Talent spotlight: REACH at LinkedIn
August 29, 2019
Co-authors: Nicole Brunnett, Shalini Agarwal
Engineering talent comes in many different forms and from many different backgrounds, and it’s more than just technical chops: it involves curiosity, problem solving, and passion. At LinkedIn, we recognize that engineering talent doesn’t always come from traditional training, especially when there are so many different paths to programming today. To look beyond the traditional engineer mold in finding talent, we launched REACH in early 2017, a program designed to give individuals the necessary professional experience to become a full-fledged engineer. The purpose of the program was to provide people from any technical background an opportunity to get their foot in the door to start (or restart) their careers in engineering.
Since our inaugural cohort of 29 participants almost two and a half years ago, the program has seen 65 apprentices, countless transformation stories, and a lasting impact across the company. As we’ve gone through iterations of the program, we’ve made adjustments based on feedback to accommodate more learning styles, as well as increased the length of time apprentices are in the program. We look forward to applying takeaways from REACH to improve hiring and training processes across the board at LinkedIn.
We feel strongly about the positive impact of this apprenticeship model and hope that REACH will help change the way the industry finds and hires engineering talent. By sharing our best practices and lessons learned, we hope to extend the impact of REACH beyond our company.
What started as a pilot with a small core group of individuals has led to a program with two engineering apprentice levels that we hire for on a quarterly basis. It’s become part of our rhythm for the business; REACH is no longer an “OR” to hiring technical talent, but rather an “AND” for how we identify and train talent. Systemizing the program has helped ensure we have steady traction in our pipeline of applicants for the upcoming quarter and a large pool of employees to help review applications.
We’ve introduced two levels in our REACH program to help expand the path into engineering and allow us the opportunity to bring in more talented folks that are earlier in their journey. Applicants can either apply to be an Apprentice Engineer II (roles like technical services manager, network operations center engineer in technical teams) or Apprentice Engineer III (technical role within an engineering team), dependent on their programming skills on entry. We understand that everyone may be at a different stage in their transformation story, and we’re constantly looking for ways to accommodate a range of incoming skills and be flexible with each apprentice’s background. To this end, we’ve carved out time for the apprentices to spend 20% of their work week learning and growing their skills independently. No matter which level an apprentice starts in, our goal is for them to be ready to move into a full-fledged engineering role by the end of their time within the program. This means that some apprentices may spend more time in the program than others. As mentioned above, we’ve extended the program to be multi-year, meaning it can range from one year to five years, depending on each individual, to allow apprentices time to hone their skills while being able to dive into our technical stack.
In terms of the hiring process for REACH, it’s a bit unique as we do not consider resumes or LinkedIn profiles. Instead, we give applicants the opportunity to tell us how they have learned, persevered, and grown as an individual and as a coder. We’re looking for the extra nuance—skills in leadership, communication, and change management—that is a good indicator of success in problem-solving, collaborating, and coding.
We previously said that REACH was a chance to test our hypothesis that solid technical chops, a willingness to learn, and alignment with the core values of the company matter more than a resume when hiring engineers. Based on the program’s success, we’ve begun to incorporate elements of this holistic approach into our process for hiring entry-level talent. For example, all engineers at LinkedIn play a role in hiring engineering talent, and that now includes hiring apprentice engineers. Through participating in REACH hiring, these interviewers have stretched their view of how engineers are trained. Our interviewers are well-equipped to consider the more nuanced picture an applicant may bring to the table. Engineering talent comes from so many different backgrounds and experiences, and REACH has helped us extend this outlook to all of our engineering hires.
Given the various backgrounds of the incoming apprentices, it has granted us the opportunity to see the effect these individuals have had on the teams here at LinkedIn as well. They have undoubtedly left their mark. As an example from the pilot cohort, Enrique Torrendell was one of the original 29 apprentices welcomed into the program in April 2017. As shared by a Sr. Engineering Manager who helped manage and mentor Enrique during his time in REACH, “From the very first day, Enrique brought a fresh perspective and unrelenting positive energy to the team. His impact was visible in how he lifted up the spirit of the team and approached problems, both technical and otherwise.” To learn more about Enrique’s story and the growth of REACH at LinkedIn, please see this article.
A core tenet of our culture at LinkedIn is having a growth mindset and the opportunity to transform our career paths. Since its inception, we’ve thought of REACH as a way to help people on their transformation journeys. For example, one of our apprentices came into the program with a background in finance. During her time at LinkedIn and in REACH, she realized that what she was truly passionate about was merging her experiences in tech and finance—this led to her eventually leaving LinkedIn after the REACH program’s conclusion to join a fintech startup as her “next play.” Even though she didn’t decide to continue as an engineer here at LinkedIn, we’re honored to have played a role in helping her find her best fit.
As we continue on the REACH journey, we’re reminded that the purpose of the program is to help open doors to make this type of career transformation possible in the tech industry. We’re looking forward to continuing to share updates as we further expand the program and discover new best practices.
The program would not have grown to where it is today without the help of hundreds of employees from several teams across the company. From reviewing applications to interviewing candidates to mentoring apprentices, our engineers have been eager to help across the program. Their commitment to jump right in and help is a testament to our culture here at LinkedIn, and their continued involvement has been a key aspect of building REACH into the program it is today. Looking forward, we’re excited to continue expanding its focus and commitment to helping people grow. Thank you to Mohak Shroff, Bruno Connelly, Igor Perisic, Lori Allen, Jennifer Shappley, Erica Lockheimer, Danielle Weiskopf, Jennifer Le, Nathan Tam, Anne Trapasso, Ash Mishra, Yaz Shimizu, Casey Brown, Joontae Park, Jeff Luan, Caroline Unger, Grace Ko, Diana Henninger, Anthea Ip, Remi Mustapha, Shane Afsar, Bef Ayenew, Adam Wolkov, Abhishek Tiwari, Christopher Walker, Will White and to all the apprentices, managers, mentors, and employees on this journey with us.