It’s an age-old dilemma: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to actually gain experience in the first place.
If you’re wondering how to get that first real-world experience in a new industry after studying with CareerFoundry, Tech Fleet apprenticeships could be the answer.
CareerFoundry has partnered with Tech Fleet, the first decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and community-driven re-skilling platform for tech roles, to help students and graduates secure valuable work experience in their new field.
Helping to bridge the gap between education and “the real world”, Tech Fleet offers apprenticeships in collaborative projects from a wide range of real organizations. There are a range of roles available for UX designers, product managers, and web/app/Blockchain developers.
Before we go any further, let’s just cover what a tech apprenticeship is. Usually, it’s an entry-level position that offers real-life experience working in the tech industry. Apprenticeships are job opportunities that might include additional on-the-job training, qualifications to earn along the way, mentorship from seniors in the field, or other valuable experience that can help grow your career. Apprenticeships come in lots of forms; some are paid positions, some are unpaid or voluntary.
Over 65 CareerFoundry graduates have taken part in a tech apprenticeship with Tech Fleet since launching the partnership earlier this year, working with nonprofits and impact-driven organizations on projects involving climate change, social justice, diversity in tech, youth counseling, LGBTQIA+, and more.
But what exactly is a Tech Fleet project? What kind of people take part? And does it help them get a full-time role in tech?
In this article, we’ll answer all of those questions, plus share how you can get involved in a Tech Fleet project yourself. We’ll also take a look at a recent project where a team of CareerFoundry graduates built a responsive web app for climate change NGO, Earth Hero.
The Earth Hero project was led by UX design graduate Elizabeth Amaya, with fellow alum Anna Roe as the UX/product strategy lead. Web development graduate Lade Kolawole initially held the lead developer position, until she landed her first full-time job as a frontend developer during her tenure, so the role was handed over to another CareerFoundry graduate.
We were lucky enough to chat with these three inspiring women to find out about their career change journeys and their experiences working on a Tech Fleet project. Keep reading for the highlights from our chat talking all about the Earth Hero project.
You might also be interested in CareerFoundry’s latest Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report to learn how we are deepening our commitment to making flexible work in tech accessible to all.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your experience working with Tech Fleet in a tech apprenticeship?
“Hi! My name is Anna and I’m originally from Prague, Czech Republic but I currently live in Portland, Oregon. I have a background in graphic design but took almost a ten-year career gap while stepping into a full-time parenting role. I then decided to transition into UX and I chose CareerFoundry to take me on that amazing journey.
As soon as I finished the UX Design Program at CareerFoundry, I heard about Tech Fleet from a friend through LinkedIn, and I was happy to find out that it’s an open-source community. This means anyone who is part of the Tech Fleet Slack workspace can shadow any project meetings at any time!
I immediately started shadowing the Rewire Neuro project. It was a great project redesigning a website for a start-up that focuses on automatic cell detection through image analysis software.
I started helping wherever I could, from taking notes to doing usability testing, to facilitating in sprint retros. Wherever help was needed and wherever the team was short I was there, ready to go. I think that helped me get chosen for a role in the next project; as a UX research apprentice for another website redesign. This time it was for Beela, an organization that helps immigrant women and non-binary people transition into tech roles.
Finally, my last role with Tech Fleet was as a UX strategy lead for Earth Hero, which is an app that creates a positive impact on climate change through action-based platforms. So as you can tell, the diversity of the projects within Tech Fleet is absolutely outstanding!”
“My name is Lade and I just completed CareerFoundry’s Full-Stack Web Development Program. I’m based in the United States. I studied theology and music at school, my background is in live music production and I previously worked as a pastor for a church, so technology, coding, and programming were way off my radar!
I discovered CareerFoundry at the beginning of this year, after realizing that I wanted to make a career shift and be more financially stable. It was a major decision to make, especially during the pandemic, but I’m so glad that I decided to study with CareerFoundry.
Within a span of six months, I learned so much and was well-prepared for a career change. Thanks to the support from my mentor and career specialist I was ready to take the next steps and apply for an entry-level developer position.
I heard about Tech Fleet through the alumni channel on CareerFoundry Slack, and I checked it out immediately. The first application I did was for the Earth Hero mobile app. It really piqued my interest. When I brought it up with my mentor at CareerFoundry, they said it was the perfect opportunity to gain real-life experience at this stage, to set one above the curve as an entry-level or junior developer. So they encouraged me to apply and I was brought on as an apprentice developer!
I learned so much. I was able to take all of the theory and knowledge from CareerFoundry, work across a team and apply it—going from the beginning stages of research and development, to design that gets handed off to development, and then the whole cycle process.
