I’m very excited to have our fourth Grand Rapids cohort beginning our Accelerator program this summer. Each Accelerator cohort helps us shape the program’s structure, activities, and content. I’d like to share three key improvements we’ve made over the last few years.

Focus

Initially, we had a long list of really great topics we wanted to cover in the Accelerator program–too long of a list. It’s become clear that the most valuable thing we can do is help participants navigate the transition from the highly structured environment of academia to the open landscape of a professional career.

This means helping folks understand the industry, identify their strengths, and learn where and how to focus their growth. Rather than send each Accelerator member through a standard set of materials and activities, we want to help each participant create an individualized experience that drives learning in areas where they’ll find the most growth.

We also encourage participants to shape their work on project teams to maximize those strengths. It’s not obvious to most of us how to leverage our strongest talents early in our careers, and we want to help folks with that discovery process.

Autonomy

In order to keep the focus on personal strengths, we give folks much more control over their Accelerator experience.

Participants choose the professional development projects they’ll work on during the Accelerator program. They’re encouraged to think beyond technical learning if they’d rather focus on consulting skills, networking, public speaking, or other areas.

We’re giving cohorts ownership of group discussion topics and coaching agendas. We’re also experimenting with ways to put control over feedback sessions into the hands of Accelerator participants. We essentially want each member to use a consultant mindset when engaging with the program and to shape it to maximize the return on their investment.

Our Team

A third area of growth has been in our office culture. “Teach and Learn” has long been a treasured company value, but until a few years ago, we weren’t used to having large groups of folks joining the company right out of college and all at once.

Now, that’s a normal part of our yearly schedule, and folks look forward to welcoming each new group. Our leads are better tuned to individual learning styles and how to provide the right level of challenge to new team members as they ramp in.

We were perhaps too conservative when we started out. We’ve learned that Accelerator folks need really hard problems to solve! As the years go by, more and more of our developers are graduates of the Accelerator program themselves, and they can use that shared experience when welcoming new team members.

Going Forward

We’re very excited to see our second cohort graduate this spring. I’ve really enjoyed working with the group, and I appreciate everything they’ve contributed to client projects, Atomic itself, and to the Accelerator program. Our third Grand Rapids cohort will be finishing up next year, and our fourth group will be starting soon. We’re excited to see what changes the next year brings!

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