Envato's Developer Apprentice Program provides aspiring female engineers with a direct pathway into the tech industry. We chat to six of our graduates to learn how it kickstarted their engineering journey.
In Australia, the percentage of women in engineering currently sits at only 12% – a figure that Envato’s Apprentice Developer Program is on a mission to help increase. Originally launched in 2017, the program aims to close the engineering gender gap by providing both training and hands-on experience to its apprentices – as well as improve diversity and inclusion at Envato. More broadly, the program looks to carve out career pathways for women in tech and help female engineers to build long, successful engineering careers.
The Program’s Mentor, Mario Visic, explains, “It came about because we were finding it difficult to find skilled Ruby engineers, and our teams were not particularly diverse. This sparked an idea: could we upskill engineers in-house, and make our teams more diverse in the process? Since day one, the program has only hired those who identify as women. We’ve now had nine female engineers graduate from the program, three of whom have been promoted to level III engineers at Envato.”
The Envato Developer Apprentice Program provides aspiring female engineers with training and mentorship, opening a direct pathway into the tech industry. Those who join the program are offered a high-quality, hands-on learning experience, with a focus on real world tasks. This includes contributing to Envato teams and projects within their first six weeks and eventually becoming junior developers. It comes at an important time for tech jobs in Australia, with the Tech Council of Australia just one of a number of groups looking to drive up tech sector employment.
“The technology industry in Australia, and many other parts of the world, is male dominated. More broadly, males are also overrepresented in STEM subjects and industries,” says Mario. “From a very early age, as early as primary school there are fewer women who pursue STEM subjects, despite them performing equally well. A large contributing factor is the lack of female role models. At Envato, we’re training up engineers who will serve as role models to future generations. It’s a big investment for Envato, and so far has produced some excellent engineers who have graduated from the program.”
If you’re a woman thinking about entering the tech industry, considering a career change, or simply want to know more about the program, read on to hear from some of the graduates of Envato’s Apprentice Program to find out how it helped them develop their skills and kickstart their engineering journey.
Envato’s Apprentice Developer Program is the holy grail of first jobs as a developer. I was supported entirely in the all-important transition from boot camp to junior developer and could take the time to learn foundational principles properly. I could learn and ask questions in a way that isn’t possible when you’re thrown straight into a delivery team.
Undoubtedly, the best (and most unique) part of the Program is that the apprentices have a dedicated mentor whose job is to teach and support them for nine months. You spend four hours a day, every day, with the mentor and a second apprentice, which allows you to get used to each other’s learning and pairing styles and get into a good rhythm. Another benefit is that you always know who to reach out to and have someone guiding you in your work. I also benefited from the rotational nature of the program; the apprentices rotate through six delivery teams within the company throughout the program, allowing for a good breadth of understanding of different codebases and technologies. The teams also prepare apprentices by setting aside appropriate work, meaning there’s always work for us.
This apprenticeship has allowed me to lay a strong foundation in fundamental principles relevant to day-to-day software engineering. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to solve problems and think through my work. One of the key takeaways of the program (if not the key takeaway) is to hone your communication skills and learn how to work effectively as a team to solve a problem. I’m grateful to have been extensively coached at such an early stage of my career, and I expect it to contribute significantly to my growth as an engineer.
Good mentorship is essential for continued personal development, and Envato’s Apprentice Developer Program delivers this in spades. We had the guidance of a highly experienced, dedicated mentor in a learning-focused environment while working on various real-life systems and codebases without delivery pressure. Frankly, I don’t think any other engineering program provides its apprentices the focused, day-to-day experience Envato provides.
Every day of the apprentice program, I was continually learning – from the inner workings and structure of multiple delivery teams and becoming comfortable with pair-programming to gain experience with large codebases, as well as picking up coding magic from our programming-wizard mentor.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to learn alongside someone else, as we did every day in the apprentice program.
Being part of Envato’s Apprentice Developer Program has set me up for my Engineering career, not just with programming knowledge but also with tools that nothing but experience provides. This includes deep learning and communication, continual exposure to varied problem-solving on real-life codebases, and knowing where to turn (and who to turn to!) when I need more context. These are some of the most important tools I’ve developed as an engineer.
Brie is an Envato engineer working in the Milkshake team. Milkshake is a mobile app, available on both Android and iOS, which allows users to create their own beautiful websites straight from their mobile. As one of four engineers working on Milkshake, she’s involved in maintaining the app, coming up with ideas for new features, and then building them in collaboration with her team.
After a decade working in the arts industry, I was burnt out and looking for a more sustainable career where I could indulge my love of problem-solving and creating experiences for people in a more supportive context. I spent a year teaching myself basic coding skills in my spare time before eventually deciding that coding was the next step on my career journey.
