MAXX Potential

5 Remote Mentoring Tips To Develop The Best Tech Talent

By The Team at MAXX

Remote work environments and hybrid options are here to stay, and that means the way companies train and mentor employees and new hires must change. Over the last few years, MAXX Potential moved to a fully remote mentorship and apprenticeship model, meaning we can share some of our best tips for remote mentoring to develop great tech talent. 

Many employers now offer remote work environments as a way to attract and retain their IT talent. While this option has seen success for established employees, a challenge remains: how can companies succeed at onboarding and mentoring remote hires and entry-level employees?

The answer is both simple and not so simple. Great mentorship and talent development starts at the heart of the company’s culture, and from there, it becomes an integrated structure of clear expectations, one-on-one coaching, exploratory collaboration, and personalized discussion.

According to dictionary.com, mentorship is “the position or services of a wise and trusted counselor or senior sponsor, often in a particular field.” 

While apprenticeship connotes more tactile learning, mentorship carries the added responsibility of developing character and soft skills. 

Rahim Islam, MAXX Potential Solution Delivery Manager, shares it best. “In my opinion, helping someone get to the answer on their own is better than just handing them the answer. If I can share that problem-solving mindset and way of thinking with an apprentice, it will pay dividends in their career.”

Developed by technologists for technologists, MAXX Potential recognizes that companies not only need qualified individuals to fill tech roles but also candidates with perseverance and heart. Since 2010, we have optimized our in-person and remote mentoring techniques to inspire our apprentices and deliver the results we know our clients need in entry-level IT positions. 

Adding a full-time mentoring program to everyday operations is no small task. Strong entry-level talent development starts with a solid structure, whether you’re remote or in-person.

1. Setting up the First Remote Meeting

While your entry-level recruit may have experienced video calls, it’s possible that some have not experienced a virtual workplace meeting. You can provide a tip sheet in advance for some virtual meeting etiquette on how to access the meeting and how to prepare (i.e. background, dress, prohibited activities).

As the host, you also have some advance work with preparing your screen-sharing materials, writing a list of questions to guide conversation, and doing a test run before you start.

2. Developing the Meeting Cadence and Structure

Mentorship comes in all shapes and styles. Creating the cadence and structure is a two-way conversation where both the mentor and mentee decide what meeting style works best for their ongoing mentorship relationship. While some may prefer a structured meeting style, others may prefer a more conversational approach. 

One conversational style of coaching uses the GROW Model, which looks at Goals, Reality, Options, and Will. This model is repeatable with or without a mentor, allowing the mentee to reuse this framework throughout their career.

3. Targeting Technical and Soft Skills

Unlike a traditional meeting, which is often a relay of information, mentoring prioritizes the two-way conversation where the mentee and mentor share technical problems, career concerns, and professional communication. Conversations can focus on preparing for behavioral interview questions, drafting a professional email, or picking apart a piece of code that didn’t work. It’s easy to assume that a mentorship looks like the mentor only imparting knowledge, but we believe that great mentorship is where we learn from each other.

MAXX Apprentices discover early on that they can speak with their mentors about any scenario from their apprenticeship. With this level of support, apprentices are empowered to navigate tricky professional situations or solve challenging technical problems. 

4. Learning by Doing

Apprenticeship is about doing, and mentorship supports that development. With the remote mentorship format, apprentices take on more responsibility for their growth and learning than in a more traditional in-person training atmosphere. We encourage apprentices to share their screens and walk their mentor through their problem-solving process.

“Much like apprentices back in the day learned by swinging a hammer or “doing the work”, MAXX Potential Apprentices learn through performing value-adding production tasks for our enterprise customers.” Islam says.

Remote mentorship allows apprentices to learn while on the job with the support of a mentor. From day one, the apprentice’s work delivers value to their team project and personal skill development. 

5. Building Confidence and Failing Forward

Often entry-level technologists are reluctant to indicate to their employer that they are not grasping the full requirements of the work because they risk appearing unqualified. It is important to establish a safe space for learning and conversation.

