Business value of software developer apprentices

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Put our talent to work

In my role as a principal architect, I’m responsible for software design, solutions design, database design, leading teams and ensuring project, product and customer success. As any other senior engineer knows, this can all get a bit much. With the demands on your time for both doing and overseeing the work, you’re always looking for the best help you can find.

The secret weapon I have here at Catalyte are our software developer apprentices. They are the “hands-on-keyboard” resources who help me deliver successful projects, on time and on budget.

I know some of you might be skeptical. “Jason, can a junior developer really help me that much? They’re just going to slow me down. What I need is another senior resource, someone like me, to get this work done.”

Let me explain why you may want to reconsider this position, if you want to deliver work faster, easier and at reduced cost.

Forget the handholding

The idea of handholding junior developers isn’t the first thing people like me, with thirty years of experience in this field, think of as fun. While we want to engage the next generation of developers, we also need to get stuff done.

I’ve found that Catalyte software developer apprentices don’t need handholding. They simply need direction that you would give to any member of your team. And then they go and deliver the work.

Any other mentorship, coaching or management is happening behind the scenes. I, as their technical lead, get to focus on business-critical work. The support structure Catalyte provides does the rest, ensuring apprentices are continuing to grow technical and professional skills needed for their current project and beyond.

This means that our clients don’t have to spend more time managing an apprentice than they would for any other resource. All the director or VP sees is progress. The team is delivering. They’re testing. Things are moving forward as they should be.

Vetted talent, reduced costs

Most businesses understand they have challenges developing software. They are trying to move projects forward with the fewest resources and with the lowest costs. Software developer apprentices help in both regards.

First, they’re a known entity, discovered, developed and deployed based on a comprehensive vetting process. When I work with one, I know the level of skill they can provide. There’s no guessing or worry about, “Will I have to re-onboard someone new in three months?” due to lack of ability. This quality factor means you spend less time and overhead staffing projects and more on delivering them.

Second, because of their ability, you can use apprentices as part of a blended team to both improve output and reduce costs. I often work in small teams with two-to-three apprentice developers. This gives the client a very competitive blended rate, less than hiring two-to-three mid-to-senior level resources. But, the output is the same. I can focus on business strategy and project direction, with the apprentices delivering code.

Third, so many people I know have just given up and factored in the overhead of managing offshore teams into their time/costs. It’s what they’re used to. Don’t underestimate the reduced overhead – time, headaches, costs – that comes with working with vetted, onshore talent. No more midnight calls. No more black box staffing, with quarterly churn. No more managing multiple vendors. You get your time back to do what you want to do: create amazing products.

Software developer apprentices are hungry to learn

I entered the technology industry in a time when there weren’t that many people with computer science degrees. In fact, there’s been a 252% rise in undergraduate CS degrees since I graduated.

I was one of those people who were self-taught. I wanted to become a developer, so I learned how to do it. Many of my peers, people who are some of the best technical minds I know, did the same.

But somehow, we’ve come to a place where a degree matters more than what a person can do. I like to think that my fellow senior leaders can see past that, but too often, they don’t.

I see myself in our software developer apprentices. They’re hungry to learn. They absorb and apply knowledge quickly. I more often have to tell them to slow down rather than prodding them to do more. They represent what every business wants in an employee: hardworking, loyal with the skills to deliver business value and make the work easier for everyone involved.

This post is adapted from a Sourcing for Innovation podcast. You can watch a preview of and listen to the whole conversation below.

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