How Oregon Works: A Software Firm Develops Talent Through Mentorship

September 8, 2021
3 minute read

By Christopher Bjorke  – Digital Producer/Associate Editor,
Jun 28, 2019, 12:21pm EDT - Portland Business Journal

Some companies, when they need certain skills or experience, seek it out. Others find they need to grow it.

AltSource, a Portland-based custom software developer, launched its incubator program two years ago when it was not finding the exact skills it needed in the labor market but had plenty of potential talent on hand. Through one-on-one coaching, junior programmers learn the knowledge they need to contribute to projects while working as full-time employees. As ECONorthwest’s John Tapogna writes in this issue that is a route many will follow as traditional hiring methods become less effective.

AltSource founder and President Dave Moore explains the origin of the incubator program and how it has served the firm’s needs.

What is your hiring situation like now? The challenges we face now are what do we do with these smart candidates that we find in our recruitment funnel that just don’t have the exact skills that we need to perform the type of services we provide. It’s difficult to describe how that’s happening, why these people exist in the marketplace. They’re just not getting that level of experience elsewhere.

We know these people are smart. They can do the work if we equip them with the right mindset or the right opportunity. That’s what kicked off that mentorship or incubator program for us. We had a guy who was an educator previously and transitioned over to tech. We thought, I wonder if he would help us build a program that would allow us to give these smart candidates who don’t have the experience to give them a job on a team right away but still hire them, pay them, have them join the company and then build up their skills and try to figure out where it is we can forecast them to be and how long it takes to get them skills they need to be there. That was the genesis of the idea.

It’s different from typical training. What we’ll do is put together a custom curriculum based on their interest and what we need and what we think they’ll learn the quickest and start throwing that stuff at them in a one-to-six-month period and see what’s working. Then we’ll look at what teams need the most support and start bringing some specific things into that person’s curriculum.

This sounds like a more overt way to address on-the-job training. I think so. I like to think of it as they are people who normally would not have had the opportunity to join tech. A lot of companies look at it as you need some experience before you can do the type of work we need. We’re trying to bridge that gap.

Have you used it as a way to reach out to potential job candidates? This is just starting to work well for us. In the last 16 months or so we’ve had 25 candidates come through the program and they all say fantastic things about it, they’re all still here, they’re all still doing great things.

Is there a typical profile of people who participate in the program? I’d say most are computer science graduates from a local university. It’s open. If they’re smart people and we really think, darn it, we should have smart people working here, let’s try to figure to how to make this work then those are the people that come in.

What do you think is the tech industry’s responsibility in cultivating the workforce it needs? It really needs to be demystified. It is a come one, come all opportunity. It’s fun. It’s difficult, but a lot of jobs are difficult. You’ve got to know how to write software. You’ve got to learn a new language. You’ve got to use that new language to write code that’s going to turn into software. At the heart of it, it’s problem-solving. You’re engaging with some business person or client that has a problem, and a lot of people who like to solve problems should get into this industry.

Read the full article at the Portland Business Journal.