From the start at MAXX Potential, mentors are transparent with mentees about their own experiences, even sharing their mistakes and missteps. This breaks the ice and creates a precedent for discussing successes and failures. Every situation offers the opportunity for growth. We act as a confidence buffer for entry-level IT professionals, which leads to more effective learning and improved job skills. 

Partnering with MAXX Potential for Mentorship

Smart companies understand how crucial talent development is and design a plan for mentorship at every position level. Entry-level IT recruits will carry the future, and a mentoring program that meets their weaknesses and strengths equips them to harness their potential and increase the value they can add for their future employers. 

Mentorship and apprenticeship are what MAXX Potential does every day as we help companies fill entry-level openings in their team.

Ready to discover tech talent with MAXX Potential? Contact us for more information.

Can You Get An IT Job With No Experience?

By The Team at MAXX

If you are looking to start a career in Information Technology, you might find it challenging to get your foot in the door. IT is an ever-changing industry, and your experience and education may not meet the stated requirements of job openings. Don’t be discouraged! There are changes happening in IT recruiting that can work in your favor if you know about them.

A third of in-demand skills are non-technical

While it’s promising to see soft skills being introduced into IT education, the curriculum has not advanced as quickly as the industry requires. Today, as reported by Indeed, soft skills make up one-third of the 20 skills in demand for IT careers. Here are some of the less technical but sought-after skills IT hiring managers are hiring for:

Analysis

Analytical skills refer to your ability to evaluate a situation and decide what actions to take next. Companies look for employees who are great at investigating a problem and finding the ideal solution in a timely manner. Analytical skills include brainstorming, finding patterns, interpreting data, observing, integrating new information, and making decisions based on multiple factors.

People Management

This starts with the ability to manage yourself. Even in an entry-level position, basic people management skills that build and strengthen relationships, such as understanding the needs of another person on your team, and helping others achieve their goals, are assets.

Creativity

There is plenty of creativity in IT around devising new ways to perform tasks, meet challenges and solve problems. Creative employees take risks, bring new ideas, and are valuable to a company. You can develop creative thinking skills through recreation, awareness of your assumptions, and solving riddles.

Collaboration

Collaboration refers to working with others to produce or create something, and most positions require teamwork, regardless of how technical they are. People who are effective at building trust know how to understand a variety of viewpoints, manage priorities, and deliver results. Successful collaboration requires mutual respect and a cooperative spirit.

Adaptability 

As technology advances, companies must embrace new processes to stay competitive. Adaptability means growing and changing to achieve success, even without explicit instructions. Fast learners who know how to adapt are well-positioned for successful careers.

Time Management

Time management skills—such as prioritizing, scheduling, task management, and delegation—are in high demand. Companies in every industry look for employees who can make the most of their time on the job.

Closing the Experience Gap

You display these skills daily, but how can they transfer to your IT career when you lack the minimum experience on most job postings? First, be sure to highlight your soft skills on your resumé and in your cover letter, which should be customized for each job application you submit.

With IT talent being in short supply, many employers are more willing to invest in less-experienced individuals if they see evidence of the soft skills above. Internships and apprenticeships are two ways to get your foot in the door so that your soft skills can shine while you gain the experience and technical depth required to be successful in the longer term.

Internship or apprenticeship: What’s the difference?

Internships and apprenticeships provide different workplace experiences to grow your skills.

Internships are usually shorter-term or part-time commitments. You will get valuable experience to add to your resume. Most interns are focused on knowledge-building activities (e.g., school or study) and view the internship as a way to enhance their learning experience.

Apprenticeships are hands-on, full-time, skill-building roles. You are working on longer-term projects with direct one-on-one coaching by a more experienced professional. Apprentices are focused on gaining industry experience, along with part-time study to enhance their work experience.  

This is why MAXX Potential offers both internship/pre-apprenticeship curricula to educational providers and full-time paid apprenticeships to connect aspiring technologists with employers looking for long-term hires. In both cases, we offer the supplemental coaching and mentoring required for successful outcomes.

