Why Pinterest pays budding developers to learn software skills

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  • Companies like Pinterest set aside resources to train candidates for entry-level positions.
  • The Pinterest apprenticeship is a one-year program for applicants who do not have a degree in computer science.
  • Instead of coding experience, the program seeks applicants with good problem-solving skills.

After graduating from a six-month software engineering bootcamp at The Rithm School in 2017, Tobi Ogunnaike applied for a developer role at Pinterest.

A few months later, Ogunnaike received a rejection email and was sad to learn that the company was looking for someone with “a little more experience” for the entry-level position. However, at the end of the email, the company encouraged him to apply for the Pinterest apprenticeship program. This time it worked; Ogunnaike now works at Pinterest full-time as an engineer for the company’s product team.

Founded in 2016, Pinterest’s apprenticeship program is for people who “face barriers to entry” into the tech industry, according to the site. The description says “underrepresented groups” are “particularly encouraged to apply.” The one-year program touts the potential for full-time employment and, most importantly, the growing learning doesn’t require applicants to have a degree in computer science.

“We launched the apprenticeship program to help create a support system for candidates from non-traditional tech backgrounds,” Shayda Rahgozar, apprenticeship program manager at Pinterest, told Insider. “So that includes people who may not be able to land a full-time engineering job right off the bat.”

The tech industry faces a two-pronged talent struggle: there aren’t enough workers to fill vacancies, and there’s a startling lack of diversity, which continues to limit who’s represented in development. crucial real-world technologies. As Ogunnaike’s story shows, companies are increasingly adopting the internal bootcamp model and setting aside more resources to train potential recruits.

While several former employees have criticized Pinterest for its diversity and inclusion record, Rahgozar told Insider that the company is increasing its investment in the program. She added that “engineering apprentices tend to be more demographically diverse than traditional pipelines” Pinterest often recruits, but the company was unwilling to share the demographics of the program itself.

And the apprenticeship program continues to grow, more than tripling since its launch in 2016. After starting with just three places available, the company plans to accept 20 people for its 2021 cohort and is receiving “hundreds of applications”.

As for landing a spot in such a competitive program, Ogunnaike’s advice is to demonstrate clear problem-solving skills. And while a computer science degree isn’t required, he said Pinterest tested him on work-relevant coding experience, which for him was part of the company’s productivity team working primarily with data analysis.

“The hiring manager asked me what relevant experience I had related to the job description, then asked me to ask problem-solving questions, which aim to reveal how you ask and answer questions. Then, they looked at how I reasoned through open problems,” Ogunnaike told Insider.

After a few on-site interviews, he was then tested on his knowledge of “string manipulation”, a common system function needed for data management and monitoring. But he said the interview process didn’t really prioritize the “right answer”, but rather tested his communication with the hiring manager.

During the apprenticeship itself, Ogunnaike was paired with a mentor, who helped him learn how to build user interface systems related to data management on the front-end of the site.

“I remember the team I was on, the first team was always encouraging me to ask questions because everyone expects you to have questions,” he said. “But, like a lot of people, I felt this inner urge to try to figure things out on my own. You can figure it out yourself, but you can also ask someone and save two hours of your time.”

While Pinterest was unwilling to comment on the amount of pay for apprentices, Insider previously reported that the company pays full-time software engineers around $115,000. Rahgozar told Insider that in addition to a “competitive salary”, apprentices are offered benefits as well as a professional “development” allowance that apprentices can use to brush up on software and other skills. professionals outside working hours.

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