Practicum offers its students a real chance at a new career. In our first article on the bootcamp, we discussed how it can help you launch a career in the data or web development industries with instruction on the latest tools and more. Part of what makes Practicum a great option for career changers is the chance for them to test the industry before they even graduate.
The Apiary program at Practicum gives students a chance to get real feedback from real companies while working on real projects. Students get a jump start on their careers, a chance to succeed, and even get hired, in some cases, after turning in impressive work.
How Practicum Lands Real Projects for Its Students
The Apiary is the center of the Practicum student’s experience with real-world companies. Named after places where multiple beehives coexist in harmony, it’s also a place where many workers produce sweet results after a great collective effort.
The Apiary approaches companies and discusses the tasks that they may want to share with Practicum’s students. Companies must provide students with real tasks that are useful so that both sides are invested in the result. The importance of the tasks motivates students to do well, and it motivates companies to keep a close eye on the results in order to provide proper feedback.
“At Practicum, we understand that nothing is as critical for employment as real practice,” said Maria Gordienko, Product Manager of The Apiary. “We want each student to graduate from us with different projects in their portfolio, unique for each cohort. It helps our graduates highlight their strengths and stand out in the job market.”
After the Apiary has landed a project from a company, the technical team at Practicum decides which students can handle the project depending on each project’s complexity. Some projects are simple enough for students to tackle at the sixth sprint, while others are so complex that only students on their last sprints or graduates can handle them.
The Student’s Role
Students can participate in as many projects with real companies as they’d like throughout their time in the program. The only limit is on their readiness to tackle each project. Sometimes, students from other courses even cross over and take on Apiary projects from other programs, like data analysis students doing web development projects, for example.
The technical team takes the demands from the companies and decides what students need to know before they can help tackle each project. Even if students aren’t quite prepared for that month’s sprint, they’ll still have at least five chances to work on Apiary projects during their time at Practicum.
The group sizes vary from project to project because each project has different requirements. There are some easier projects with larger student groups that only require some fundamental coding knowledge. The more difficult projects may have smaller groups because only program graduates are qualified to tackle them.
“Many students admit that communication in a team is the most difficult part and often more difficult than coding, but this is part of a programmer’s job and we prepare our students for it as well,” said Maria.
Each project takes about three weeks to a month for students to complete, and every month during your time in the program there will be a new project to complete for a new company. The hearty offerings from the Apiary allow students to build up strong portfolios that show them excelling in a number of different projects.
Students can choose to take part in Apiary projects for up to six months after graduation to strengthen their portfolios. So if you’d like to spend your time during the program focusing on your studies, then you can still take advantage of these opportunities later. Apiary projects aren’t required for graduation, but they give students an upper hand when entering the industry.
Besides gaining real experience working on technical projects, students also work on their communication skills. They get to expand their network from their classmates and the Practicum team to a new company, and they get to see how corporate communications operate. Students aren’t obligated to communicate with the company, but it’s just another benefit that the program offers.
The Company’s Role
We’ve already mentioned how companies bring projects to the table, but they have a deeper role beyond dropping off work at Practicum’s doorstep. The companies that bring Apiary projects to students clearly communicate their expectations and feelings after the fact.
During the project, students have to attend at least two webinars for the company they’re working with. In the first webinar, the company briefs the students on the project and allows them to ask any questions. In the closing webinar after the project is finished, companies provide polite, yet honest feedback on each student’s performance.
These companies also often review each student’s work on their LinkedIn page. This feedback shows prospective employers that students have experience working for real companies, and it gives those employers an idea of what to expect from the students.
In some cases, companies may like a student’s work so much that they hire them after they’ve completed their project. Though these occasions may not happen often, we can show you how these cases have unfolded in the past so that you can get an idea of what to expect.
What Companies Think About Practicum’s Students
Students in the web development and data analytics courses can take as many Apiary projects as they’d like. The projects can look very different, depending on the company and what they need at that moment, but they offer distinct advantages to students on both sides.
Web development students may work on implementing a simple feature on an existing company’s website, or they may end up rebuilding a site almost from scratch. Data analytics students get to work with clean, real data from real companies. Students also get webinars on pair programming, data visualization, and other techniques that they can start using instantly on their next project.
Both programs immerse students in the company in ways that allow them to grasp what they’ll be doing after graduation.
Web Development – Iterative
Iterative builds developer tools for machine learning. Its work includes giving companies the tools to manage datasets, supporting machine learning infrastructure, and helping companies extend the lifecycle of their machine learning models.
“I know that this is one of the best tech companies in Russia, I have a lot of trust in their experience,” Co-founder Ivan Shcheklein said. “Including building really great education programs.”
Web development student Julie Galvan had just completed an Apiary project for Out of Bounds, a charity that supports children of incarcerated parents, when the Iterative brief came to the school.
“It was awesome working towards a website that would actually be used, not just a test project,” Julie said. “It was a great experience, and it was also fantastic working in a team setting! Enjoying my previous experience, I happily volunteered as soon as the offer to help build Iterative’s site was posted.”
Julie led a three-person team and presented the results of their work at the final webinar. Iterative knew what it needed from the beginning, and the clear brief ensured that there weren’t any misunderstandings during the site-building process.
“We wanted the website to resonate with decision-makers in this space, so we wanted it to communicate what business problems we solve,” Ivan said. “Another important thing—it helps with hiring, so we spent time optimizing and making the ‘about us’ section engaging and fun. We wanted it to tell the story, culture, and show that we are remote and diverse.”
