Multiverse has blazed an alternative path to training software developers, launching a groundbreaking, hands-on apprenticeship program in place of traditional 4-year college degrees.
Their approach is resonating: Since its founding in 2016, the company has placed apprentices in over 300 major companies like Microsoft, Verizon and KPMG, and has raised $220M in venture funding.
One of the pillars of the Multiverse approach is a focus on “durable skills” – the idea of layering broad computer science knowledge and career-critical learning and interpersonal abilities atop the specific competencies learners require to succeed in their apprenticeship roles.
Coding Rooms is proud to serve as the online learning platform for Multiverse’s training curriculum. We spoke with Multiverse product manager Dan Sohval to learn more about how the company develops durable skills in their apprentices.
Challenges to Developing Durable Skills
Coding Rooms: What are the challenges to developing durable skills?
Dan Sohval: There’s a tension, call it a productive tension, between what companies undergoing digital transformation want from their apprentices and what an apprentice as a new learner might need, not just to succeed in their current role, but to build a career beyond it.
CR: Productive tension?
DS: I’ll give you an example. If an apprentice is working in QA automation, that’s a skill set they can learn to be incredibly successful in that role. But we wouldn't be meeting our internal mission if we didn’t give the apprentice the tools to understand broader full stack engineering to not just to excel in their current role but build a career outside of QA. There are clients that realize this and embrace it, and others frankly where it’s more of a challenge. That’s the tension.
CR: How do you overcome that?
DS: We strive to create a learning product that hits both ends by having instruction on broad role-agnostic topics like full stack engineering while at the same time providing coaching to fill in specific goal-setting and tack on the learning the apprentices require for their specific role.
How Training Works
CR: Can you walk us through your training?
DS: Our apprenticeships last 15 months. They start with a 12-week bootcamp, where instructors dive into foundational concepts in full stack development. The apprentices’ managers also tell us about the core technologies they need for their specific jobs, and during the last three weeks of bootcamp, apprentices work with a coach to develop a self-directed learning plan to master them.
Once our apprentices exit bootcamp and start their roles, we track their progress and triage their learning where necessary. We see artifacts of their work and hold quarterly progress reviews so we operate from a place of no surprises.
The Importance of Coaches
CR: You talk about instructors and coaches. How do these roles differ?
DS: We aim for a division of labor between the instructors and coaches. The instructors hold the knowledge. They drive the bootcamps and impart teaching like in a traditional classroom. “This is how to prototype a User Interface in React,” etc.
During the bootcamp our apprentices are also working with their coaches. The coach’s role is to help the learner identify and create a path to success. It’s a bit like therapy – the learners already have the key to their own success. The coaches help nurture it.
For example, if an apprentice has to master Rust for their role, which is an important but esoteric language that’s not covered in the bootcamp, it's not very scalable or impactful if coaches directly tutor apprentices in the nitty gritty of that subject. Instead, a coach will help them frame their learning, asking questions like:
What do you think the hard parts of Rust are going to be? What do you think you're going to need to do your job? What might a plan look like to master the essentials? What might a Rust project look like? What do the milestones look like?
Learning how to ask the right questions – that’s durable skills training in action. Durable skills development is something we really emphasize at Multiverse.
Soft Skills vs Durable Skills
CR: What about the “soft skills” apprentices also need to succeed in their careers?
DS: We don’t call them “soft skills.” We consider them an essential element of “durable skills” – durable because they last throughout your career.
I’m very proud that our apprenticeships offer avenues in technology for non-traditional learners and people from demographics you don’t see nearly enough of in the industry.
Our coaches work with apprentices to develop techniques that help them succeed, such as the mindset of “demonstrating impact,” like, am I crushing these tickets? Am I building these features? Am I shipping code to production?
CR: That’s really interesting. You’re not just helping apprentices master coding, you’re giving them tools to thrive in any work environment they find themselves in.
DS: We have such a diverse group of apprentices and we establish durable skills objectives for each one of them. For example, we had an apprentice who previously worked as a corrections officer. We built on the grit and resilience they relied on in that job, and coupled it with coaching on the nuances of corporate communication, to meet their objective, which was to develop technical durable skills, like leading a standup.
Another apprentice was a former firefighter who was very interested in leadership development. So part of their durable skills growth was earning a Scrum Master certification. For many of our apprentices this is their first desk job, and our coaches work with them on everything from writing emails to practicing public speaking.
Skills For An Entire Career
CR: You’re developing well-rounded people.
DS: The coaching model is a key lever of our mission. At the same time, we’re training competent developers to meet the practical expectations of our corporate partners, like driving results and having good retention patterns. All of this, taken together, helps our apprentices succeed in their current roles, as well as throughout their careers.
CR: Fascinating conversation. Thank you, Dan!
Mock Learning Plan
J is undertaking this project in order to better understand and master React fundamentals and best practices, to get hands-on experience through a showcase-able GitHub repository, and to develop professional writing skills on technical topics. She hopes to take the skills she gains from this project to become a more experienced and opinionated software developer. Additionally, she hopes the Medium article will be able to help new coders.
J will learn and master the modern React library and development conventions
J will build a Kanban dashboard app in React
J will publish a Medium article detailing a tutorial on an advanced React concept (custom Hooks) for new coders
J will demonstrate her React learnings through completing a novel project (Kanban dashboard) as well as publishing an article on creating a custom React hook
Description of Work
Start and End Dates
React Todo App (following scaffolded tutorial)
8/1 — 10/11
React Kanban App
10/11 — 12/31
React Hooks Medium Article First Draft
12/31 — 1/15
To learn more about how Multiverse develops talent, check out: