Dev Academy’s graduate employment rate at 86%!

Dev Academy has crunched the numbers and found that 86.2% of students who graduated more than four months ago are employed in web developer roles, or adjacent roles that use their Dev Academy skills. Dev Academy co-founder Rohan Wakefield talks about how Dev Academy achieves this employment rate.

***

There are several key factors that enable Dev Academy to achieve our graduate employment rate: the market, the graduates, their tech skills, their fundamental skills, Dev Academy’s tech network, and the careers support we offer. I’ll break these down below.

The Market

Graduates get jobs because there’s a very high need for tech talent in Aotearoa New Zealand. The tech sector is growing so rapidly that the pool of suitable talent is struggling to keep up. NZTech analysis shows concern at the lack of tech talent in Aotearoa, flagging “a shortfall of over 10,000 skilled staff that will be needed by the sector over the next three years.” This is a good sign for aspiring developers as it means there are jobs available and companies who will go the extra mile to attract top talent. It’s important to note that, like in all fields, some of these jobs are for intermediate and senior developers rather than just juniors. But still, there’s a lot of work and a lot of opportunity out there, especially for motivated and outgoing team players with a passion for self-learning. See “Why Become a Web Developer” for more info.

At the same time, while there are many developer jobs out there, the need also fluctuates at different times throughout the year. Companies want to hire when they are feeling flush with cash, have lots of projects on the go and are confident that they have work coming in on the horizon, but many annual rhythms interfere with this.

“There’s a lot of work and a lot of opportunity out there, especially for motivated and outgoing team players with a passion for self-learning.”

But while the amount of jobs fluctuates, you can still see tech jobs available all year round. Information and Communication Technology jobs are the second largest pool of available jobs on Seek.co.nz, surpassed only by the Trades. And this is barely indicative, as most tech jobs aren’t advertised on paid platforms, they’re gained through networks and traction. The market is hungry for developers.

The Graduates

Dev Academy’s selection process takes a huge amount of factors into consideration. Previous academic performance and test scores are less important than things like interpersonal skills, empathy, ability to learn, willingness to engage with new ideas, and passion. We like world changers, people who want to do exciting things with their new skills, and are therefore willing to go the extra mile to learn and apply them. Dev Academy graduates are known for their spark, their warmth, their diversity and their ability to fit into a team. Because we endeavour to select the best for the Dev Academy programme, our graduates tend to be amazing people. Dev Academy graduates are our ambassadors and their reputation is one to be proud of. They leave the programme with an in-demand skillset but also as well rounded amazing human beings, and that helps them get hired.

Their tech skills

Of course, the technical skills they learn on the programme are also a huge factor in getting our graduates jobs. Dev Academy teaches full stack JavaScript, which means that we teach students how to use JavaScript for both backend (the side where the majority of the functionality lies) and frontend (the side that users interact with) development. To do this we also teach a range of other technologies and frameworks that complement JavaScript. Why? JavaScript is the internet’s favourite language. If you’re building web applications, then it’s highly likely you’ll need to know JavaScript, no matter which company you work for.

Stack Overflow’s 2017 Developer Survey named JavaScript the most popular programming language among developers, and by far the most popular language for web developers, but also the most popular for Sysadmin/DevOps, Data Scientists/Engineers and the second most popular for desktop developers, covering the whole range of occupations.

The great thing about JavaScript is that we can use the one language to teach a whole range of different programming paradigms and concepts. Normally you might need a different language for different functions, but not with JavaScript. By teaching JavaScript we help students understand the fundamental concepts of programming, so when they go to pick up a new programming language, it’s much much easier for them because they already understand the principles, the basics, and what it’s all about.

“If you’re building web applications, then it’s highly likely you’ll need to know JavaScript, no matter which company you work for.”

It’s like saying we teach you French so that you learn the fundamentals of grammar, conjugations and how sentence structures work. Once you’ve learned French, Spanish and Italian are a thousand times easier to pick up because you’re using new words but you’re applying the same concepts that you already got the hang of with French. You learn each new language much faster, and it’s the same with programming languages. Read more about “Why we teach JavaScript” here.

