It’s our favourite time of year. The weather turns colder, Starbucks release their Autumn classics, and Ampersand gains a few new faces. That’s right, it’s Grad Season.
On 17th September, we welcomed four new Graduate Developers to the team and we will be welcoming one more at the end of October. This is the largest cohort of Graduate Developers to join Ampersand and we’ve gone all out to make sure they get a proper welcome and training experience.
Our multifaceted Graduate Programme consists of elements such as technical challenges, paired programming, Stand-Ups, and shadowing a senior member of the team before being introduced to client work.
Our Grads are a month into the programme giving us the perfect opportunity to reflect on their first few weeks and look ahead on what’s to come.
Our Graduate Developers’ First Week
What better way to start off a new job than with a party?
That’s exactly what we did for our Grads this year. The Friday before their first day we had a Welcome Grads Party. The team ended the day a few hours early and kicked back with a few beers, snacks, and games as we all got to know the Grads a bit better, before diving head first into the programme.
After a fun-filled party, we officially welcomed the Grads on the following Monday. The focus of the first week is to introduce our Grads to different people in the business and start to get an overarching view of the way Ampersand works.
Darryl Adie (CEO) kicked off their New Starter Intros with a session on the company history, followed by an IT set up and programme overview with our Head of Development and a HR & Finance intro with myself. Throughout the week, they also got their company pictures taken and went through health & safety training. They also met with Designers, QA Testers, Heads of, the Managing Director, and finally ended the week with a 1-2-1 check in with Darryl.
Stan, one of our new Grads, explained how his “favourite part [during the first week] was having the chance to meet most of the different departments (including the heads of department). I believe this helped us with settling in and feeling more welcomed. After meeting the different people I felt a lot less awkward when bumping into someone around the office. I also think the Graduation Party before our start date was awesome because it allowed us to interact with our colleagues in a more relaxed environment.”
The first week is essential in making sure our Grads feel welcome and know exactly who they can reach out to regarding both technical and non-technical processes, the company, or just general life questions. Although it may be a bit of an information overload, it immediately breaks down barriers across departments and allows for a seamless transition into the programme.
Although our Grads may not be on any client projects at first, it is crucial we prepare them for a typical day of a Developer and provide an outlet for questions and support. This is where Stand-Ups come into play. From their very first week, they participate in a Grad Stand-Up with their fellow Grads and the Head of Development. They cover their day to day, what they have achieved, and what are they planning on working on next. Our Head of Development will then sit down with them to go through their progress in more detail, answer questions, and give them pointers on what to look at.
After the Grads had a chance to meet different members of staff and be introduced to the tech, the fun stuff started.
Our Grad Programme has been restructured this year to included various challenges that range from easy to difficult. They started with very basic PHP challenges using composer to ensure that essential PHP knowledge is there. For example, our Grads built a few CLI applications and basic MVC applications with the guidance of our Head of Development.
Once these challenges are complete, the Grads build on their knowledge learned from the previous challenges and move on to more advanced PHP challenges using design patterns and principles.
This has been Vasileios’ favourite part of the Grad Programme so far: “Structuring the code properly and following specific standards/paradigms and design patterns is the most important thing we’ve learnt, in my opinion. Whatever the challenge is, it is very rewarding to write a nice, readable piece of code to solve it.”
Finally, the Grads will work through more difficult challenges that introduce Magento 1 and 2 from a usage point of view, and then from a developer’s point of view. The Magento challenges range from learning what an observer is, to creating custom admin manageable entities and payment gateway integrations.
Artem, a current Graduate Developer, has very much enjoyed the programme so far, particularly learning about PSRs: “When coming here I thought PHP was very loose typing-wise (it still is), but it’s good to know there are guidelines to make it more precise. I’m looking forward to exploring Magento as one of the prime tools Ampersand uses.”
The Grads will complete their technical challenges with a well-rounded confidence in PHP, Magento, and their skills as a developer in general.
Although the technical challenges are a great way to develop our Grads’ coding skills and introduce new platforms, it’s essential they have the opportunity to see these skills used in action. After the challenges, each Dev will spend some time shadowing a Senior Developer to learn the day to day tasks, how to manage workloads, and see how their challenges can be applied to real life. This also provides an opportunity for the Grads to gain a new perspective of developing and get to know a Senior Developer they may not have worked with before.
Once all challenges are done and the Grads have had a chance to see it done in action from a Senior Developer, they will complete a mock project. This will be a small project that will involve a Project Manager to better introduce our process in a tangible way and prepare them for the next phase – being introduced to client work!
When asked what he is most looking forward to, current Graduate Developer, AlHasan, put it best: “[I’m looking forward to] finishing the training and start the real work.” As are we, AlHasan!
Grad Season is not only our favorite time of year because we get the opportunity to bring new developers on board, but it also acts as a reminder as to why our programme is so important. The ultimate goal of Ampersand’s Graduate Programme goes far beyond just training a developer to mindlessly write code. The programme’s goal is to teach our Grads how to critically think, ask questions, be creative, communicate, and problem solve to gain the confidence to tackle real-life problems, both technical and non-technical.
Historically, our Grads have been our most invested employees who work their way up to senior positions and lead change for the business. We want to ensure that trend upholds. By training and investing in our Grads now, we will be able to watch them grow from new developers into leaders who uphold Ampersand’s core values – to push boundaries, act with integrity, and build for the future.