Natalya Bagrova and Evgenia Karpova: “We made the DataArt educational program ourselves”
Evgenia Karpova, coordinator of the DataArt educational program , and Natalya Bagrova, head of the language education program, talked about how courses, webinars and language classes are organized in the company.
- What is our educational program - or a set of programs?
- We have three main categories of courses - conditionally technical (there are about 70 of them), language (3 different directions) and managerial. There are still webinars recorded on video - there are more than 400 of them. Each category has its own characteristics.
Internal educational programs are very much in demand. Unfortunately, we only tidied everything up a year and a half ago and began to keep records of everything. During this time, for example, over 2000 hours of technical courses were watched. The courses for account managers are now studying 70 people. All courses and webinars on a bunch of topics are stored in the internal library.
At the same time, most of the content that we have is made by us and tailored for us. We now have about 90 full-fledged courses of our own. They are developed by free senior specialists, and they are aimed precisely at what is then used in real projects, this is their trick. The authors of the courses select external theoretical content - video lectures, texts, online directories. After all, the theoretical content is not easy for an unprepared person to understand what makes sense to read and what doesn’t. Our experts place accents, choose the best, the most sensible. And they make up the final practical tasks themselves - so that they first of all test the necessary DataArt skills.
In our library there are also external courses, the licenses for which we bought - Stratoplan, Adizes, English courses or in English. But these courses are just for acquaintance, first of all for PMs (project managers) and EMs (account managers) - without practical tasks. These courses are not tailored for us, and we have no right to change them.
This all applies to our internal education. Of course, you can go and learn somewhere else. If there is a recommendation from DM (delivery manager), from our industrial practice or from the educational program itself, DataArt will compensate for the cost of travel and training. If a colleague is going to speak at a conference, then he is also entitled to compensation. If you decide to go just to listen, then it is also compensated, but after he makes a report on the results of the trip.
- Technologically, we have all the education collected on the EdX platform - tell us a little about it.
- For some time, we had a problem that all the accumulated material became difficult to store, share, update. We began a large-scale process to automate the entire educational program. Andrey Dereza, the head of our Dnepropetrovsk office, made an excellent overview of all these educational platforms - Udacity, EdX and so on. It turned out that EdX provide their platform in open source.
Now the entire library of courses is stored on EdX, and from there information about the process, about the person’s progress, about which courses he attended, whether he listened to the end, how he completed the tasks and so on fall into his profile in our internal PM system through which to build all work in the company.
- How does DataArt encourage people to create educational content and listen to courses?
- In general, special incentives are not required. People readily compose courses and listen to them. As a rule, a request for a course comes from our resource managers. It is they who best present you with the technologies that are now in demand. When such a request comes to us, we write to the appropriate community. There they can always tell us which of the experienced specialists is free now, who can prepare the necessary theoretical material. Then this material and tasks for it are discussed in the community. Everyone speaks out, rules something and adds until the course satisfies everyone.
There are, of course, formal mechanisms of stimulation - we give people “tips” for doing self-education in their free time. "Tips" is TYPs, "thank you points" is the internal currency for which you can buy various nice things in our corporate store. In addition, we are talking with those who are now in idle status, that is, without a specific project, that if he attends such and such courses, then he will be more attractive for projects.
Well, and, as I said, we have all the education data in PM. That is, when it comes to including a person in a new interesting project, raising salaries, moving to another position, education data is taken into account - someone started to listen a lot, but quit, someone didn't complete the assignment, someone didn't listened, and someone, on the contrary, a great fellow.
I remember that one of our colleagues already talked about how our educational program helped him (megamozg.ru/company/dataart/blog/16090/). You can also cite Anna Akimenko as an example. She came to us for the role of junior .NET. Then I went through Sharepoint courses - this is a rather specific technology, experts on which almost never sit idle: they are involved either in internal projects or on client ones. In general, less than a year has passed - and now Anya is already middle Sharepoint and middle .NET. Pretty cool, I think.
