14 October 2020 ... min. read Listen

From trainee to trainer - a story of becoming

A trip down on memory lane

It was the spring of 2017 when Cristina, Dorian and Eduard learned from their friends and colleagues at the university about ING {Dev}School; they set out to apply for the next edition. So said, so done! 

They all passed the recruitment process and became participants in the Java & Web Components edition, having Mihai Mogos and Radu Enuca as trainers. Their objective was to teach the participants Java (and Java frameworks), Angular and Polymer. The nice surprise for all participants was that they got introduced to other topics, as well, such as DevOps and Security. And this is how the dream of new learning perspectives and career opportunities, dreamt by Cristina, Dorian and Eduard, took concrete shape.   

More than 3 years from their first interaction with the people involved in {Dev}School passed, and Cristina, Dorian and Eduard's most vivid memory is the graduation dinner with everyone who contributed to that edition. That night is anchored in their memory because it was a celebration with friends, sprinkled with honest feedback and lessons learnt.

Soon after that, the perspective of a job opportunity presented itself: right after graduation, the trainers addressed them the proposal of becoming part of the Rebels team in Tech. They said yes in an instant and got a full-time job here.  

The changeover

After two years of intensive learning as engineers, they got a new proposal from their former trainers; yes, you can read the term 'proposal' as 'stretch ambition'. They immediately took the challenge, and after accelerated preparation and technical presentations, they were ready to be the trainers of the 2019 {Dev}School edition.

All three of them considered this a development opportunity to be grateful for, though the first thing that popped into their minds was the difficulty of such a tech programme dedicated to youngsters. Good thing they didn't shy away from the proposal of a first-time experience. "Right after we said yes, we started thinking of the improvements we can bring to this {Dev}School edition that now we were part of, and what kind of people should we look for.", said Dorian and Eduard, while Cristina looked at this opportunity with trusting eyes, as well:  "It was the best thing that could happen to an introvert; I can say that this experience improved my capability to connect with others."

They didn't have an easy task, not in the first edition, and not in the following three. The editions that took place in 2020 were more challenging than the ones that took place a year before, because they switched from face-2-face interaction with the participants in our Tipografilor office, to fully online sessions. They soon adapted their teaching strategy to the situation and set two goals: to make as many participants as possible actively contribute to the online classes, and to align everyone in the first 2-3 sessions to the same level of skills.

As many of us have already experienced online challenges and maybe technical issues with our devices, we should be even more appreciative of our three colleagues, who prevailed different types of challenges that appear in classes: the uncertainty of participants understanding the topics presented; the non-verbal feedback; the time factor, as it was more difficult to conduct online  peer programming  in smaller groups.  The feedback forms at the end of the two online editions confirm reaching the trainers' goals.

The right mindset towards feedback

For someone having both perspectives, the trainees' and the trainers', the right thing to do was to ask for feedback and integrate it as soon as possible. This mindset led to many advantages.

As their plan was to have all participants engaged in the sessions, their approach was to continuously ask for feedback and apply it into their teaching methods. Many ideas resulted from the feedback sessions were soon implemented; the most important enhancements were the increase of the number of tech assignments and the increase of the number of weeks/edition, from 8 to 10 weeks. The thing that was set in stone in all editions they trained was the live coding sessions, which was one of the nicest parts they experienced back then when they were participants.

 "We also had negative feedback, but I'm not really thinking as negative; all feedback is constructive, and we embrace it. From my point of view, the feedback that we received made us better trainers", said Dorian.

"As a trainer, I truly enjoy the part when we give them the assignment to create an ATM. Most of them create it using basic programming, not thinking about OOP concepts, and in the next session we show them how to do it in an OOP way. They are so excited about this 'cleaner' way to do it, you can see on their faces that they learnt something, and, in that moment, I feel that our efforts really matter, that we are truly helping others." - Cristina
"Another assignment we gave them is to create a web application that simulates a Home'Bank. That task gets good feedback, because they can integrate frontend and backend knowledge into one application, so everything they accumulated throughout {Dev}School." – Dorian & Eduard

In the most recent two editions, a new challenge aroused: the online fatigue, so they had to think of better ways to engage the participants. "We wanted to go past that awkward online silence, and we drove the discussion away from the technical stuff and somehow made the sessions more friendly. This led to gaining their trust and becoming more comfortable with asking questions, as we always wanted them to do." – Cristina.

With consistent feedback and help from different teams, Cristina, Dorian and Eduard did a fantastic job conducting the latest four {Dev}School editions, the most recent one ended in August.
The participants involvement and feedback were gratifying, but a big 'thank you!' still needs to be paid to all contributors who made this edu-tech programme one of the most appreciated learning programmes in the Romanian market. Kudos to the trainers (Cristina, Dorian, Eduard), to the former trainers in the previous editions, to the HR-Recruitment team and to the hiring managers!

About ING Dev{School}

ING Dev{School} is an educational short-term programme (8-10 weeks) offered to senior students and master degree students studying Cybernetics or Automatics & Computers, or related areas. It is our traditional edu-tech programme that started in ING Bank Romania in 2015 and was soon replicated in Tech RO. Adding up all the editions, we are proud to say we have organized together 16 editions, teaching the participants Java and Angular technologies; SQL; .NET; DevOps and InfraOps.

As you can imagine, {Dev}School - Java & Web Components is the most popular edition. Since it started, almost 80 graduates became our colleagues (out of which, more than 55 became part of the ING Tech Romania team). Happy to have them here!

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