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How Junior Developers Advance Through the SPR Studio

Author: Brian Chorba Posted In: Culture

The SPR Studio

Landing a position in the tech industry today can be a fairly straightforward task. After all, technology jobs are expected to grow by an additional 685,000 between now and 2022. That’s an 18% growth rate, compared to 10% average job growth in other business segments. Not too shabby.

So if you’re fresh out of college, tech degree gripped tightly in hand, odds are good you’ll find a decent gig. But, is that your sole ambition? A decent gig? Or do you deserve more?

Mike Thomas

Ask Mike Thomas, Consultant at SPR. Having been awarded his degree just a few short years ago, he immediately struck out to launch his career. Seeking more than a decent gig, he wanted to change the world. You heard it right. Change the world. One app at a time. You see, Mike believes that every application he brings his talents to will help make someone’s life a little easier. And there’s substantive evidence to prove he’s right.

Mike started at an Atlanta-based firm that provided comprehensive scheduling software to businesses and consumers. It was fine, respectable employment. He stayed and learned. But that change the world thing keep tugging at him. And he began exploring his options.

Consequently, September 1, 2014 marked his first day as a consultant on the mobile development team at SPR. In short order, he was assigned to a large enterprise iOS app dev project for a Midwestern state’s Department of Children and Families. Notably, the engagement was the largest iOS app project ever for SPR’s mobile group. For Mike? Daunting, to be sure. But SPR’s collaborative development workspace, known internally as the studio, was there to bolster Mike’s success.

The Studio…Then and Now
Originally, the studio was a few tables with workstations where on-the-bench talent provided software maintenance and bug fixes to clients; a way to keep consultants productive between engagements. Over time, this concept organically evolved into something much more significant. Today, it’s a defined space equipped with high-end development pods offering state-of-the art gear and an extensive array of tools and libraries.

Not all consultants work onsite at the client. Photo: SPR Consulting’s Studio

Daily, dev consultants gather here to work on client projects and take advantage of the cool space and modern tool sets. But the primary value? The people. The broad mix of talent, skills and experience is remarkable, and supports highly-collaborative exchanges that serve both clients and SPR staffers. Instead of consultants being marooned to dark corners in client basements for a project’s duration, they often come together here to thrive off the energy and expertise around them.

Of course, onsite client work continues, but the benefits of working in this internal collaborative environment have reduced (and in some cases, eliminated) hours spent in client settings.

The Studio Advances Client Success
SPR consultants aren’t the only beneficiaries. Clients who’ve agreed to off-site scenarios are winning big; concerned less with the tedious tasks of assigning badges, setting up Intranet access, and creating appropriate spaces for external resources. Administrivia aside, what’s most important is the impact on project efficiency and quality. These benefits directly correlate to SPR’s expansive levels of expertise; from those fresh in the business to consultants with decades of experience in numerous disciplines. High-level resources not specifically assigned to projects routinely add knowledge and weigh in on a variety of topics and techniques. This fluid access to SPR’s depth of technical proficiency is a powerful advantage. Problems are resolved more quickly. Project timeframes stay on track. Outcomes are simply better!

SPR’s Internal Resources Gain Maximum Career Value
Mike had some iOS coding under his belt when he joined SPR, but had never worked on an enterprise app and nothing near the magnitude of this project. Suddenly, he was the junior member of a seven person team working a project that had been underway for almost six months. Talk about trial by fire. Except…it wasn’t. “Yea, I was excited and nervous going in,” Mike said, “but now, I couldn’t picture it any other way.”

From an architectural design perspective, the work was divided into sections. Mike jumped in feet first tackling ‘view related’ tasks and things were going well. Until they weren’t. Even when things got gnarly and Mike was feeling the heat, he had a safety net to help keep him on track. You see, the studio is so packed with talent and experience, it’s a no lose proposition. All Mike had to do was peek over the top of his 30 inch monitor and ask a more senior colleague how to get past the problem. When other issues arose, there was almost always a consultant there to guide him. The idea is that senior consultants provide fluidity and are pulled in on projects as needed; whether they answer specific questions, give instructions on tool usage or bring insights on how to communicate with clients. And the veterans win from expanded teaching skills and the constant exposure to new perspectives. The opportunity for deep skills transfer and comprehensive team building is undeniable.

This innovative model allows SPR to hire consultants early in their careers and expose them to significant projects without throwing them to the wolves. Newbies experience a challenging technical environment while also learning the nuances of effective client communications. And whether consultants are new or more experienced, the value proposition is real.

The studio offers:

  • A constantly challenging and engaging environment
  • The opportunity to participate in the progress and success of multiple projects
  • Intimate exposure to current and emerging technologies
  • The chance to help tackle client issues immediately
  • Creative collaboration with a close-knit group of experts
  • Tolerant recognition of errors and the value of shared insights David Kinney, Principal Architect, said it best, “We are the sum of our scars.”

Six Months in, what’s up with Mike?
As the big iOS app project winds down, Mike is proud to be the point person for the app’s warranty period. That means he’s the guy who hears from the client about what’s working the way it should, and what functions or features may require a few tweaks. It’s a big job, but he knows he’s up to it. And certainly, he remains an avid participant in the studio. That is when he’s not jetting off to Steamboat, Colorado for a long weekend of snowboarding, or huddled in his study building a fitness/nutrition app for his iPhone.

And the client, whose tagline is “protecting children, strengthening families and building communities,” has an outstanding, intuitive, high-performing iPad app that supports field personnel in doing truly valuable work. Work that leads to achieving the lofty objectives stated in the tagline.
Seems like that change the world thing just might be working out.