Hiring engineers is hard, especially in NYC where there are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of companies vying for the top talent. At the same time, there are countless talented people who are struggling to catch a break, and get their first – or simply their next – engineering job. Furthermore, our industry has a well documented problem: engineering departments rarely reflect the real world. In tech, women, people of color, LGBQT+ folks, people with disabilities, and older people, among others, are wildly underrepresented. Not only is this ethically odious, but it also ensures we produce lower quality work. When we write software without input and ideas from wide swaths of the population, we are almost certainly going to be making products that fail to meet the needs of our users.
In an effort to recruit more people from a wider array of demographics, at ShopKeep we invest in a number of different hiring and training programs.
- High School Internships – Working with the New York City CTE Industry Scholars Program we help high school students with a desire to learn about technology careers. We have run a successful program for enterprising young technologists to work in our office, learning valuable job skills that are appropriate for their level of education.
- College Internships – ShopKeep interns work full time, side-by-side with our engineering teams to learn first-hand what it takes to build some of the best software on earth. They come to us with solid computer science fundamentals, and during their internships they learn about working in a team to produce world-class software, and how to practically apply what they have learned in the classroom.
- Apprenticeships – Coding bootcamps are a great way to get a start in a technology job, but graduates sometimes need help deepening their skills before landing their first big job. ShopKeep connects with them through our apprenticeship program. Apprentices at ShopKeep receive top-notch mentoring while honing their craft, working full time alongside veteran engineers. We are proud to be able to help aspiring technologists by giving them real-world experience to help cement and expand what they have learned. After their apprenticeships are over, we have been delighted to extend offers for permanent roles to nearly all of our past participants. We love bringing on junior engineers who are already familiar with our product, codebase, and co-workers, and have proven they can ramp up their skills quickly, becoming very valuable and productive members of our team.
- Returnships – There are many reasons that someone may have left the workforce, like raising kids, serving in the military, caring for an ill family member, or recuperating from a serious illness or disability that requires full-time recuperation or treatment. Skilled technologists who have had to take a long break often find that they have trouble re-entering the field with a large gap in their resume. All too often their skills are discounted as being out of date, so their considerable talent is disregarded. This often impacts women and other demographics who have been minoritized the hardest. When interviewing, they often don’t get the benefit of the doubt that more represented demographics tend to get when trying to get back into the industry. In addition to the challenge of explaining away a multi-year gap in their resume and working to convince interviewers that their skills are still relevant, they also have to fight conscious and unconscious bias. Our returnship program is designed to build a bridge between our engineering department and people in this situation. We hire returners and they dive into full time work with direct coaching and mentoring, so they can refresh, relearn, and recondition their skills. They are able to get back up to speed, and contribute to building excellent software with modern tools and languages, while exercising best practices. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement. As anyone who has ever been a hiring manager can tell you, finding and hiring strong, experienced engineers is hard. By opening up roles to people who are disenfranchised and ignored by traditional hiring channels, we get access to talented and seasoned professionals who have a lot to offer. Our returnship takes the form of a four month contract-to-hire position, with the hope that after the returnship they can be brought on board as a regular salaried employee at the level they had achieved before they left the workforce.
We’ve found that by engaging with people at all levels of their career, from the long term engineering pro who took time off to raise kids but has not been able to get their foot back in the door, to the adult who is learning to code as a second or third career, to the college student who is just starting out, we reap great benefits as a company and community. By connecting with people with a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, we get to see our product and users through new lenses, which helps us produce higher quality software. And by opening up new pathways for people to join our organization, we have access to incredibly talented people we would have missed out on otherwise. Investing in non-traditional hiring practices is a win-win for our company, our users, our employees, and our community.