Get started in your IT career today

We walk the talk when it comes to putting people first. Our team has decades of experience with entry-level programs that are proven to identify and quickly prepare developers and engineers.

See more about what we are looking for in prospective apprentices, and then sign up for our Career Lab. You have nothing to lose and an awesome IT career to gain.

''Find a way, now, to do the sorts of things you want to do at the job, later." - Words from Alumn, Jess Izen

Jess Izen

Jess worked as an Apprentice for almost a year and exited MAXX Potential as a distinguished Alum, making it all the way to level 4.

What were you doing before MAXX Potential? What drew you to pursue a career in technology?

I used to manage a local bicycle courier company, Quickness RVA. We contracted with a small web agency, KNOWN, to build an online ordering platform. I ended up joining the agency as a project manager. I was drawn in out of curiosity mostly. The problems seemed diverse and challenging, there were always a million ways you could accomplish a goal. It also seemed very stable compared to service industry work.I shifted from project management to coding because that was the most interesting part of projects to me, writing business logic and dealing with servers.

Can you talk about what you’re currently working on? What are some of your job responsibilities?

I work on AWS's web application firewall (WAF) service. WAF is a layer 7 firewall that sits in front of customer services to inspect request content and apply security rules. My team owns bot control, captcha, account-takeover, and other detection-related features. Dealing with bots is cool because it is something of a cat and mouse game. You can get better and better at detecting and mitigating bot traffic, but bot makers are also always evolving and disguising their networks. And the targets are very diverse - web crawlers/scrapers, account takeover bots, scalpers, etc.In my day-to-day, I do a good mix of cloud architecture/design work, application coding, and DevOps.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your current role?

We own and operate our service, with no separate ops team. So building a feature isn't just writing some code, it's figuring out where it lives and how we deploy it and make sure it is working. Not to mention, pinning down what our users need and what would be most impactful for us to build. And because of the scale we're working at, there are a whole new set of challenges around orchestration, monitoring, performance, etc. It really keeps you on your toes and makes you learn a lot of new technologies.

How do you keep your skills up to date? What’s the best way to learn new concepts, technologies, programming languages, etc.?

Mostly through work. I make sure to take jobs where I will learn new things and continually be challenged. At somewhere like MAXX, you are exposed to something different just about every project. Frontend work, security work, APIs, native apps, robotic process automation - I did all of those in my time at MAXX. You get really good at jumping into something new and figuring out your way around. You don't get quite as much variety if you aren't at an agency, but you can still stay sharp and seek out opportunities to bring in new technologies.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone early in their IT career or looking to get their start?

Find a way, now, to do the sorts of things you want to do at a job, later. Donate work to a local org, build something for a friend, contribute to an OS project, etc. I see people who just study and study, have a portfolio full of practice projects or went to a boot camp. But in interviews, employers want to hear about problems you solved and how you did it. They are trying to figure out how you work. You need to have a way to show that to them.

Building a Diverse Tech Talent Pipeline

By The Team at MAXX

The Importance of Building A Diverse and Sustainable Tech Talent Pipeline

For many tech employers, attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges they face today. It has become clear that the traditional way of recruiting — an evaluation based on verifiable resumé experience alone — isn’t producing the results to meet the demand. Attracting talented individuals from non-traditional sources has gone from being a competitive advantage to a strategic imperative.

Compounding the problem is pure supply and demand economics. Employee expectations for remote work options, and the fact that prospective candidates have more opportunities globally has taken the “war for talent” to a whole new level. With the largest multinational corporations now having the capacity and resources to be a force at every virtual career fair and therefore having the first picks from the talent pool, how is a mid-size firm to compete? To address the shortage, there are also a growing number of alternative pathways such as bootcamps and specialty programs, but with varying degrees of caliber and success rates. The “tech talent creation” landscape has become difficult to navigate and could easily consume an entire team just to evaluate the effectiveness of all these programs

The unique challenges with entry-level roles

Beyond the complexities in finding experienced talent, filling entry-level IT roles presents additional challenges for both IT and HR leaders. The first issue is that most high-potential learners will not want to stay in an entry-level position for long. Once they’ve picked up the skills a junior role has to offer, they will (and should) be looking for a next challenge to keep advancing their skills. This leads to a recurring problem of having to find and retrain new hires in less-strategic, but critical front-line positions. Those positions are often the best place for a high-potential future technologist to start.

