.NET Needs More Apprenticeships

It came to my attention recently that there are a few companies in other dev circles with all-star developers who give back to their communities by doing apprenticeship programs or open door programs at their workplaces. Basically the idea is to let people come into your workplace and pair program with them, sharing knowledge and best practices. I believe we need more of this sense of community going on in the .NET space. I’m sure I’ve probably overlooked something (or perhaps I’m about to spout off craziness and heresies), but it just seems like we should be able to work out the logistics to make this a reality.

The interesting thing is that this really isn’t a new concept in other professions. For example, the culinary world has had the idea of staging for quite a while. Sometimes it’s a final part of an interview process and other times it’s just to swap techniques and recipes. As mentioned above, I was recently informed of a few dev companies that have taken this idea to our profession. In the Rails community, Hashrocket has an apprenticeship program where you can apply to be a part of their team for a week and soak in some of the awesome skills and techniques they possess. It appears they vet their candidates a bit to ensure they get the right kind of people coming in who are motivated and ready to learn, and also because the code being worked on is for real Hashrocket projects for their clients. In the Node.js space, Joyent has a program called Office Hours where devs can register for free in advance to bring in something to work on with a Joyent employee at end of work day and get their feedback & expert advice. They provide snacks, drinks, and a comfortable work environment.

I think these ideas are brilliant and foster real community among developers. Although this idea alone can improve the interview and hiring process, I think it can go further than that to help our profession mature in the sharing of best practices and proven techniques. For most .NET companies out there, I’m willing to bet there are few legitimate roadblocks that would prevent instituting programs like these. Being completely honest with yourself, how much of what you work on each day is top secret intellectual property that is core to the success of your company and absolutely cannot be seen by outsiders? Even if there are parts of your code that should not be seen by strangers, I’m sure there are projects and tasks to be done on the other parts of code that will still prove instructive for your invited guests. I encourage our dev community to do whatever it takes to make this happen: have the visitors sign non-disclosure agreements, interview and re-interview potential candidates to meet satisfactory requirements, don’t allow them to hook up thumb drives to your machine and steal your secrets, whatever! It doesn’t matter if it’s a week-long thing or a few hours; let’s realize we’re all in this together and build this community up to have a higher standard of software craftsmanship.