Rotational Programs for New Grad Software Engineers

Companies want to hire new graduates and new grads want jobs – it should be simple to match graduates with jobs, right? If only! The truth is that not all opportunities are the same, and it’s important for both parties to find the right match. While some companies hire new graduates into entry level engineering positions, others offer programs specifically tailored for new graduates. Constant Contact decided to try this approach a few years ago, and has stuck with it ever since.

Constant Contact’s Software Engineering Development Program

The Constant Contact Software Engineering Development Program (SEDP) consists of 3 phases: training, rotating, and innovating, all of which take place over the course of a graduate hire’s first year., Members of the SEDP group do 2-month rotations through 4 or 5 development teams throughout the organization after they complete their new-hire training. The development teams they rotate through are chosen based on interests that they submit to their manager. The final phase of the program the has the entire SEDP group work together to complete an innovation project. This involves doing hands-on customer research to identify an area of customer need; and then designing, building, testing, and implementing a solution.

At the end of the program, each member of the SEDP group is placed on a development team based on their expressed interests and the best available placement that are a match. I went through the program and now I’d like to share my experience and the big benefits I observed along the way.

Perspective – it’s good for everyone!

I believe everyone is at risk of losing perspective at times, especially in larger organizations. Sometimes you just find a problem to focus on, really dig into, and before you know it, it’s the only thing you’ve thought about. Why are you doing this? How does it affect the customer? How will it affect those around you? How does it play into your company’s values and long-term goals? We don’t always think to ask ourselves these questions, but sometimes knowing the answers can change our path. For example, maybe another team already solved this problem, and you could get a head start by reaching out to them.

When you go through a rotational program like the SEDP, you gain a broader understanding of the entire organization, and a deeper knowledge of the teams you rotated on. Your network is much more expansive than if you had stayed on a single team during that intitial year. If you didn’t rotate on a team personally, you know someone in the program who did. On top of that, our SEDP group gets to network with executives, work with our design and innovation teams throughout the program. As an SEDP member, you may find that when these big-picture questions come up, you know the answer!

As for benefits to the business (other than developing a well-rounded, broadly knowledgeable engineer), managers can gain new perspectives as well. The SEDP members report back through retrospective presentations after each rotation to a group of development managers. The information isn’t just useful for refining the program, it’s also a great way for people to learn what is different about each team. The members and managers can compare how different teams  approach scrum, collaborate with remote developers, and learn of the latest technology upgrades. Managers who sit in for an hour quickly get an overview of how several other teams work.

Working well with others – not just for newbies

SEDP members have to constantly ramp up on new projects and new technologies. They work as full-fledged members of the development teams during their rotations, but as you can imagine, it requires asking many questions to start. Teams with SEDP’s are encouraged to mentor their SEDP members, pair program, and transfer knowledge throughout the experience. There is no doubt that the SEDP members learn a lot through this process. However, it’s also a great opportunity for developers to step up as mentors and share their knowledge. I remember on one team I rotated through, a senior developer set up at our team’s table for some knowledge transfer for us newbies, and other members of the development team attended! Encouraging members of the team to step up as mentors benefited the entire team. Also, the SEDP members can provide developers with useful feedback on the developer on-boarding documentation and more. The SEDP members are that fresh set of eyes that can see things that folks who work with tools and systems day-in and day-out don’t always “see”.

Passionate developers – we’re in it for the long haul

As a member of a new-hire development program, it’s next to impossible not to feel valued. There are people throughout the organization who want to make sure that you have the best experience possible. You get to try out different areas of the company and find things you like, and sometimes things you don’t, a good start to figuring out where you belong. For some, the team they end up on is something they have never done before. Perhaps you would have applied for a web development position, but now you realize you have a passion of dev-ops. It’s a unique situation to be in for a new engineer – to get to try so many things in such a short time, and ultimately have a say in where you end up. When the program is done, you know who the customer is, you know what the company values are, and you know the team of people you are working with. The company has invested in you, and (hopefully) you have become invested in the company, it’s people and product.

It takes a village – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it

Organizing the Software Engineering Development Program takes many people. It starts with recruiting a group of new-hires for the SEDP, but over the course of the year it involves:

  • finding managers and mentors to participate
  • matching SEDP members with teams
  • organizing training sessions
  • making sure each new-hire has a well-rounded experience
  • coordinating additional sessions for networking and training throughout the year
  • setting up team-bonding activities
  • organizing and managing the innovation project…

It would probably be easier to count who is not involved with the program! But, isn’t that a great thing? It encourages people to take on new responsibilities and to develop relationships throughout the company, which creates an increased sense of camaraderie and mentorship. It strengthens bonds, and sometimes even seems to lighten the mood. Sure, I could have accepted a regular full time position at some other company, with their own list of benefits as well. But here, I feel like I was part of something bigger, and I gained so much through the process.

To learn more about Constant Contact’s Software Engineering Development Program, see the program listing here.

Comments

  1. tushar says:

    Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that I believe everyone is at risk of losing perspective at times, especially in larger organizations. Sometimes you just find a problem to focus on, really dig into, and before you know it, it’s the only thing you’ve thought about. very useful information

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