Having spent several years in various roles at Progressive Insurance, Kerry Hirz was always on the lookout for new opportunities. After a friend in Progressive’s IT department suggested to Hirz that she consider joining a coding bootcamp to make a bigger career move, Hirz was intrigued.
But after doing some research, Hirz, who worked as a resolution consultant and subscription support specialist, wasn’t sure she wanted to commit time or money to a program outside of work and didn’t feel ready to do so. But just a few months later, she received an email about the Bootcamp for Progressive IT Developers and that her feature qualified her for the pilot. It was an opportunity Hirz “couldn’t pass up,” she says.
“The show was challenging to say the least. I hadn’t attended any classes since 2016, so getting back into the rut of being a student wasn’t easy,” says Hirz. “The program leaders mentioned that each week in boot camp was comparable to a semester in college and I really believe that. For 15 weeks I put everything else aside and gave my undivided attention to the material I was learning to make sure I had the best possible chance of success.”
Rosario Ceraolo found herself in a similar position to Hirz while working as a commercial underwriter for Progressive. He was hesitant to make such a big career change, but was confident that Progressive’s employee-first culture would support him through the process.
“At first I was hesitant about leaving my current position and whether a new path was right for me in the long run,” says Ceraolo. “I had previously taken some computer programming classes and enjoyed them. That, along with my research on this career, finally pushed me to jump on the opportunity. The bootcamp was an incredible opportunity and I am very grateful for the investment that Progressive has made in my development.”
Anatomy of an internal IT bootcamp
With retention rates suffering and a persistent skills gap in the IT hiring market, companies are establishing new ways to retain employees while meeting their needs for new skills. Training programs in particular have become increasingly important tools for creating new opportunities for employee career success, while helping them perform key IT functions.
Stephanie Duca, leadership development consultant at Progressive and leader of Progressive’s IT Bootcamp program, says the company saw an opportunity to expand its D&I efforts and “develop an even broader and more diverse pool of qualified candidates” for the roles. of IT application developer partners through an in-house training program. With an internal boot camp, Progressive could fill important roles by investing in its own employees, who already have a great deal of knowledge about the organization, while also “breaking down some of those eligibility barriers for some of these tech jobs,” Duca says. .
The Progressive IT Bootcamp pilot program launched in 2021 with eight participants who graduated in November and now work as associate IT application developers on teams across the company. These participants had previously worked with Progressive as customer service representatives, underwriting specialists, and claims representatives.
When working with RR. HH., the bootcamp team identified certain customer-facing roles and marketed the program to those teams, inviting members to apply. The team emphasized that employees did not need a technical background or a technology degree; all the experience and training would be provided to them through the bootcamp.
Once the bootcamp candidates were identified and accepted, they were removed from their previous roles and placed into the intensive 15-week training program where they learned C#, .NET, and other skills necessary for their new role.
“We understood that the training was intense. We didn’t want them to feel the added stress of having to carry on with their day job. And we really wanted them to focus on their training by giving them as much support as we could to help them be successful during the program. That was our main goal,” says Duca.
In addition to being paid during their training, participants were given access to a full-time Progressive employee who worked as a programmer for the company and operated as a training assistant, whose “role was to connect the dots of what they were learning.” with how”. it would apply here at Progressive,” says Duca.
Program participants also had regular check-ins and reported directly to an IT manager who treated them like new IT employees. They were inducted and provided guidance to help them acclimate to the bootcamp, and were matched with program ambassadors who graduated from outside bootcamps before joining Progressive. Since these ambassadors had been through bootcamp experiences, they were able to talk about the unique experience of learning a new skill in an intensive program.
Hirz says that he quickly bonded with his ambassador and that they are still close today. Meeting once a week, she and her ambassador shared her struggles and accomplishments. “I wouldn’t have made it to the end without her support,” she says.
Upon completion of the program, participants are guaranteed a new job along with new compensation based on that role. Program graduates are paired with their new department and introduced to their IT team. They go through another orientation and onboarding with their new official IT manager and are assigned one-on-one mentors to help them through their first assignments.
“With the help of our team leader and the other developers, I was able to quickly adapt and become a valuable contributor,” Hirz says, adding that the most impactful part of the transition was going from the intensity of the 15-week training camp to “slow down” in his new role as he adjusted to his daily responsibilities.
“The best part is that I’m still learning,” she says. “My team is quick to get me to work that I may not be familiar with so I can keep learning. I am drawn to get my opinions and insights when they hit a wall and need help moving forward. I have never felt anything other than an equal and valued member of the team, which has helped me tremendously in adjusting to joining the team.”
Ceraolo agrees, crediting all the “support and communication” with paving the way for a smooth transition to IT. He had been hesitant to make such a big change in his career, feeling comfortable and confident in his previous role. But he says he “had confidence in Progressive and its culture to support [him] on the way”, and found his new team supportive and welcoming.
Invest in talent for the future of the organization
Investing in employees in this way allows Progressive to fill technology roles with people who already know the company and its culture. Additionally, an internal boot camp like Progressive’s can help improve employee retention while ensuring qualified professionals have been trained in the exact skills the organization needs.
The company is now working on another version of the program, focusing on analyst roles, Duca says. Progressive hopes to continue to grow the program to include other technology features as well.
By “immersing the talent we already have,” Duca says the bootcamp provides opportunities for employees who may not have had the chance to go to programming or computer science school and have assumed they wouldn’t be qualified for a tech position. .
“I just know that it has sparked a real passion and appreciation for Progressive – our employees see that we want to invest in them and keep them here and retain them,” says Duca.
Ceraolo says he is grateful for the opportunity to change careers without having to change companies. While he feels that his role as a commercial underwriter would have led to a solid career within the organization, he is happy he made the move and that Progressive took the opportunity to invest in his career development.
Hirz says that he also found the program a rewarding experience. When he joined Progressive in 2016, he felt that a career in IT was out of his reach and that he would need a degree or experience in computer science to take his career in that direction.
“I now look at my career path with new eyes thanks to the bootcamp program. The possibilities for where I can move and grow within Progressive and IT are endless, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to take advantage of them,” she says.