Data Analyst, Hamilton Beach Brands
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By The Team at MAXX
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
By Kim Mahan
While most educators and workforce development professionals are very familiar with these terms, working in the entry-level talent development space, we often hear them used interchangeably by industry professionals, parents, and students. So what exactly is the difference between an internship and an apprenticeship? The more relevant follow-up question is, “If I’m trying to break into the industry, which should I choose?”
The easiest way to think about it is that internships are typically short-term work engagements designed to enhance an academic learning experience. They can be paid or unpaid, and are often structured as a full-time summer job, or part-time semester-long experience. The student’s primary focus is on their education, which is enhanced by supplemental exposure to actual work environments and industry professionals. Basically, school comes first, supplemented by work experience to apply their classroom knowledge learned in a professional environment.
Apprenticeships, on the other hand, are a very different approach toward embarking upon a new career and are often the preferred pathway for skilled trades. In an apprenticeship, the focus is on gaining work experience first, with close supervision and guidance by a more experienced professional in addition to supplemental coursework on the side.
Even though IT Professionals spend a good portion of their time at a keyboard, most skilled technologists view themselves as craftspeople and the progression of skill development more closely resembles that of a skilled trade than other traditional “knowledge workers.” Based on our experience, skills are best developed by working on actual problems where there isn’t an answer key in the back of the book, or “Time in code.” By starting off in a support role, for example, an Apprentice is exposed to multiple applications written by more experienced developers. They get to see how a more experienced developer thought about the problem, and how systems fit together.
The challenges with internships are that there just aren’t enough to go around. Every student would benefit from gaining hands-on work experience to help their resumé stand out and further their career. Unfortunately, given the talent shortage, there are not enough employers with readily available professionals to help mentor and guide beginners.
As far as apprenticeships go, they are not all created equal, and you should shop around. The apprenticeship model has existed for centuries, and in some cases has gotten a bad reputation. Even today there are apprenticeship programs that require extensive time commitments or income share agreements that affect the short-term earning potential of an Apprentice.
The short answer is, it depends. It depends on where you are at in life, your financial situation, and your learning style. These past two years have made it clear that it’s essential to take control of your journey to maximize your potential both professionally and personally. At the end of the day, success in any field requires both knowledge AND skill. It really boils down to the order in which you acquire them, and what you can afford. If you are eligible for grants, or the ability to pay, a higher education experience can add valuable credentials to your resumé. If you’re thinking about signing loan papers, however, an apprenticeship is likely to produce far greater long-term economic outcomes. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs should you decide to pursue a degree later. Most hiring managers in the technology field are looking for examples of your work more than anything.
If IT is your passion and you are ready to jumpstart your career, MAXX Potential is ready to give you that boost. Our growing alumni network has given us the opportunity to mentor some of the nation’s best technologists, who are working at some of the world’s best companies.
For those looking to learn more about the real-world experience that can be gained from a MAXX Potential Apprenticeship, join our next Career Lab!