Like all Apiary projects, both sides appreciated what they were able to get from the project. Ivan got the high-quality work that he expected from Practicum students, and Julie was able to learn more about building websites, working in a team, and leading others while working on her Iterative.ai project.
The project went so well, that Iterative accepted one of the team’s prototypes and deployed it within a week of the program after fixing some minor issues. Iterative was so pleased with the work that it decided to hire two of the students that worked on their new site, including Julie
“[We hired them because of] their ability to work well, own the project, care about it, and solve new and complex problems,” Ivan said. “Any software engineer, even a junior should demonstrate these qualities on their level. And we are always happy to hire folks that want to learn and can take and solve issues. Since they were leading the website project, it was also natural for us to keep them doing it with our team, and grow eventually into other projects.”
Naturally, Julie was shocked to get a job offer so quickly after completing the program. But she also felt grateful to be working at a company that she was already familiar with.
“It felt amazing! I was not expecting to get a job so soon, and I was definitely not expecting to get my dream job any time soon,” Julie said. “But then I was contacted by Iterative, and I got my dream job! Iterative has been amazing to work at, and I owe it all to Practicum!”
After this project’s success and hiring two students, Iterative plans to continue working with Practicum in the future.
“We’ve recently started discussing Practicum’s data science students trying our main open-source tool DVC which is essentially Git for Data,” Ivan said. “I hope we’ll be able to collaborate successfully on this one.”
This project opened opportunities for both Julie and Ivan, and it goes to show the mutually beneficial nature of the Apiary. Students get to learn on the job, and companies get quality resources. And the projects extend beyond web development.
Data Analytics – Allcorrect Games
Allcorrect Games translates video games into various languages so that users worldwide can enjoy the original game experience in full. To monitor their service quality, they parse user reviews on Steam, the App Store, and Google Play to look for translation-related feedback.
“Did the players love the translation? Did any errors slip in? Are the users requesting additional language versions? This is an ongoing monitoring process, and we only managed to partially automate it,” said Demid Tishin, the company’s founding partner. “There was still a human down the line, reading through flagged reviews and categorizing them manually. We have always wanted to automate this completely, but the task was above our grade.”
Allcorrect was giving a presentation on their work at an international IT conference when Practicum Product Manager Mariya Gordienko approached them with a solution to their problems: the Apiary. Practicum could provide both Data Analytics and Data Science students quickly who were excited about the opportunity.
“Practicum’s partnership offer appeared out of the blue,” Demid said. “We checked out the curriculum, we checked out the tutors – and we were impressed! We knew the quality was rock-solid, so it was a no-brainer.”
Xia Cui decided to attend Practicum after doing a few online courses in data analytics. She loved the design of the course and its 20-hour free trial and joined immediately. When it came time for her to do an Apiary project, she was jumping at the chance.
“I was keen to be part of any real-world project and had been asking my community manager for such opportunities,” Xia said. “So when I found out about the Allcorrect project, I signed up immediately. For me, any project would’ve been a good project to work on.”
Demid remembers the project fondly. He was involved with the start and finish of the project, but he loved seeing how eager the students were to help.
“It was exciting to jump on the orientation call and see smart and motivated professionals, eager to solve a real-world problem with the tools they had just acquired,” Demid said. “They asked good questions, which helped not only themselves but other students too. We discussed what source data was necessary and how it should be structured for the best result. After the kick-off and preparing the data on our side, the project was steered by the Practicum mentors and organizers.”
Xia feels like the project helped her grow as a data analyst. Much like Julia, she appreciated the opportunity to use real data from a real company instead of working on standard assignments. The soft skills training she received during the process was an added bonus.
“I learned so much from it,” Xia said. “Not just about new packages and methods of analysis and reporting, but also workflow management, how to clarify task requirements, collaborate with others, and more. Those are the kind of experiences I can put on my resume, and that’s awesome too.”
The Allcorrect team is still processing the results from the project, but they can already see plenty of benefits from their collaboration with Practicum.
“The Data Analytics students have highlighted a few languages which show a growing demand for translation and expanded our list of keywords to detect more translation-related user reviews,” Demid said. “The Data Science students tested a wide range of natural language processing algorithms, including deep machine learning algorithms, to build a robust model that accurately predicts if a review praises, criticizes or requests game translation.”
Demid was especially impressed by how some students showed extra initiative to make Allcorrect’s work easier.
“One student trained a model that demonstrated 98 percent precision at detecting new language requests—an outstanding result that was way beyond our initial expectations,” Demid said. “Two students even delivered compiled Python scripts with relevant user interface, which we can use off-the-shelf!”
Demid is excited to show these students the fruits of their labor as Allcorrect finishes implementing all of their work. And Xia is grateful for the opportunity the Apiary provides. She’d recommend it to anyone considering a career in data.
“Working with real companies on various projects is how we can consolidate our learning and keep expanding our knowledge and skills,” Xia said. “Each project is different and it’s all so interesting. I would take part in those projects for as long as I’m allowed to.”
Real-World Projects That Build Confidence
These programs give students a chance to get real feedback from real companies while working on real projects. Students get a jump start on their careers and a chance to succeed. And because they can work on as many projects as they like, students get a chance to see plenty of what the industry has to offer.
Practicum is a great choice for students interested in learning from a coding bootcamp that helps them leap into their industry. If that sounds appealing to you, start your Practicum course at no cost today.
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