On this episode of Labs Live, Dan and guest host Erika Languirand, Director of People Development at Labs, lead a panel discussion about the value and role of apprenticeships in this modern software industry.

Do apprenticeships make sense for your organization? How do you create an apprenticeship program? What are the best practices to ensure the success of such a program and your new apprentices?

Our panelists included:

  • Taharah Saad, Employee Development Program Manager at Ford Motor Company
  • Claire Sands, Director, Community Communications & Engagement at Postmates
  • Jennifer Le, Senior Program Manager, Engineering Apprenticeship Program at LinkedIn
About Labs Live

Labs Live is a stream hosted by Detroit Labs’ very own Dan Ward and Tobi Adebisi, where they bring on guests from the Labs team and the industry to talk about the latest in technology, software design and development, and whatever else comes to mind. Labs Live streams live on LinkedIn and YouTube each month.

Watch episodes of Labs Live and Subscribe on YouTube.

Transcript:

Dan:
All right. Welcome to Labs Live. I’m Dan, your normal host, but I have a special guest host with me, Erika. Erika, I’m not going to try your last name because even though we’ve worked together for years, I won’t get it right.

Erika:
It did change in there, in fairness to you. I’m Erika Languirand, and I’m the Director of People Development at Detroit Labs.

Dan:
Thank you. And if you have tuned into Labs Live in the past, you may notice that Tobi is not here today. But he is living in the comments as he always does, and we appreciate it. And he was very passionate to be the first one, he was waiting there. He actually posted before we even went live, which is fantastic. So, today, we’re talking about apprenticeships. We’re right on the heels of National Apprenticeship Week, so we wanted to continue that energy. Apprenticeships are something that are near and dear to us at Detroit Labs. And so, I think there are a lot of similarities across different organizations on what that means.

Dan:
But I do think that everyone has their own flavor. Their own way of doing it. And so, Erika, just to get us kicked off, do you want to talk about what apprenticeship means at Detroit Labs, and maybe a little flavor about how we do it?

Erika:
Yeah, so apprenticeship is one of my favorite topics. So, even though I’m a little nervous to try to fill Tobi’s shoes today, at least it’s my favorite thing to talk about. So, let’s see what we can do here. We started apprenticeship at Detroit Labs in 2014, and we had two goals. One was to grow our own team internally, we were struggling to hire enough software developers. The other was to create opportunities within the city of Detroit, which is where we’re based in a city that we love, and is very important to us. So, we created a program that is three months long. It is designed for people who have little or no prior experience in software development.

Erika:
We bring them in through a really intense selection process, and then, we assemble a cohort of 10 to 12 people, and over the course of three months, we train them to become software developers, then they get full time jobs with Detroit Labs at the end. Our program is unique in that it’s cohort based, so there are a whole lot of people going through the same experience together, and we find that’s a really powerful piece of it. Also, in that we pay our apprenticeships while they’re in the programs. So, rather than a program like a boot camp where you might go and pay to learn, we actually pay people to be learning over the course of those three months.

Erika:
And then, they of course, go into full time roles at the very end of it. So, that is the very short version of how program works.

Dan:
That’s fascinating. We honestly can talk for hours about it but it just highlights how impactful these programs are, how fantastic they are, and I think you’re going to hear that through this panel discussion. So, we’re excited, we have a panel today, we have four folks joining us from Ford, Postmates, and LinkedIn. And Erika, do you want to kick us off with the first introduction here?

Erika:
Yeah, absolutely. So, our first guest is Taharah Saad. Taharah is the Employee Development Program Manager at Ford. She’s a TEDx speaker, she serves as the president of the Arab American Women’s Business Council, and she’s an engineer turned employee development program manager, which resonates with me as somebody who was also formally an engineer before working in apprenticeships. She has contributed to publications such as Detroit Moms, BossBabe, TEConomy, and more. We are so excited to have Taharah joining us today.

Dan:
Taharah, welcome, thank you for joining us.

Taharah:
Thanks for having me, I’m really excited to be here.

