Reflecting on the Atomic Accelerator’s First Year

I’m very excited to welcome our second Accelerator cohort this summer. This milestone provided a natural opportunity for introspection on the first year of the program. We’re very pleased with the expected–and surprising–successes of the program. We’ve also made some changes based on what we’ve learned from the first year.

Accelerator Successes

Four solid Atoms

Our first cohort has done a really impressive job of ramping into their roles. I love hearing things like, “I forget he’s in the Accelerator most of the time, and just think of him as another Atomic developer.” Between the project experience, Accelerator curriculum, and mentorship, our cohort members’ skillsets compare very favorably with folks who’ve had several years of experience elsewhere.

Improved onboarding process

Launching the Accelerator Program gave us an opportunity to revisit how we bring people into the company. We liked what we saw in terms of how well-established our Accelerator folks were after their first few months, so we’ve borrowed many of our Accelerator onboarding practices for all new Atoms. We have weekly coaching sessions, feedback meetings with team leads, and a simplified agenda for each Atom’s first day designed to help people feel grounded in their new setting. All new Atoms also attend a weekend retreat with our CEO to learn about company history, values, and vision.

Upward pressure and opportunity for mentorship

Another unintended and welcome effect we’ve noticed is upward pressure created by the Accelerator Program. The new cohort has provided mentorship and leadership opportunities for a lot of folks here at Atomic. Even some senior developers have mentioned that they’ve enjoyed the opportunity to practice and improve those skill sets. Added responsibility is great for growth, and our cohorts provide it.

Boost to recruiting

We were very happy to have each of our top five candidates accept our offers this past fall. We were even more pleased to have three women in our five-person cohort. Each of the three mentioned the Accelerator Program as a key reason why they picked Atomic over other offers. We’ll grow this effect as we develop a broader reputation for the program.

Changes for Our Second Year

The greatest tension we felt in the first year of the program was balancing short-term needs for skill development related to project work with longer-term leadership development needs. When we did focus on technical content, we often found that members of the cohort had varying levels of return based on the knowledge they brought into the program, their current project needs, and their long-term goals. This year, we’ve decided that rather than choose between short- and long-term needs, we’ll simply choose both!

We’re continuing to work through a group curriculum that covers development and testing, project management, and leadership development. Each cohort member is also putting together a personal backlog of skills to build through the program.

Accelerator members split their professional development time each week evenly between the group and individual work. We’ve really enjoyed the change so far–cohort members have time carved out to address their top short-term priorities while still making progress on the big-picture topics.

We’ve also really enjoyed reviewing everyone’s progress in our weekly group discussion–it’s been a lot of fun hearing what each person has been working on and what they’ve learned.