- There is a stereotype that programmers are mostly introverts, and introverts are probably not easy to teach.
- Yes, it is so unconditional. But here our work on preparing developers for interviews with clients helps a lot.
In general, we have all three areas in which we are engaged in English, focused on improving communication skills. The first direction is compulsory language training for a specific interview with a specific client, the second is language training for those who are currently sitting without a project, the third is ordinary language courses, like at a university.
An expert group is preparing for the interview. They help beginners, suggest that you need to say how to behave, how to present yourself - both from a technical and human point of view, how to communicate with the customer. These people are ready-made teachers. They can develop a program and present it, and make tasks and ensure that people do it with pleasure and interest.
A separate course - preparation for an interview for those in idle, i.e. without a project. It goes through two stages. First, the theoretical part, which gives an idea of what is to be done during the interview, what questions you need to be able to answer, and then the practical part, with a native speaker.
There is such a person in DataArt, an Englishman named Simon Cox. He lives in Voronezh and works in our office. Simon helps to completely simulate a conversation with a foreign customer. Due to his charisma, personal qualities, acting abilities, he can portray an evil customer, and a boring, and capricious customer, he can bring his counterparty out of himself. This is part of his course in webinar on communication skills. There he gives students tasks about a specific project - a fictional one. Describes the schedule, the agenda - as it happens in reality - and arranges a meeting. Then we analyze how the student behaved and give recommendations on what to work on.
We have our own system of testing communicative skills - in several respects. This is our know-how, which we ask not to give to anyone.
In general, I must say that preparation for an interview along with front-end courses are our most popular educational programs, more or less everyone needs these skills.
Here we also have success stories - people who have completed our language courses are now constantly working with our English-speaking counterparties. For example, Vanya Glushchenko - she has been working in our New York office for a long time, Sveta Komarova works from St. Petersburg with foreign customers, Denis Baranov worked and studied in St. Petersburg after Voronezh, now in London.
- The fact that DataArt has people who can create programs and teach others is also, in a sense, the result of our educational program, that we teach people how to communicate?
- Yes exactly. Today I listened to how Ivan Richmayer taught the class, this is our senior Android specialist. It was interesting, and fun, and lively, and completely unlike the lecture in lecture. And I always thought he was an introvert.
- Does DataArt have an idea which company would like to see its education system in a year, two, five?
- We are now analyzing which pedagogical methodologies work better for us and accordingly changing the content of courses and the presentation technology. Some courses we may be gamifing - first of all, the most applied ones. For this, our technology communities are developing such beautiful trees of different skills, to which courses will be tied.
But in general, we still go, go after demand. Now the main thing for us is to respond in a timely manner to the requests of resource managers, increase the volume of the library of courses, close those gaps that still remain, and respond to feedback on existing courses. Now, when we see a negative feedback, we immediately go to the curator of the course and consult with him. He may disagree or agree and refine the course.
- Is there any difference between offices in terms of education?
- No, there is no difference. In Ukraine, especially in Odessa, we see a bit more interest in our external educational programs - for those who do not work for us yet. But within the company there is no difference. In total, from the moment we started keeping records, our employees spent 247,744 hours on education, which are distributed approximately in proportion to the number of employees in a particular office. There is no particular difference in the level of knowledge of English either: the average level of candidates who come to us is about three, and this level, unfortunately, has remained stable for ten years now. Universities provide good technical knowledge, but the level of language, as experience shows, depends mainly on the school a person graduated from. In St. Petersburg, let's say, the 45th boarding school, 239th and 30th schools stand out in English.
However, inside the company people are growing quite quickly in this regard.
In general, we were scared at first. They said that we won’t find the right amount of good developers with good English. We were told that we are losing geniuses because they know technology, but do not know languages. But no! We succeeded, and now we have the first English filter at the entrance - we take it with triples, then we bring it to mind. We make exceptions in isolated cases.