Dan:
Awesome. All right. Now, we have Claire Sands, who is Director Community Communications and Engagement at Postmates. Claire is at Postmates, creates new opportunities for brick and mortar business to distribute their products in the era of eCommerce. And is also informing the way independent workers shape the labor market. Claire leads the communication and engagement strategy for over 350,000 independent contractors, who earn on the Postmates platform. Her work influences the future work in the gig economy, impacts legislative and policy discussions, and shapes the product and technical roadmaps that have historically been the foundation of technology companies. So, with that, Claire, welcome, how are you?

Claire:
Hello, I’m so good. I’m very glad to be here. Thank you for having me. Also, hearing that bio back, I feel like I need to refine it a little bit, maybe shorten it, condense it, I feel like we could do away with half of those words. So, I apologize for making that more cumbersome than it needed to be.

Dan:
Don’t worry, that is every bio I have ever had of my own. Every time I write it, I read and I go, A. I don’t want to talk about myself but then, B-

Claire:
It’s so awkward.

Dan:
It goes through, and you’re just like, “Oh, okay.”

Claire:
[crosstalk 00:06:16]

Dan:
All right. No problem, it went great. If there was anything that felt long about it, it was probably me reading it.

Claire:
No, you did great. Thanks for having me, so jazzed to be here.

Dan:
All right. Jennifer Le, from LinkedIn, she’s the Senior Program Manager, Engineering Apprenticeship Program at LinkedIn. Jennifer helps create economic opportunity for every member of her global workforce by changing the way LinkedIn, and the industry hires and develops tech talent. I think we can all resonate with that, and that mission there. She has spent the last four years iterating and scaling LinkedIn’s engineering apprenticeship program, Reach. In addition to her day job, she helps employers hit the ground running as they start their own apprenticeship journey, and collaborates in multiple apprenticeship coalitions. With almost 10 years of experience in management consulting, she loves turning ambiguity into action, and is excited to connect with this group of like-minded folks to bring on real change.

Dan:
She has also become the queen of quarantine, and is happy to share some great recipes to uplift your day. Jennifer, welcome, and the queen of quarantine, I love that.

Jennifer:
Hi all, thanks so much for having me.

Dan:
All right. So, let’s dive into this. I’ll kick off the first question, we’ll see where this goes. I tee this up a little bit at the beginning of this, that apprenticeship has a lot of similarities but the implementation is different across every different organization. So, why don’t we kick it off, and just talk about what apprenticeship means at your specific organization. Taharah, you want to kick us off and discuss what it means at Ford?

Taharah:
Yeah, sure. So, like you said, it’s a lot of different programs. We have internships. At Ford, we have something called the Ford college graduate program, which is for direct hires. Essentially, once you get your degree, you come in, you go through a rotational program within your area. So for example, I was electrical engineering, I did… It was a 32 month program, you go through five different areas, getting experience in different aspects of the engineering world. Internships, co-op, we have all of these different experiences, so what we’re looking into is the new thing of apprenticeships. Previously, we’ve actually worked with Detroit Labs, we had a cohort that went through the program, and we had amazing reviews, and they’re working really well, they enjoy what they’re doing.

Taharah:
So, that’s one way we’ve looked into apprenticeships. There’s so much opportunity that we’re trying to figure out is, how can we re-skill our employees? The employees that we currently have. Are they interested in moving into software, is there a higher need in software than in other areas, can we shift employees? There’s a lot of digging, and researching, and thought process going behind the scenes of what we’re trying to do because we love the idea so much. The idea is you’re taking employees with certain skillsets, and you’re re-evaluating them, and you’re letting them own their own career, and pretty much instead of losing employees, you’re saying, “Okay, how can we help you? How can we help you develop your career and take it wherever you want to go?”

Taharah:
And apprenticeships is the perfect opportunity because instead of letting them go off on their own, and then, coming back and redoing the rehire, “No, we’ll just put you through this program.” While they’re still Ford employees, and then, very similar to the Detroit Labs concept, they just continue working. So, they move into this new area. So, we love it, we love our opportunity, and we’re really excited to figure out how we can utilize it to best serve our employees even more.