The other challenge with entry level roles is that, already at capacity and understaffed, most IT leaders can’t afford to allocate their most capable staff to mentoring inexperienced hires who will have a lot of questions and require more coaching than an experienced hire.

To tackle these challenges, most leaders are looking for innovative solutions. A common quote we hear from customers is, “in order to survive and compete in the future, we have to get creative and it’s time for us to build our own pipeline.”

Diversity matters now more than ever.

Struggling to find the best people? Cast a wider net! Diversity is often used to describe gender, race, and other observable characteristics. Many forward-thinkers are recognizing that this definition is no longer sufficient. At MAXX Potential, we have a much broader definition of diversity that also includes aspects that make individuals unique, such as skillsets, personality types, and individual life experiences. We attract a diverse spectrum of people from all walks of life who are creative thinkers, problem-solvers, and share a passion for technology. 

MAXX Potential recognized all of these shifting dynamics long ago and has spent the last decade building a successful and sustainable solution.

What makes MAXX Potential apprenticeship approach effective?

By working with MAXX Potential, our partners have access to a continuous supply of capable talent. We always have a motivated Apprentice on-deck, which eliminates downtime. Our results-driven approach incentivizes successful outcomes and was designed to remove the unintentional bias that is often prevalent in traditional recruiting. No candidate is ruled out based on their resume or past experience. We welcome new grads as equally as career-changers who love technology and are looking for a career trajectory-changing opportunity.

How we spot talent

At the foundation of our approach is the MAXX Potential Career Lab, which was designed to give aspiring technology professionals a taste of what the industry is like. In this immersive learning opportunity, we present candidates with hands-on individual and group activities as we evaluate their desire and aptitude. Many people are working in jobs where they are not able to realize their full potential, and when they are presented with an opportunity to show what they can do, they seize it! As people move through Career Lab, we use behavior-based methodologies to determine whether they would be a good fit for a paid apprenticeship. Whether or not they move forward, candidates learn valuable life skills and develop a better understanding of the tech industry. Those selected as Apprentices are hired as full-time employees at MAXX Potential where they work directly with industry professionals on real projects to acquire the experience they need to move into higher paying industry roles.To reach folks who might otherwise be overlooked, we are continuously cultivating relationships with community colleges, workforce development programs, bootcamps and other alternative training providers. This extends our customers’ reach while saving them time and they can rest assured that our selection process is thorough and our standards are high. prevalent in traditional recruiting. No candidate is ruled out based on their resume or past experience. We welcome new grads as equally as career-changers who love technology and are looking for a career trajectory-changing opportunity.

Finding the Win-Win-Win

We think hard about incentives and believe means matter. We meet our Apprentices where they are and provide the individualized mentorship and experience they need to be successful in a tech career. Apprentices progress at their own pace and our customers are able to hire at any time, removing progress-limiting obstacles such as income share agreements, time-bound employment contracts and expensive hiring fees. 

Having successfully mentored thousands of aspiring technologists, we know that still today, checklists and personality tests are not enough to discover the audience of talented people who are well-suited to enter a tech career. Even Myers Briggs agrees that personality tests are valuable for their intended use, but not for hiring and selection processes. In their most recent Trends Report, they note that “organizations need to recognize that individuals can contribute at any age or life stage and focusing on the individual, rather than the mass, is going to make the difference.” We get to know both our apprentices and customers well, and adapt to their unique needs. This leads to long-term relationships built on trust and confidence that we will be there when they need us.

We can help you

Looking to upgrade your talent strategy? Contact us to learn how MAXX Potential can work for you.