Another huge advantage Dev Academy grads have is that we teach coding by getting students to develop real projects. GoFlat, BeepBoopBot and Gurgl are good examples. These projects mean that students can show employers a portfolio of great ideas that they have actually worked on, as they would in a real life coding job. This enables employers to see how they code, and ask what they’re interested in, what the challenges were and what it was like to work in a team. These are the things that employers want to know, and Dev Academy grads have real life examples in their portfolio that they can show to employers to demonstrate their abilities.

All this is to say that at Dev Academy, yes, we teach cutting edge technical skills, but the real technical skill that students learn is learnability. Students learn how to learn at an unbelievably accelerated pace, and that makes them well prepared for the working world and extremely hireable. The truth is that you could never know all the languages you’re going to need in the next decades of your career — your employer might not even know what language they’re going to need for the next project or client. So we can’t prepare you for that. We prepare you to be able to pick up new technologies, new skills, new languages and new ideas rapidly, and to feel confident and comfortable doing so. This is a rare and highly attractive skillset for junior developers. Employers love that, and that helps our grads get hired.

Photos by Bob Zuur

Their fundamental skills (AKA soft skills)

Which brings us to the next point. Every week I talk to tech company owners, hiring managers, managing directors, and I’m noticing more and more that employers are focusing on finding staff who are the right fit for their team and culture, and who have the right soft skills to work well with other people, over and above the right technologies. This might sound surprising, but when you think of how one rough egg can ruin the atmosphere of a whole office, you can see how important it is to employers that everyone gets on well together, so that they enjoy their work, so that they love their jobs. This is the top priority of many hiring managers, because it decreases the risk of staff turnover (people quitting), which is really expensive for companies.

When we first started in this business 4 years ago, there was an overwhelming response from the majority of companies that we talked to, that they were looking for soft skills, but now more than ever we are seeing that. I can only think of about 3 companies that put technical skills ahead of soft skills, and we are working with over 250 companies.

This means that web developers looking for work need to promote themselves on not just their ability to code, but also on their ability to understand themselves, work with others, understand the business environment, be able to be flexible and understand the position of hiring managers, and understand the position of the wider team and the context. This can be really hard for some developers, but Dev Academy graduates learn all of this on the programme. We actually devote a lot of time each week to interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, communicating emotions, working with others and having tough conversations, so our graduates leave the programme as excellent team members. I can not overstate how important this is to employers, who are really looking for people that will ‘join the family’ in the office and have a good time. Everyone wants people to be happy in their work, and when our grads can show that they can bring that to the table, it makes them extremely hireable.

Our tech network

Dev Academy is a fundamental part of the tech sector of New Zealand. Both our Auckland and Wellington campuses double as tech coworking spaces, so our students are surrounded by amazing companies like the Enspiral network, Conscious Consumers and PledgeMe. These are companies that are using tech to reach their business ambitions, and our students interact and hang out with their staff every day. It also means we host a huge amount of events in our space, from meetups for the Internet of Things, Node.js, Railsgirls, app development, project managers, women in tech, there’s always something going on at Dev Academy that brings the startup and tech sector in through our doors. Our students simply hang out and chat to people. Some students need to really push themselves in order to do this, but the results are unparallelled because in doing so they start building their reputation and employability in the sector. Read more about renting a desk in our coworking space here.

Our teachers are also developers in the sector, who are often working on commercial or personal projects on the side, and a number of our staff are also working as technical consultants and developers. So we’re embedded in what’s happening, what’s new and exciting and interesting. Our coffee break chat is about blockchain and bitcoin and image interpretation in space. All of this makes us embedded in the sector, and it gives us constant feedback about how we can tweak and optimise our curriculum to make sure students are excellently prepared for the working world. It allows us to keep our ear to the ground about what’s important to companies, and reflect that. And most of all it allows our graduates to step out of Dev Academy into a preexisting network of exciting businesses and networking opportunities that help them find work.

Our careers support

Lastly, at the end of the Dev Academy bootcamp, we offer careers support. It’s a series of sessions that basically set people up with a full toolset, as graduate developers, to be able to approach the employment market. Careers support is usually attended 100%, because people coming to EDA are predominantly looking for work. But it’s valuable for anyone really, whether they’re looking to engage with clients, looking to become a freelancer or even wanting to start their own business. Careers support gives graduates a leg up in the job market, and that helps them find work.

