Based in Virginia in the US, Caitlin Maiewski is on the team that helps trainees get the most out of their time at the mthree Academy. Orientation calls, check-ins, guidance with day-to-day obstacles – it’s all key to getting graduates career-ready. We caught up with her to learn more about this growing area within the business.
Your role is fairly new to the mix at mthree. What does it mean to be an Academy Experience Manager?
"We’re here to look after the graduates. The instructors focus on training them, and we’re here cheering them on as they’re going through the process. Making sure they’re supported, helping keep them engaged. That’s important. Especially at the moment, when all the learning happens online.
It sounds cheesy, but I love seeing the trainees succeed and then get placed with a client. It’s definitely their accomplishment, not mine, but in a way I feel like a proud mom..."
Alumni often cite “confidence” as the main byproduct they get from their technical training with mthree. How do you see this play out at the Academy?
"It’s always interesting being on the orientation calls we do at the start of each cohort, because we know nothing about these graduates yet. They’re usually quite apprehensive.
Then over the weeks that follow, they come out of their shell. In our Academy awards and recognition surveys, we find that the people who didn’t speak at all on their orientation calls are now getting nominated by their peers for being the Most Helpful, or the Best Role Model. Seeing the trainees grow among their cohort is amazing.
Coming into a program like this, grads really don’t know what to expect. And as the end of the course approaches, that can be a bit of a panic moment too! For anyone in a role like mine that focuses on the quality of the immediate experience, it’s easy to forget that what happens after training will be a high concern.
That’s one reason why we launched our buddy system. The idea is to provide that much-needed “here’s what happens”. We pair the graduates up, Alumni to Alumni – to make sure they always have someone to turn to who’s in the same boat as them, but outside of their direct group of colleagues. It’s a virtuous circle."
How does the trainees’ experience at the mthree Academy encourage them to take responsibility for their professional development?
"Among other things, they create their own network where they can touch base with each other. Being together in a group that simulates an on-site team is really good for the trainees. It shows them that they can reach out to other people to ask questions about work, and they don’t have to be embarrassed about getting help with something. The contrast I’ve seen in our Alumni graduates compared to grads who get hired directly without going through this process is huge.
Most of all, I see this on our open office hours channel on Slack. It’s great to see trainees and Alumni talking about their challenges, helping each other out, as well as keeping their knowledge and skills current."
What sort of questions do trainees come to you with – and how does that help prepare them for launching a career with an mthree client?
"The Academy is a learning environment for soft skills, not just practical and technical skills.
So it tends to be mainly personal topics. Such as “hey, I’m struggling, what should I do?”, or “I’m going on vacation, how am I supposed to handle that?”, or they’re having an emergency at home. Graduates who don’t get the chance to figure these things out through trial and error at a place like the Academy have to figure it out in the job instead, which can be frustrating on both sides.
The trainees’ attitude to these obstacles really says a lot about how invested they are in what they’re doing with mthree. They’ll often find a manageable way to keep up with their learning, whatever happens.
We always have an ear open for new topics the trainees would like us to talk to them about. Kipp Graham, our Director of Career Services, has been instrumental in facilitating discussions to build on the things we already do at the Academy, like CV workshops, mock interviews, HR questions, or extra technical practice.
Just letting the trainees vent about their struggles... that helps too. The transition away from college can be a shock to the system!"
Do the Academy Experience Managers have any regular touchpoints with the trainees over the course of their journey?
"Every week we check in with the instructors to see how each trainee is doing individually. That gives us an opportunity to pick up on any stumbling blocks. Say for example – hey, this person did great for two weeks, but then she started turning in assignments late, it’s not clicking etc. So then we can add in extra one-on-one sessions with an instructor for her, or have a chat and ask if there’s anything else she needs to talk about.
Once the trainees officially graduate from the mthree Academy as Alumni and go on site with one of our clients, they move under the care of the Engagement Team. New names, same continuous support."
What’s the main challenge you face in your role at the mthree Academy?
"Connecting with people online can be challenging! It’s always easier in person. So it’s a little bit more effort, getting trainees to talk to each other outside of class.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, mthree ran a lot of in-person events. Fundraising and charity events, summer and winter parties, keeping all the Alumni in touch with each other and with the mthree team. We’re taking steps to bring those events online and we’re looking forward to the time when we can run them in person again."
You were on the frontlines for the online evolution of the mthree Academy during the pandemic. What was that like?
"It’s good that we were able to adapt. Previously I was with the Software Guild, who integrated with mthree under Wiley in April 2020. The timing couldn’t have been better – at Software Guild a lot of our training was online, whereas mthree’s training happened in person. Joining forces has allowed us to combine the best of both of those sets of specialisms.
Everyone just dove headfirst into moving the Academy from mainly in-person to mainly virtual. It was awesome. And everyone is still coming up with ideas for more improvements. We’re not just trucking ahead with the same thing, we’re constantly moving forward, adapting and evolving."
Could your organization benefit from an injection of custom-trained emerging talent? Find out more at mthree.com.