Training: Kickstarting careers with the Instil Academy
How we run our own bootcamp for entry-level engineers and designerstalk to us
Investing in baseline skills
The Instil Academy is our annual training programme for early-career engineers and designers. Organised around a series of in-house training and collaborative project work, the 3-month programme is an intensive introduction to the technologies and working practices required to build modern software.
Essentially, the academy prepares attendees for working as part of team on client projects. As such, it focuses heavily on the baseline skills that every engineer and designer needs to do their job properly = technique, discipline, tooling, teamwork, engineering best practices, and so on. Basically, the stuff they don't teach you at school.
Here's how we frame that internally:
The purpose of the Instil Academy is to create a best-in-class learning experience for entry-level staff empowering them with the skills and knowledge to start excelling at their jobs. Using a mix of teaching and project work, we will introduce attendees to engineering & design best practices and how to work successfully in a team.
Strength in diversity
This September's academy launched with 12 new-starts, a mix of graduates, interns and apprentices. On paper this seems like a broad range of abilities to accommodate but in practice the balance works really well.
I really enjoyed the learning content and feel that I have learned more about software development over this academy than I ever have with my degree. The knowledge and experienced teaching we received has been and will continue to be invaluable for our careers.
From the get-go, everyone is treated the same no matter their background. No one is left behind in their coursework or study. They all get the same level of support, go through the same training, do the same project work and undergo the same rigour, beginning to end. The fact that everyone is in the same boat also helps. The attendees are all incredibly supportive of each other.
Keeping it in the house
It helps that we have our own in-house team of trainers who have nearly 20 years' experience delivering training programmes globally. This team delivers the bulk of the formal training but we also rope in our senior engineers and designers - practitioners who can deep-dive into areas of specialism and specifics on how we use certain technologies to our advantage. These additional topics are covered in a series of breakout sessions, sprinkled throughout the academy timeline.
Threading its way through the entire academy is a single project. It's a opportunity to build something meaningful together using the technologies and skills picked up during the academy. The size and nature of this project will vary year-to-year. In some years, the class has collaborated on a single application, whilst in other years, multiple teams have competed against each other, each delivering their own version of an application.
We had just the right amount of training as it was balanced with the project days. Project days really allowed us to get our hands dirty figuring out how to use the technologies taught
How to run your own academy
When running your own induction academy, you need to invest in its success. Don't just throw it over the wall and expect your trainer provider to grind out perfect, cookie-cut engineers every time. You need to have some skin in the game. Determine where your provider can bring most value and use your own people to fill the gaps - after all, it is your culture and ways of working that are being coached, so some of this is on you. From our experience, the best graduate academies are co-delivered between the customer and training provider.
Not every graduate academy needs to be as rigorous or lengthy as ours. Your mileage will vary. For some, it can be as short as a few weeks and for others it might be 3 months or more. Either way, if you would like to learn more about how we can help you run your academy, please do get in touch. We'd love to help.
Ready for work and more
Three months is a lot of time for an academy and we cover a lot of ground, but by the end everyone is more ready for 'real' work - quite literally. The day after the academy ends, everyone will be placed on project work.
However, the academy is about much more than just preparing everyone for the world of work. It's about establishing and making connections with peers. For many, these newly forged work-bonds will last well into their careers. That alone is worth its weight in gold. We know from our own experience and that of our clients, that well-run, in-person academies result in much lower attrition rates over the long term.
I really liked the chance to get to know everyone who has just started. I feel we got a lot of time together as a group and got to know each other quicker and deeper than we otherwise would have. I also really liked being given the resources needed to learn and trusting the resources are robust and correct rather than the alternative or potentially reading half-baked or false information online.
How we can help
These are just some of the topics we cover in our academy. It's important to stress that we put a lot of emphasis on discipline and technique. Testing, problem solving and engineering best practices are all baseline skills that every engineer must have in their toolbelt - non-negotiable skills that no good engineer can do without.
- Introduction to TypeScript
- Introduction to React and Single Page Application Development
- Version Control Using Git
- Unix and Shell Programming Basics
- Modern Testing and Test Driven Development
- Cloud Engineering Fundamentals
- Threat Modelling, Internet Security and Security Fundamentals
- Agile Ways of Working
- Engineering Best Practices
- DevOps, CI/CD
- Database Fundamentals
- UI/UX, Design Systems and Figma
- Product Management
- Tooling and how to use your IDE properly
- TypeScript Best Practices
- Frontend Best Practices
- Backend & Cloud Best Practices
- Working wth AWS Lambdas