We take them through a deep dive into things like CV and cover letter writing, showing students how they can start to tell their story. This is really important to employers because they’re looking for ways to connect with employees, and they’re looking for clues about how well you’ll fit in to their workplace. The CV and cover letter are a tool, they’re not a one stop shop for getting work, they’re a tool that you use to try and land an interview, for example. So we explore behaviour based interviewing, and we also touch on technical interviewing and technical testing. We help students start to analyse different companies out there, and take a deep dive into companies that we know well. We help students decide what they want to look for in a role or a business or a team environment, and show them how to look for those cues.

Dev Academy’s careers support puts a lot of emphasis on the things you need to be doing while you’re looking for work. We make sure our graduates keep coding after Dev Academy, and we make sure that code is visible. This means that a hiring manager, before they interview a grad, can sit down and have a look at their code, have a look at how they learn, what they’re interested in, and what the company should expect if they were to hire them.

We also give people advice on applying for jobs. Because we know the tech sector quite well we know that a scattergun approach of just applying to 50 companies with a generic CV doesn’t work, and just annoys everyone. We ask graduates to select specific companies that they are drawn to or inspired by for specific reasons, and apply to those. So three each week is great, and grads exhaust those opportunities before they move onto the next ones. This means that they’re applying to companies that they really like or respect or find interesting, and this is hugely important for employers who always want someone that’s willing to be a champion for their product or brand.

We encourage students to do a lot of interview practice as well, particularly those students that are nervous about their social fluidity. You have to perform in an interview, it is a performance, there is no other environment like it. You have to sit down and you have to sell yourself. People that are used to doing that have practiced it a lot, even if they’re naturally inclined to it. So for people that haven’t really had a lot of experience selling themselves, we really encourage them to get out their example questions, get a buddy, and practice. This makes the interview process easier and more comfortable, our grads are more relaxed and confident, and that makes them easier to hire.

We have many of our past graduates coming back to our careers support if they’re looking to change jobs. If someone has been in an organisation for two years, and they’ve not found an ability to grow or change or they just want something different, they might come back to me, talk to me about who’s out there, who can they apply to, and I’ll assist them and help them with that. So the careers support is really valuable to our graduates.

When all of this is put together we can see that Dev Academy grads are extremely hireable. They’ve got the right skills and experience, which is aligned with what employers in the sector actually want and have asked for in real time. Grads are active in the sector, attending networking events and meeting people, they can learn rapidly, fit into team environments, and they’re passionate about tech. They develop strong networks and experience, and this is what helps us achieve our 86% employment rate.

If you’re interested in learning the tools to become a junior web developer in just 18 weeks, Dev Academy is the place for you. Apply now for the next cohort.

Top tips for getting a tech job:

  • Do your research! Look at how many of the jobs you want are available in your town right now, and read the job descriptions to see what they’re looking for.
  • Make a list of 4–6 tech companies (or companies with tech needs) that you’d love to work for.
  • Attend tech networking events, ask people about those companies.
  • When you meet someone who works there, ask them what the environment is like, what the ups and downs are, and what needs they have, and what skills you’d need in order to get hired.
  • Do the Dev Academy programme.
  • Attend at least one event a week and/or have a networking coffee once a week. Bring your ideas, your passions, what excites you, and what you want to learn from the interaction. Don’t do it to collect business cards — Grow your network based on your own vibrant personality.
  • Make a list of all the experiences you have, the things that interest you and the areas in which you have knowledge. Often it’s these add-on attributes that make you stand out from the flock. If a company has an upcoming project for an agritech client and you know the difference between a friesian and a jersey, you’re already useful to them plus you have an interesting story to tell. People like people, not CVs.
  • Keep coding, contributing to open source and helping out on other people’s projects while you’re jobhunting. Volunteer to help a charity with a tech project, or build your Mum’s website. Every learning is valuable and keeps your skills at the top of your mind. Plus the more people you meet and genuinely connect with through your work, the more likely you are to get hired. Showing what you can do is better than telling people what you can do.