As part of the apprentice program, myself and another developer spent a year completing six-week secondments in engineering teams all over the company. We were supported full-time by our developer mentor who helped us work on real tasks on production systems.
My initial 12 months in the Apprentice Program set me up with key skills I needed to succeed. I’ve had the privilege of working with three mentors so far – a generalist mentor during my time in the Apprentice Program who supported me both technically and personally, a technical mentor who focused on leveling up my skills whilst I was a junior engineer, and a specialist infrastructure mentor who has helped me explore my personal interest in infrastructure.
The thing I love most about my job is the same thing I loved about being an artist – I get to create something from nothing! I also enjoy collaborating closely with a cross-disciplinary team of product managers, designers, and marketers; I’m always working with people with different perspectives and constantly learning.
The thing that initially drew me to tech, aside from my interest in coding, was recognizing the blindspots in the tech industry due to the homogeneity of the people building its products. I felt my perspective could make a difference.
For me, a lack of women in leadership positions has made it difficult to identify role models who have experience navigating a male-dominated workforce, and carving out leadership styles that work for them in that context. It also means that I have only been managed by men, despite having had five managers in three years. While my managers have been excellent, they have had very different experiences of this industry.
Women are more likely to have come into the industry via non-traditional routes, such as boot-camps or self-teaching, rather than computer science or software engineering university degrees. This can result in feeling like you ‘don’t belong’ or don’t have enough formal expertise to be able to contribute technically, especially in the early years of your career.
I’ve also seen women in tech be more likely to take on ‘supporting’ work that facilitates the success or smooth functioning of their team. This may be less visible or less likely to be rewarded with promotions or pay rises in comparison to more technical work. Being recognized for this kind of work often requires self-advocacy and confidence in identifying and communicating your contributions.
The tech industry is a powerhouse of economic development and opportunity. It’s vitally important that women and other marginalized groups have access to programming jobs, as well as the financial stability and upward social mobility they represent. Additionally, it’s important for the tech industry itself to have diverse people building their products to ensure they’re useful to a wide range of people, and that our products reduce, rather than reinforce, inequality. Diverse teams are more likely to pre-emptively identify ethical issues with products or user experiences that might not occur to teams with similar lived experiences.
If you’re learning to code, my advice is to come up with a project you want to build and then learn the skills to build it. While I was learning, working on things that had value to me kept me engaged and eager to work each day. Motivation is a huge deal when teaching yourself something new and challenging.
Before I joined this team, I worked in Finance development at Envato for almost two years.
At the beginning of my career, I thought I wanted to be a teacher – I taught middle school students in Korea before I came to Australia. However, once I started full-time teaching, I quickly realized it wasn’t challenging enough. I wanted to try something new.
I started learning programming by following online tutorials. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but after seeing the “Hello world” on my screen there was no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision for me. After graduating from the General Assembly, I then moved on to the Apprentice Program.
The program taught me how to solve real-world problems. I think that’s the most enriching part of the program – it’s a great chance to learn all of the necessary technical and non-technical skills required to move forward in a career in software development.
During the program, I learnt a lot of things from my mentor, Mario, as well as other developers. Even after the Apprentice Program ended, I still had weekly sessions with Mario and other team members. I’ve learnt that developing is almost 100% teamwork – we spend so much time working with others. The Apprentice Program, mentoring, and frequent pairing with other amazing developers have all helped me to get where I am now.
Coding is fun! I love creating something that people will integrate into their lives. Before I became a developer I was purely a consumer, but now I have the ability to build things that help people and make their lives easier.
Everyone who enjoys coding should have the opportunity to learn it. Everyone can learn to code – from grandmas to little boys. It doesn’t matter if you have a university degree, how old you are, or where you live – as long as you have internet access you can learn it anytime, anywhere. It’s certainly not easy – there are a ton of challenges. However, if you like solving problems, then go for it!
Jaime is an engineer in Envato’s DACA Infrastructure team, which works in collaboration with other delivery teams to help them manage their infra needs. Jaime is a graduate of the first round of the Apprentice Program back in 2017, and recently celebrated her 5th Envato anniversary.
I was fortunate enough to join Envato as one of the first engineers in the Apprentice Program. After having completed a Bootcamp, I still wasn’t experienced enough for any junior roles at the companies I was interested in – I had a lot to learn (and still do!). The program was a fabulous opportunity to extend my learning and development into a real world setting and get to grips with what an engineer truly does.
The program gave me a practical foothold to start my career. Since then, I’ve progressed from Apprentice, to Junior, to Mid-level Engineer. Envato – and my colleagues – have been instrumental in supporting my growth and success. The support, encouragement, trust, mentorship and interest in my development have all been fundamental in developing a safe environment to learn, ask questions, make lots of mistakes, feel valued and offer insights.
