The Exove Trainee Program: A Journey of Growth and Learning

It has already been 11 years since the first group of trainees arrived at Exove, with an exciting summer ahead full of growth and learning. Exove’s Trainee program occurs each summer for the future stars of the digital business. The Trainee program is more than a summer job – it is a possibility to get into real projects with friendly colleagues and a chance to develop yourself in many ways. Once again this May, we welcome a group of trainees to experience all of this. As with any great program, improvements have been made during the years to ensure that the trainees can get the most out of it, and hopefully stay at Exove even after the program. But what has actually changed during the years and how was the program perceived by our colleagues who took part in the program over 5 years ago?

Hands-on experience with real client projects

When I took part in the trainee program in 2016, I believe the structure at least was similar to the one used today. We did have several training sessions as well as mentors, even though I think since then the mentoring and care provided has improved, especially last year when the trainees got to do a project together. 

I was a trainee in the support team, which doesn’t exist anymore, and worked in several WordPress projects. Overall I really enjoyed the trainee-program where I got to do real work and get real experience about web development. Working as a support trainee did have its pros and cons. I did get to work on several projects, but it was somewhat on a surface level. Still a great learning experience, and like now, everyone was very helpful and welcoming. 

Jussi-Pekka, Trainee 2016

I started as a front-end trainee in May 2014. During that summer, I worked on at least two different projects with the main one being almost entirely back-end oriented. I was involved in building the frontend for a client’s site, where my responsibility revolved around writing CSS and Drupal 7 templates. After that project ended I started working on another client project where I mostly focused on writing a migration script to carry data from the client’s old site to the new.

At the time we received an induction based on general topics. For example we got a Design, Technology, Projects, Exove Design and Company inductions. We were assigned a mentor who worked on the first assigned project. I don’t think there were any back-up mentors during the mentor’s holiday. So in that sense, the trainees were left to fend for themselves a bit more than today. I think the program was fine for the most part. Some more thoughts could’ve been put into making sure the trainees always get the support they need. The amount of training was also a bit low and kept pretty general. But overall, the colleagues were very helpful and I learned a lot.

Marc, Trainee 2014

I started as a trainee at Exove back in 2018 at Oulu office. Basically it contained remote training sessions in Google Meet and close mentoring by colleagues while participating in client projects. My very first day was actually at the Helsinki office, where I could meet company management, HR, mentors and of course other fellow trainees. At the end of the trainee program, we had a “graduation-party” at the Helsinki office where all trainees presented what they had learned during the summer. 

There were at least one or two training sessions once a week during summer. In these training sessions, I got familiar with front end best practices, general knowledge of Drupal and web-development, company ICT policy and internal systems. We got named mentors for project work, but there were no official “buddies” back then. Actually, it didn’t matter since in the small Oulu team we were all hanging out at the office and having lunch breaks together and so on. 

I was very lucky to get into a client project at the very beginning of the trainee program. Even though I was a beginner in front-end development, I collaborated in front-end development by implementing custom styles to Drupal based web-sites. During pre-pandemic times most of the people worked at the office, so getting help was quite easy at the beginning. Of course there were less people during the holiday season but mentoring was still always guaranteed.

Laura, Trainee 2018

With challenges comes new opportunities

A lot has already changed during the years, and more support is being offered to all of the trainees. Mentoring is a vital part of any successful training program. At Exove, we take it very seriously. As a resourcing coordinator Yevgeniya took it upon herself three years ago to plan the mentoring process more carefully and to continue improving it every year. As the world changes, so does the way we work. The first challenge we faced was adapting to remote mentoring in 2020 due to the pandemic. We introduced a joint project for the trainees, which they loved. We also made some significant changes to the mentor selection process. 

In the early years of the program, we focused on competence managers and experienced developers to mentor our trainees. However, we’ve learned that availability, personal fit, and excitement for helping others are equally important qualities to look for in a mentor. We now select mentors from the same project that the trainee is assigned to, and we offer education and support for mentors through our Mentoring Support Manager. To ensure the success of the program, we also introduced a buddy system. The onboarding buddy, selected from the team the trainee is joining, helps to ease the trainee into Exove’s life and processes, taking some of the responsibility from the mentor, who may be busy with project development. In our current remote work situation, we believe it’s essential for trainees to meet more people, and the buddy system helps facilitate this.

Feedback given by the trainees is vital when improving the program

We listen to feedback from trainees and use it to improve the program continuously. Last year, we made a significant restructuring of the content and order of the training sessions. Instead of one training from each of the competencies, we now offer more than 20 technical and soft-skills training sessions, as well as introductions to Exove’s processes. We encourage everyone to participate as trainers and support them in the Knowledge Sharing Guild. To help trainees assess their learning and progress, we offer a skills assessment list for self-evaluation at the beginning and end of the program. The list also serves as a potential task list and contains basic programming skills, such as version control use and pull request reviews, as well as specific technical tasks.

Overall, we have improved the planning of the trainee program, training sessions, and feedback flow by introducing the Mentoring Program Manager position. Better coordination between the manager, resourcing team, competence managers, and mentors makes the time at Exove productive and cheerful for trainees. We value the feedback given by trainees and use it to learn and adapt the program to their needs. We’re proud to provide a trainee program that not only helps trainees develop their skills but also gives them a sense of belonging and community within Exove. The journey of growth and learning continues, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for our trainees and the program.

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