ATA 8.0 Graduation Ceremony
Akamai Technical Academy is a training program designed for people who have an interest and aptitude for technology but may not come from a traditional technical background. Up until now, we have successfully onboarded over 140 incredible people in three Akamai locations: Cambridge (MA, US), San Jose (Costa Rica) and Krakow (Poland).
Imagine letting go of everything you worked over the years and starting something entirely new. Think of the excitement of finding out that you were chosen, out of thousands of other applicants. Going through a recruitment process with online tests, onsite group activities and a regular job interview, but it all paid off. How would you feel entering a room full of strangers knowing that you'll spend the next five months working with them every day, studying together, taking assessments together, presenting in front of one another? Would you be happy? Stressed? Maybe both?
Now, let's factor in that this group of people is full of different ages, ethnicity, cultural heritages and they're all sharing your anxiety of a fresh start, joining a program on the other side of the world. Your days would start and finish with activities that would very often put you on the spot, out of your comfort zone. On top of that you are being taught by the US based Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) flying between both locations, leading a semi-virtual class for the second part of the cohort. Sounds kind of extraordinary, doesn't it?
The Akamai Technical Academy (ATA) 8.0 class was unlike any other. It was a group of over 20 participants from Krakow, Poland and San Jose, Costa Rica and we sent them on a great journey to becoming IT experts. This called for a training setup that would acknowledge a seven hour time difference and still secure time for technical modules, soft skills classes, 1:1 sessions, meetings with the Akamai teams and other important parts of an established curriculum. Participants needed to be flexible to start classes early (8:00 AM Costa Rica time) or finish quite late (6:00 PM Polish time), with no option of sitting half-asleep in their office cubicles or taking a longer mid-day coffee break. The five month long training accounted for every minute of every day and it all had to go according to the plan - no option for delays, power outages, or simply cutting loose just for one day.
We strived to control the uncontrollable, to make sure there were no surprises.
As for the class itself, we mostly had good days, where we felt like ATAers were a cast of "Saved by the Bell". We laughed a lot during the icebreakers, ate lunches together, and stayed longer to play board games after classes. Classmates often shared notes, made summaries and quizzes to follow the material, studied in small packs, and presented technical whiteboards in front of one another. First friendships were formed, first differences of opinions appeared. You could really feel that. Although situated in two distinct locations, participants formed a One Akamai Team! Assessment days were always the hardest, with stress levels going really high as a lot was at stake. You could feel the intensive class atmosphere that was immediately loosened after hitting the 'submit answers' button. Classroom coaches anxiously waited for the last person to finish and rushed to the kitchen to find out if everyone passed. Although sometimes it felt like "Groundhog Day", the repetitive structure was there for a reason - it helped participants get used to the fast pace of the program and allowed them to focus on their learning progress instead of worrying about what comes next. Looking back I have to say that I have never seen a group of people so different from one another and yet able to come together knowing that this is the path that might change their professional life forever. This was my most important ATA takeaway.
Managing Diverse Teams surely requires transparent processes, motivated people with a common goal and courage to recognize and appreciate differences.
I truthfully believe that it is the diverse teams, that in the long run, have the largest chances of succeeding. Working with ATAers helped me to look at business problems from a different perspective, grow as a people manager and a person. The 8.0 class had an ease to vocalize their dissatisfaction and that is something we really tried to encourage, as I know from my professional expirience, there is nothing as bad as seeing people start to leave, for a reason they do not feel comfortable to disclose. Hence, it won't come as a surprise that we, the Coaches, again have mixed feelings seeing ATAers graduating. We are so happy that they achieved their goal and are setting first steps into the IT world! We see them satisfied with their placements, well taken care of by their new managers and having a warm welcome from the new teams. At the same time, we are letting go of a well performing team with people that supported each other and accepted their particularities. But hey, something has to finish for something else to start. Thank you very much dear graduates for your energy and all the effort you put into making it through the Program. It was a lot of work, but also incredible fun!
8.0 you will all be really missed!