Amy Parker, the Director of Acquia University--aka Acquia U--and I sat down in Acquia's downtown Boston headquarters to talk about Acquia's technology boot camp. The course covers much more than Drupal; the curriculum is designed to produce people able to work in tech companies: Besides a whole lot of Drupal and related technologies, it includes agile methodologies, project management tools, troubleshooting tickets, presentation skills, and more. Listen to our whole conversation to learn more.
"If you think about it, the very senior-level, highly skilled Drupalists are already employed and there isn't a succession plan and there isn't a talent pipeline. This program is really not just about Acquia's ability to hire internally; it's about partnering with our community to be able to offer an opportunity to ramp up their teams."
What is Acquia U?
Amy: "Acquia U is a 14-week, hands-on, intensive, technical boot camp to take people who have a strong interest in web technology and bring them into the world of Drupal. [At the end of the course], depending on their skills coming in, they're prepared to become people who can build websites using Drupal and integrate it into a larger digital platform and a digital strategy ... Entry level Drupalists!"
"Drupal is unknown to people entering into the career market in web technologies. The problem that we find from an education perspective is that it's not taught in a lot of high schools or universities," even among computer science majors.
Interview video - 25 min.
A need arose in 2011--Amy mistakenly says 2001 in the recording--to hire more people faster and Acquia U was launched as an internal initiative, taught by Acquians. "It was very successful. They had nine people in the program. Eight completed the program. Eight were hired here at Acquia." And many are still at Acquia, while others have moved on to careers outside the company. "I don't consider that a loss, because those are Drupal evangelists out in other technology fields."
Acquia U's mission is to help make Drupal better known overall, help create more interest and Drupalists, and connect people with careers in Drupal. It also has the ambition to try to fill the gap Amy describes thus: "There's no way that we can't not give back talent into the organisation. Acquia is struggling to hire. All Drupal companies are struggling to hire. If you think about it, the very senior-level, highly skilled Drupalists are already employed and there isn't a succession plan and there isn't a talent pipeline. This program is really not just about Acquia's ability to hire internally; it's about partnering with our community to be able to offer an opportunity to ramp up their teams."
"In the next year to two years, I would like to see this program filling the void of junior-level talent in a lot of different spaces: whether it's in a non-profit, at a partner company, a client company, at another digital, Drupal shop."
The ideal candidate
"For me, it's about finding people who might not otherwise get a job here ... so I look in other places. If I think about it, somebody who's looking for a position at Acquia U may not know how to navigate a Drupal career path, so I go to places they may not have looked before. Going to the places where you might not think to traditionally find Drupalists is the place to go to find new Drupalists."
"I have a strong interest, as does Acquia, in hiring people in underserved populations: women ... veterans ... different age groups. My vision of the ideal candidate has nothing to do with age or background. The foundation of being successful here is potential. I define potential on:
- What's motivating them: "If I'm motivated by giving to the community or participating in something larger than myself, that's awesome."
- Curiosity: "One of my favorite questions [to ask] is 'What's the last creative thing that you did? What's the last thing that you did that was really interesting?'"
- "We look for people that are motivated by their sense of integrity and wanting to learn.""
"A good candidate, the people that are successful and come through the program ... are the people that demonstrate strong interest in something innovative, creative, fast-paced. They're looking for not just a job."