As of August, it will have been 4 years since we kicked off the first-ever project at The Collab Lab. We just wrapped up our 61st team! As of today, we’ve helped over 230 early-career developers—from incredibly diverse backgrounds—learn how professional software teams collaborate, teaching practical skills including pair programming, giving/receiving code reviews, and how to demo work to stakeholders, all of the stuff that’s all but impossible to simulate when you’re studying on your own.
For the last 3 years or so, we’ve been following a cadence of one cohort per quarter where we run between 4 and 7 teams of 4 developers each. That worked well as long as we were content to execute the current program. What it didn’t allow us much time for was program and curriculum development.
Not for nothing, that model was a big improvement over the early days when we’d kick off the next team when the current one was halfway through. 🤪
The existing structure served us well, as long as we didn’t want to make too many improvements to the program…
“We’ve been wanting to make some meaningful changes to the structure of the program to better serve our community and given that we’re volunteer run, we need the extra time between cohorts to make these changes.” —Me to the Collab Lab board members in Q2 2023 😅
Our program as it’s currently structured is 8 weeks long. About a year ago, we added an optional 2-week career development program to the end of each project term. That gave us just 2 weeks before the next round of applications would open up and we’d be back on the hamster wheel of providing direct service to the next group.
So, with the enthusiastic consent of our Board of Advisors (Chiamaka Umeh, David Baker, EJ Mason, Yolanda Haynes, Mindy Zwanziger, & Shelley McHardy), we have decided to move from offering 4 cohorts per year to 2.
Sometimes, less truly is more.
By giving ourselves some breathing space between cohorts, we expect to create the capacity to make substantive changes to the program that will allow us to scale horizontally in a way that’s tough to pull off today. We fully expect that by the end of next year we will be able to serve even more early-career developers than we do today and at a higher level of quality.
What will never change as long as The Collab Lab exists is our commitment to helping early-career developers from diverse backgrounds make the jump into tech. In the current jobs environment, this is as tall a task as it’s ever been and we are more committed than ever to doing everything we can to ease that transition for as many people as possible.