Digital Project Management Apprenticeships
Metal Toad has the deep belief that apprenticeships in tech can hone new skills introduced in code school and provide real world experiences that can springboard people to a new career. Our founder Joaquin Lippincott has shared his beliefs about how anyone can learn to code and the concept of open source apprenticeships. Metal Toad started its Developer Apprenticeship program in 2015. Internships for developers makes a lot of sense right? New skills need practice and it's a challenging industry to get started in without previous experience. Not only that but the Portland Business Journal writes, "The influx of talent is a leading indicator of the region’s ability to emerge over such tech startup hubs as Salt Lake City, Nashville and Charlotte." It's important to keep the talent pipeline for the tech industry filled, with all types of roles, so that we can support this growing industry by opening up more apprenticeships and entry level roles in digital. So there is an established apprenticeship program for developers throughout the tech community, but what about other roles?
I realized that the project management team had knowledge to share. We need specific digital project management skills that aren't traditionally taught or experienced in the project management field. So what the heck, let's start a digital project management apprenticeship program!
I started by developing a list of things that I thought was unique to digital project management, wrote up a job description, and posted it to see what kind of interest we would get. Turns out there is a lot of interest! I had applicants who were brand new to project management and those that had many years of project management experience but wanted to learn the ins and outs of digital. From there, I selected two people to become the first Digital PM Apprenticeship cohort. I made it very clear that we had not done this before and that they would be creating this journey with me. They spent most of their time shadowing our project managers, observing our scrum ceremonies, assisting with client reporting, and the best part… project managing an internal project.
Working together as a team, they conducted stakeholder interviews, gathered requirements, built a backlog, and lead the development team to add subtasks and size the tickets in JIRA. Not only did they get a ton a hands on JIRA and scrum experience, I acted as the client and was able to create some scenarios that they may find themselves in real life. They presented their project to the entire company during their last week and now there is a beautiful backlog that is ready to be worked by the next round of development apprentices.
They learned a lot but I think I learned even more. I was able to find the flaws and identify the things I didn't think through the first time around. I improved it and welcomed the third digital PM apprentice in December. As she wraps up her internal project, Metal Toad now has two fully vetted company improvement projects that we can act upon in a methodical way.
The thing that tickles me the most about this whole experience is that none of the apprentices want to continue in digital project management. One strives to be a product owner, another realizes that executive assisting is more up her alley, and the third is an aspiring developer and starts Epicodus next week. I'm not sure what that says about us who DO choose a career in digital project management, but I'm glad this experience was able to help them in their journey.