Having the experience to articulate the ideas that you have as a developer to non-technical members of your team is a really critical aspect of communication that you’re going to need in a real-life job.”
“Hi everybody! I just graduated from CareerFoundry, so let me take you back. I am from Miami, and my family is from Brazil, so I’m Brazilian-American. I spent a little over six years in a banking career in San Francisco. I did retail banking working in branches, then I went to private banking, and then I moved to corporate banking.
It was very, very tough for me. The burnout was real. I worked nearly 60 hours a week on a regular basis. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t sustain that. Nobody really can. So, if you come from a similar background and have experienced being overwhelmed and burned out, I completely empathize with you.
A couple of years ago, during the pandemic, I started to look around and see what else I could do. I didn’t see myself in this career for the rest of my life. I wanted to do more, and I felt like I deserved more. I want to work to live, not live to work.
I went down the Google rabbit hole and I found UX design and a bunch of different UX bootcamps. I went on calls with a lot of program advisors, and—long story short—I chose CareerFoundry and I studied the UX Design Program. I did the Voice User Interface Design specialization course and I just completed the Job Preparation Course.
When I began the job prep course, I got a little panicked. I didn’t feel strong as a designer, and I was a little confused about what to do next. One day I was on CareerFoundry Slack in the job leads channel. There was a post about applications for apprenticeships at Tech Fleet for a crypto project and I thought it sounded really cool.
I have a background in banking and cryptocurrency and the Web3 space is very interesting to me. I thought a tech apprenticeship would be perfect, why not apply? So I did, and I heard nothing. No one reached out to me.
However, in the job application, I discovered that it’s possible to join Tech Fleet’s Slack workspace, so I did. There was another project I saw there and so I applied for a UX research apprenticeship. Again, I didn’t get an interview, and no one reached out to me.
After a couple of failed application attempts, one day I saw that the CXO at Tech Fleet had posted something on a general Slack channel. It was basically asking for project leads and saying that you don’t really need experience for these lead roles.
I had nothing to lose. I thought, if the CXO is talking to the community himself, I am going to talk to him myself! I DM’d him and I told him I was interested in being a lead, but he said the positions had been filled. I was nervous and had waited two days to message him, which must have been too long. I didn’t think I’d be qualified and I let my insecurities get in the way.
But that wasn’t the end of the conversation. He still wanted to talk to me, so we had an informational interview of sorts, and he sent me an article to read. It was relevant to the conversation we’d had, where I told him I was struggling with something regarding stakeholder management.
When I finished the article, I DM’d him again and we had a brief conversation, and a couple of days later he gave me the lead role for the Earth Hero project! I didn’t even have to apply! I didn’t have any experience in product or project management, yet in my first time as a project lead, I was responsible for delivering a functional minimum viable product (MVP) to our client in just eight weeks. Anna and Lade were on my team; we worked really hard together and we grew together.”
If you’re curious to know more about the Earth Hero project, you can watch the recording of the Tech Fleet team presenting their final demo to the client.
Did you find the Tech Fleet experience to be helpful in the rest of your job search?
“I started heavily applying for jobs as soon as I graduated from CareerFoundry, but I wasn’t able to move past the first round of interviews. I had four interviews during a six-week window, one of which moved to a live whiteboard challenge. It was very apparent to me that I had no problem landing interviews but I was really missing client-facing and cross-team experience.
So, as soon as I found out about Tech Fleet I put the full-time job search on hold. I was privileged to be able to do that. Instead, I just focused on the Tech Fleet experience as I really wanted to gain real-life experience.
I’m currently in the process of adding all my Tech Fleet projects and case studies I have worked on to my portfolio. I’m also introducing myself to local tech companies and attending networking events here in Portland. I feel like that’s been the majority of my success, even during the interviews: finding companies that I looked up to or wanted to work for and creating rapport and networking with these folks.”
“I started relatively early in my job search. I got involved with Tech Fleet about halfway through studying with CareerFoundry. Was that a good decision? I don’t know, but I just took a chance on myself!
Just as Anna said, as I started applying to jobs, I felt like although I had the skills that I learned from CareerFoundry, I didn’t have that collaborative, problem-solving experience, or experience working with other people on a team.
That’s why Tech Fleet was a real standout opportunity, compared to other projects that I was working on myself (like freelance things for friends). It was a golden opportunity for me to be involved with other people who were also looking for entry-level experience, looking to upskill, or had experience in another field and were looking to transition to something else.
When I was working on Tech Fleet projects, I enjoyed being in meetings and the work that I was doing. So, it was confirmation that I was taking the right steps. I knew I had made the right decision to switch careers, to invest all this time, energy, and—let’s be honest—money into something that was very scary at the beginning.
