Can anyone become IT Developer?
January 09, 2020
There is a great demand for workforce in IT sector both in Estonia and elsewhere in the world. An Estonian project Choose IT, conducted by two Estonian training companies BCS Koolitus and IT Koolitus, is training 500 people as Junior Developers.
Is it enough to have a will to become a software developer, or are there other prerequisites? Can anyone become a developer? To find out, I talked to Ants Sild, CEO of BCS Koolitus, and Egert Mitt, their Training Project Manager. They have experience in selecting the most suitable candidates from a pool of 1800 people and training them.
What’s the story behind Choose IT project?
Ants: It was the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications that came up with the idea because there is a serious lack of relevant specialists. The need is greatest for software developers who have specific skills, which can be developed over a relatively short period of time. These are provided at boot camp training.
We have based our model above all on Codeborne: they enrolled people with non-IT background to increase the number of people in IT. We can teach them fundamentals of software development and they can work their way to become software developers. We figured that the minimum boot camp period could be 3.5 months. We developed the programme and methodology hand in hand with companies. The training involves 6 weeks of contact hours and 8 weeks of subsequent practice in organisations.
It must be a very intense experience for the participants?
Egert: Yes, the training is really intense. There are new subjects every day – if you miss something, you will have to catch up on your own. We relied on quick learning skills. We work a lot to boost the participants’ motivation, keep them tuned and promote the mindset that they can do it!
Ants: Companies need staff. The employers do not get paid for supervising the 8 weeks of field practice. That is why we screen for those who in fact wish to start working in the company. We also have to identify those who are really brilliant and can cope with the training.
How did you come to use the Spatial Ability Scale (RVS) provided by Tripod?
Ants: We are indeed looking for the smart ones. Software development suits a certain type of people, it is a job for geeks. We quickly came to an understanding that we had to spot the right candidates. We had the obligation that people should start working in IT.
An interview or a cover letter to show motivation was not enough – we needed a solid method. BCS and IT companies had used various methods and were convinced that there were no alternatives to tests. What would work?
In fact, there was no alternative to Tripod’s Spatial Ability Scale RVS (spatial ability is a specific ability related strongly to one’s ability to learn programming) in Estonia. A number of IT companies used and trusted RVS. We also discussed where to establish the threshold. We knew about the positive experience that the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences had with tests. After we had come to that point, there was little doubt. We only had the question if it would work as required in reality.
And how has it worked?
Egert: I dare say that Tripod’s RVS has been an excellent tool for us. It takes a lot of time to interview people, and Tripod’s test comes in handy. There is a threshold in place and it has proven itself. The statistics show that only one per group fails during the entire programme among people scoring 70…80%. As to those who had scored 40-50%, as many as 20 failed. This makes a big difference.
This confirms that psychological tests are the most efficient tool for risk assessment. Have you noticed any pattern in the performance of people who scored high later on?
Egert: Motivation seems to account for even more than 50%. If a person is motivated solely by a higher salary, the programme is not a suitable choice. The right motivation would be that an individual wishes to retrain and is willing to invest in themselves.
Three months after graduation, 2/3 of the graduates currently work in the IT sector. It is logical – what happens in the classroom is just a small part of what is going to happen in the labour market; that is, who succeeds in studies, can also be more successful in the labour market.
What about the test takers’ feedback to the test?
Egert: One in third asks about Tripod’s test and wish to try it out before. The first question at the interview is about the test results. Nobody says that it was a piece of cake. The main feedback points are: too little time; I couldn’t finish; very difficult; I believed I was better at it. It really puts your abilities to test. Time constraints plus the fact that a person has never done anything like that before.
I usually say that we use the test to find out how you think if you have no previous knowledge. If you score above the threshold, you will be interviewed and then we will find out about the motivation.
Has this system justified itself?
Egert: yes. We have to make our choice within two hours and the drop-out rate has been 10% so far (studies show that the drop-out rate from the introductory courses to programming are up to 30%). Tripod’s tests add value to what you do. If you have many applicants, you cannot meet everyone, especially if you do not know their professional background.
To sum it up – can anyone become a software developer?
Yes, provided they are motivated and have a necessary degree of spatial abilities.
You can apply to Choose IT at http://vali-it.ee/
If you wish to start using the Spatial Ability Scale RVS offered by Tripod, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
 Mancy, Rebecca & Reid, Norman. (2004). Aspects of cognitive style and programming. ResearchGate.