Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth By Dana Staats October 19, 2020

Developing Dreams with the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program

Nelnet associate Jenny Nielson has been working in marketing since leaving college 5 years ago, but knew the field wasn’t her long-term plan. “I’ve been developing an interest in development for years (barf, I know), but haven’t really had the opportunity to devote time to it.” Enter the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program.

Formed out of the growing demand for talented developers in Nebraska, the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program trains individuals to become highly-qualified developers—even those with no prior development experience. Area businesses sponsor individual participants. Upon completion of the accelerated course, they return to their sponsor as mid-level developers. “Obviously, I’m hoping to gain the skills to become an effective developer for Nelnet. But probably the biggest thing for me is the opportunity to pivot into a career that I know I’m suited for,” says Jenny. “Each student has a job waiting for them, so no one needs to worry about a job hunt.”

Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program  – How It Works

Coursework for the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program is broken down into four twelve-week sections. Each section centers on a different aspect of development. The first two units, led by a Doane University professor, focus on the fundamentals of becoming an effective programmer. In section three, students learn how to design and plan software that’s scalable and easy to maintain from DPL professionals. For section four, students return to development teams within their sponsor organizations as apprentices. Throughout the process, program participants pair with mentors from their sponsor organizations. They meet weekly to provide context between what students learn and how it fits in with their organization’s process.

As Jenny’s sponsor organization, Nelnet covers her program costs, as well as continuing to pay her regular salary. This allows Jenny to devote all her time and energy to her studies without having to worry about living expenses while she completes the year-long program.

Jenny is one of six participants in the inaugural cohort of the Pipeline Program. If all goes as planned, the next round will start next year. Participant feedback on the experience will help improve the program for future aspiring developers.

How to Get Involved

For others hoping to follow in her pioneering footsteps, Jenny recommends doing a little legwork. “Talk to developers before applying. Research online, find out what skills make a good developer, what the work style is like, etc. Really do your due diligence to see if this is a career you want to dive into,” she says. “As big of a commitment that the sponsor organizations are putting into investing in you, you are giving back just as big of a commitment by devoting the next couple years of your life to becoming a developer. And if you’re not wired to be a developer, or won’t enjoy it, you want to know ahead of time.”

What’s Next

Jenny’s preparation and dedication to the Nebraska Dev Lab Pipeline Program have us excited to see what’s next for her. If the program sounds like it might be a good fit for you, application is open for the next cohort, beginning in January 2021.

If IT isn’t your thing, check out the other internship opportunities available from Nelnet.



Dana Staats

Senior Corporate Communications Writer