they're writing code the "right" way? Well, having me look at their attempts at the coding test is a good way of getting that feedback. Let's keep doing that.
Every time I go to the Melbourne Ruby night, I spend a huge portion of the night talking to juniors about the program. I do all this because I care tremendously about juniors, and especially hiring juniors. I will keep having these talks with juniors too. I love meeting them and then seeing them get into jobs, and following how they go in their career.
I've also been advocating for other companies around the world to run their own junior programs too, and I think that it's gaining some traction. I'm going to continue to have these conversations too.
What this means for juniors
What this means for juniors who were thinking about applying to a future JEP is that there's now going to be slightly fewer job opportunities out there in an already tight job market. Such is the nature of the job market.
I am happy to still act as an advisor for juniors who need it and as an advocate for companies hiring more juniors. If there are any companies out there that are hiring juniors, I'm happy to refer on some excellent ones too.
What this means for my future
Somewhere around November, I will be leaving Culture Amp. The official date depends on some other factors and future discussions. I've really enjoyed working here: the people are very cool, the Culture Amp platform is solving a problem I care a lot about, and the tech is interesting.
Most of all though: I have been remarkably well-supported in whatever I've set my mind to at Culture Amp. From being a Ruby dev, to an Elixir dev, to running a Junior Engineering Program twice. Culture Amp has always had my best interests at heart, and I know that we part ways with no hard-feelings on either side here.