I was in a job that wasn’t challenging me in the way that I needed, and I was looking for something to scratch that itch. I started coding as a hobby – I speak a few languages, and thought it might be a similar type of learning experience. Plus, tech being a male-dominated industry offered a challenge. Tech is an evolving industry all about devising new solutions to existing problems. There is never a shortage of things to learn, and always opportunities to develop and challenge yourself.
Based on my experience, the tech industry is pretty progressive. The fact that I can pivot into this career later in life, and be accepted and encouraged with a long interesting road ahead of me is testament to that. In saying that, the industry needs to lift its game on addressing diversity. Minorities can face many challenges within an organization that is not actively looking to acknowledge and action change – and that doesn’t just refer to the gender gap. Diversity encompasses many aspects, and it’s key for organizations to understand the value of diversity, beyond paying lip service. Hiring a diverse workforce is insincere unless you are prepared to set precedents, address bias, offer the appropriate support and call out and address inequity.
The day-to-day involves integrating with delivery teams and working on projects. There are no other expectations other than to learn from the experience. Delivery of the task at hand is a nice byproduct, but not an expectation. Working with real teams allows you to see different approaches, rituals, ways of working, engage in planning and technical discussions, and pair with various people. Then after six weeks, you move on to another team. The rinse-and-repeat nature of the program is rare and certainly a unique aspect of experience which exposes you to multiple areas of the business.
If getting into tech is something that you’re interested in, then go for it! There are plenty of wonderful people who are open to sharing their experience and helping others get into this space – myself included.
As an alternative to a university degree (which is not realistic or feasible for everyone), there are now a multitude of free and paid coding courses online. Coding dojos, hackathons, or weekend study and coding groups are great ways to test the water and learn as you go. There are also a variety of Bootcamps available, which is a valued way of starting out in tech.
Hayley is currently a Level 2 Engineer in the Content Warehouse team at Envato. The Content Warehouse team is responsible for providing content-related information to Elements and Market. When Hayley first joined Envato, she worked as a team assistant for the Content team before realizing engineering was her calling.
I’ve been at Envato for nearly five years. Prior to working at Envato, I worked in education. I felt a bit lost in my career, and was unsure which direction to go in. I considered a few different pathways, none of which included technology. It was only after joining Envato that I was exposed to engineering and drawn into the world of tech. I had dabbled in code at university (mostly css/html) and had always enjoyed it, but didn’t understand the full scope of software engineering or how accessible it was to me.
After six months at Envato, I started chatting to engineers, the current apprentices, and the apprentice Mentor Mario, and made the decision to commit to learning code and working towards the Apprentice Program. After about two years of self guided study, I managed to secure myself a spot which then led to my current role as a Level 2 Engineer in the Content Warehouse team at Envato.
When I landed at Envato, I was often surrounded by people who worked in tech – like-minded, smart, energetic and interesting types. I very clearly remember thinking to myself, “these are my people”. I loved watching the way they worked and interacted, and was immediately drawn in and determined to learn more.
Years later I am still just as energized – I love my job so much. I love the problem solving, the challenges, the learning, the team work, the pairing, the rituals, my colleagues, and the fact that I now contribute in a way that I find extremely rewarding and meaningful, to a company that I care so deeply about.
I would not have my career if not for Envato. I recognized the value of the Apprentice Program early on, and was determined to get as much out of the experience as possible. Prior to the program I was very transparent about my goals, and each of my managers were equally supportive and encouraging in helping me achieve them. Envato’s culture and environment puts a lot of value on growth, development and providing opportunities to its people. The support and encouragement that I’ve received throughout my journey has been incredible.
The program itself was a very hands-on experience. We started our journey by learning and understanding some key fundamental concepts, with a focus on what was relevant to Envato, which then gave us the tools to start working on real problems. Through the course of the program, we joined different engineering teams across envato and spent a few sprints in each team, working on problems that had been assigned to us. This gave us the opportunity to learn and practice all the different skills and tasks required to contribute as an engineer. Having that consistent pair programming gave us opportunities to ask endless questions as well as learn from each other.
I’ve been extremely fortunate in having an amazing journey full of support and encouragement. I have however been made aware of some of the challenges that exist for women in tech. Some of these include bias about technical credibility, inherent discrimination, the gender pay gap, lack of female role models, sexism in the workplace, the glass ceiling, and a lack of diversity. It’s quite frustrating that so many of my peers have had to endure these obstacles, but it helps me to recognize how Envato is creating a space for women in tech.
While I think it’s important for everyone to learn to code, it would be great to reduce gender inequality, create more diversity in the workplace, and create more accessible female role models. We need to shift the narrative of what’s accessible to women, and change the perception of the tech industry and those who work in it. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be a part of it.