culture Dec 5, 2017

Untapped Tech Talent: Why It’s Worth Looking Beyond CS Majors

In our adult lives, we often define ourselves by a few generic traits: where we live, where we’re from, what we do for a living, and what we studied in school. As helpful as these high-level descriptions may be, they fall short of capturing exactly who we are and what we’re capable of — both as people and as professionals. Within each one of us, you’ll find dormant passions, untapped potential, and hidden talents that simply haven’t had a chance to shine through in our daily lives.

As a tech-forward company, we are always looking for top-tier technology talent, and we’re certainly not alone. The demand for coding skills has never been greater, so it’s no surprise that the best and brightest Computer Science graduates face a wealth of options and opportunities. To keep pace, technology companies — and all companies navigating a digital-first future — must begin thinking creatively about how to source the best campus tech talent. To meet this need, we launched the Capital One Developer Academy (CODA) that aims to find the right job candidates by looking beyond the surface and focusing more intently on who has the ability, agility, and passion to learn.

Through CODA, our campus recruiting teams identify top students with a passion for technology across a variety of analytical majors — math, physics, engineering, and more — to take part in a 6-month, immersive training experience that will put them on the path to becoming software engineers. We unearth talent like CODA graduate Reagan Henke who majored in Psychology, took Intro to Coding in college and loved it, but was too late in her major to pursue Computer Science. CODA gave her the ‘in’ she needed and upon completion of CODA, she was equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to begin tech rotations throughout the company.

When you create a viable path for on-the-job training, you can unlock (or leverage) the passion and potential of “non-traditional” candidates, rather than feeling restricted to only those job seekers with a Computer Science degree in hand.

We believe CODA reinforces one of our major organizational strengths by helping us build more diverse teams. Time and again, we have seen the power of bringing together varied perspectives to create truly impactful products and services for our customers, most recently in the development of our new mobile chat platform, Eno. By relying on a wide array of views, backgrounds, majors, and experiences, we’re able to tackle our biggest challenges in completely new ways.

Our inaugural 60-person CODA cohort took part in hands-on learning experiences and immersed themselves in the critical building blocks of our technology transformation, including Agile, AWS, DevOps, full stack development, and more. All the while, they were surrounded by a dedicated network of technical and development advisors, program managers, and associate “buddies.” Strong mentors are essential to helping new associates navigate the workplace, whether they’re answering common logistical questions, providing much-needed career advice, or lending an ear when challenges arise. Workplaces are increasingly doing their part to create these connections, which help ensure the long-term success of associates across every function.

Entering the “real world” as a young adult can be daunting. Without years of professional experience to speak to, job seekers often feel like they amount to no more than their GPA and their major — particularly in the eyes of a large corporation. Programs like CODA help assure job seekers they are more than their credentials. Equipped with passion, focus, and the ability to learn, these new associates can tap into unrealized talents, while simultaneously building products and services that help change consumers’ lives.

Tips for Organizations Looking ‘Beyond’ CS Majors

Recruit for passion, interest, and aptitude for learning: When you go through the hiring process, focus on hiring people who contribute to your culture, help you advance your mission, and have a growth mindset.

Train through blended learning methods: The CODA curriculum is composed of hands-on learning experiences focused on both technical and soft skills training. It’s a thoughtful mix of learning and practical application, including a six week mini-internship that is designed to appeal to many different learning styles.

Offer support and mentorship at every level: Providing support is crucial to ensuring success of any hire — especially those just transitioning into the workforce. Mentorship is critical to the CODA program, and associates are supported by a development advisor, a technical advisor, a program manager, and a buddy.

To learn more about CODA and our campus programs: https://campus.capitalone.com/

Devin Lipawsky
VP Technology, Capital One

DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: These opinions are those of the author. Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor is it endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. This article is © 2018 Capital One.