I’m super excited for everyone who’s reading this and has made that decision as well! I really love watching people’s journeys as they go through a career change too because I know mine was not linear. Sometimes it can feel like you’re taking steps backward, but in the long run, it leads to your success.”
“It’s helped me in a different way. When I was studying with CareerFoundry I was still struggling to figure out what my next career move would be. I thought I would go into UX research as that’s what I resonated with the most at the time.
I was doing some freelance UX research work, but when the CXO gave me the project lead role—twice, might I add, I have the same role now for another project—I really found a connection to product and product management. I felt like it fits my personality.
In this space, it’s really important that you’re a good communicator and I definitely got a chance to flex those muscles with Tech Fleet! When you’re working with a 23-person team across eight weeks—not a long time when you’re building something, meeting with the client every week, working cross-functionally, and going through all the war stories—communication is vital.
So is problem-solving. In my position as a lead, when things went wrong, the responsibility landed on me to really direct the team, to lean on the team, and provide direction accordingly. And that was a struggle for me. How could I provide direction if I didn’t know how and where to start? That was a big learning experience for me.
The biggest takeaway from my Tech Fleet experience is you get what you put in. It’s a big, self-managed process. If employers are asking if you can work independently, you get that experience from Tech Fleet. If they ask if you can work with minimal supervision, you definitely get that from Tech Fleet.
I would say it’s definitely helping me in my job search. I’ve been a little sporadic with applying to jobs as I’ve been really focused on the learning curve with Tech Fleet. But when I’m ready to apply more actively, I know that I can use everything that I’ve learned from Tech Fleet in my resume and cover letters, and hopefully translate that into interviews as well.”
Now might be a good time to mention that, as of July 2022, Tech Fleet reported that 78% of its participants were hired during or after their project. Of those who were hired, 64% found in-house roles working full-time, while 36% pursued agency or freelance work. You can find more placement information from Tech Fleet in this Medium article.
So how do you get involved?
If you’re interested in taking part in or shadowing a Tech Fleet project, take a look at their website for details on how to join their Slack community and find all the information about upcoming projects. There are lots of exciting, new projects being launched in January 2023, and the good news is that anyone can become an apprentice—there are no requirements to apply for a tech apprenticeship!
All project applications are currently shared only in Tech Fleet’s Slack workspace. Each project requires a number of roles; from a range of different UX design roles to product and developer roles, and project leadership roles. You’ll be able to find comprehensive job descriptions for each of the roles in the project postings Slack channel.
Project lengths vary but typically last eight weeks and require a commitment of up to 20 hours per week. You can find more information in the Tech Fleet handbooks. Remember, some projects are exclusively available to CareerFoundry students and alumni.
If you’re a CareerFoundry student or alum, you can also find details about upcoming Tech Fleet projects on CareerFoundry’s Slack workspace in the #job_leads channel. If you are a student enrolled in a CareerFoundry program, you will also receive emails about Tech Fleet opportunities when you sign up for the Job Preparation Course.
Before we sign off, let’s end with some bonus advice from Elizabeth on how to best get involved with Tech Fleet:
“Don’t just rely on sending applications and hoping for the best. I was rejected twice. I didn’t hear anything actually, and it’s extremely discouraging. Really, what it comes down to is “How can your name be put out there, for the right reasons?” There’s a section in the job prep course at CareerFoundry about networking and putting yourself out there. Think about how you can do that in your own way.
Anyone can shadow projects at Tech Fleet, so if someone is asking for a usability test, jump in and do it. If a lead is saying, “Hey, my team is having a meeting at 6 p.m., you’re free to shadow,” then shadow. And don’t be afraid to give feedback. As a lead, I loved it when shadowers or observers at meetings would jump in and ask questions.
Ask yourself how you can help the community. What can you do to support your peers around you? Then, when you’re applying for roles or projects and your name keeps popping up outside the applications because you’ve put yourself out there, people are going to remember.”
Congratulations to Elizabeth, Anna, and Lade on their excellent contributions to Earth Hero. We wish them well for their bright futures in the tech industry!
To find out more about other collaborative projects that CareerFoundry graduates have taken part in, check out this article: Alumni Spotlight: Organizing World Information Architecture Day
If you’re interested in getting a new job in tech, CareerFoundry offers career-change programs in UX and UI design, web development, data analytics, product management, and digital marketing.
You can sign up for a free short course in any of these fields to get a hands-on introduction to each of these career paths. Alternatively, you can book a free call with one of our expert program advisors to figure out your next steps and find out if a career in tech is a good fit for you.