There’s one thing we at Nelnet never want our associates to doubt, and that is that they are supported and appreciated. Committing to associate development is a powerful way to reassure associates – and one Nelnet is demonstrating now as we retool developers, ensuring that they stay up-to-date on modern coding practices to maintain and even increase their value to the company. This summer, Nelnet has partnered with Nebraska Dev Lab and Galvanize to offer two small groups of technology-driven associates a modern coding education through Nelnet’s first ever Coding Academy.
Nelnet’s Coding Academy is an online, immersive course that grants associates the opportunity to learn technologies such as TypeScript, Angular, C# and more in a fast-paced educational setting. The first pilot group, which includes 10 Nelnet associates, is partway through an 18-week program working with instructors from Nebraska Dev Lab. A partnership between Doane University and Don’t Panic Labs, Nebraska Dev Lab aims to address the shortage of qualified IT and technical talent by offering a program that provides instruction to better equip both new and experienced developers.
The second pilot group of 12 associates is enrolled in a 12-week program led by instructors at Galvanize. Described as a “technology ecosystem for learners, entrepreneurs, startups, and established companies,” Galvanize aims to help close the gap in the rapidly changing digital world by providing an educational course designed to foster innovation and technical growth.
Of course, even with such amazing partnerships, it isn’t easy to pilot a new, multi-week, educational program like the Coding Academy. However, with feedback gathered from both pilot groups, Nelnet hopes to be able to offer a tailored learning opportunity to even more associates in the future.
“Being the first group, I mean, it’s paving the way for everyone else,” said Patrick, a student in the Galvanize group. “It feels good to be the trailblazer. No expectations. We give our best effort possible to move the program forward for other people.”
Both programs require students to dedicate 40 hours or more a week to lectures, projects, tutorials, and overall learning. During the programs, all other job responsibilities are eliminated. To assist with the learning, experienced Nelnet software engineers volunteered to mentor the students. Their guidance and the open, honest communication that has been established between the students and the Coding Academy leadership are critical to the program’s success. Weekly surveys are also conducted throughout the program to ensure that students’ needs are being met, and to allow individuals to express any concerns or issues they may have.
Ramesh has been at Nelnet for 2.5 years and is a student in the Nebraska Dev Lab group. He has experience in legacy development practices, but strives to learn as much as he can in the distributed world of development to help him provide even more value to Nelnet. He’s had a positive and exciting learning experience through the Coding Academy, and he is grateful for Nelnet’s commitment to their associates.
“One of the things that I haven’t seen before is that we are not responsible for our other job functions. We are dedicated to this program. Nelnet is dedicated to this program. That kind of support is unheard of,” said Ramesh.
Nelnet’s support in this educational journey derives from our core value of pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth – a value which applies not just to the company as a whole, but also to individual associates. Coding Academy mentor Drew Brandon is impressed by Nelnet’s commitment to help modernize technology careers within the company – key to creating, maintaining, and retaining talented associates.
After these programs have concluded, Coding Academy graduates will be more equipped and on a fast track to becoming full-stack developers within Nelnet. Returning to work will also be exciting as all associates who graduate from the program will be able to showcase their new knowledge and further their professional careers as they join new and existing modern development teams.
Deb, a student of the Coding Academy, explained that this program has shown her how much there still is to learn and how influential working with others can be.
“It’s interesting to be around so many smart people,” she said in regards to her classmates. “We are peer programming, which I’ve never done before, and ultimately just helping each other out when we need it. I think I like that part the best.”
Teamwork has driven this program since the very first day. The students are working together to increase their technical knowledge – just as Nelnet works with our associates to support and foster a positive educational experience. At Nelnet, we’re dedicated to developing our associates and will continue to find opportunities, such as the Coding Academy, to continue to prove it.