Dan:
That’s fantastic. All right, Jennifer. I know LinkedIn has the Reach program, tell us all about that.

Jennifer:
Yeah, we actually have three apprenticeships programs. So, Reach is our engineering apprenticeship program but we also have a program where folks can become sales associates as well as recruiting roles. We piloted Reach three years ago, and we’ve evolved so that we now have had 82 total past and present apprentices to date. But if you think about all of our programs together, we’ve hired about 140 apprentices to date. And Reach is unique… Well, it is the same as all the other apprenticeship programs where there’s three areas, there’s paid-on-job experience, mentorship, and dedicated learning environment for them to development that mastery and that skill. But what I think makes it unique, is that we really try to focus on building them as another level, and treating them as any other employee.

Jennifer:
So, they’re brought in full time with no end date, and we just wanted to see that this was just another way we hire engineers, and it’s part of our rhythm of business. So, we actually give them into engineering teams, they have 20% of their time is actually dedicated to self-driven learning. So, we try to treat them like any other employee, and so, hopefully that experience is really enriching while they continue to learn.

Dan:
That’s fantastic. And Claire, tell us all about apprenticeship at Postmates.

Claire:
Sure. So, I think I’ll start by just calling out that we probably have the least built out apprenticeship program, so I’m honored to be here, and I also have the opportunity to learn from this group here. So yeah, Postmates, we think about the future of work pretty much on the daily at any given moment. It’s really ingrained into our DNA as a business. And so, the Postmates marketplace at it’s core, is really about empowering and unlocking economic opportunity for the communities that we serve, and that we touch. In my specific role, I oversee our communications and engagement for our network of 350,000 independent contractors across the country. And so, one of the things that we did very early on when I first joined, was take a look at, why are people earning on our platform? What are their motivations? Who is this audience?

Claire:
And what we found, was that they were telling us, “Hey, I am earning on this platform while I am actively looking for full time work outside of the gig economy.” Which makes sense to us because we know on average, people are only on the platform three to five hours per week. So, that’s a lot of hours that they’re spending elsewhere. So then, we asked, “How can we help? How can we help this audience and use our collective Postmates Rolodex to connect the dots for job seekers should they want or need it?” And from there, we started building out different upward mobility programs, specifically for the gate workers in our fleet.

Claire:
So then, this concept of apprenticeships, it just made sense in the context of the work that we were already doing. And so, I have to give a ton of credit to my boss, who is our head of public policy, and really all of us my peers and coworkers at Postmates because they have supported the introduction of an apprenticeship program with zero hesitation, which was honestly pretty shocking to me. Especially, when I’m not the hiring manager for these apprenticeship roles, and so, I really need to have these internal stakeholders who believe in the very premise of apprenticeships, and that was a conversation that I was prepared to get pushed back on, and did not.

Claire:
I realize that’s probably not the case typically, and probably speaks volumes to just the nature of the work that we do, and what we invest our time in. So, we have a pretty small ad-hoc apprenticeship program. The way it works, is we will partner with TechSF and local training partners in San Francisco. And it’s really about identifying, where do we have a business need? And from our training partners, what is this pool of candidates, and can we make a match? Once we’ve made a match, that apprenticeship program is… I think it’s nine months, and it’s paid at the end of that. There’s just a review, performance review, at which point we will help the individual either transition outside of the company should they choose, or as has been the case for all of our apprentices so far, transition them into full time employees.

Claire:
And then, there’s also the additional mentorship component which is huge, that’s an internal mentor that can help our apprentices navigate the workplace. And then, there’s additional training and support provided from our training partners on the ground in San Francisco.

Dan:
That’s fantastic. All right. So, we [inaudible 00:15:16] Talked about apprenticeship means and looks like at the individual organizations. I do want to hit on, what are the benefits to an apprenticeships? It seems like there’s probably a two channel benefit, right? Business and personal since… Jennifer, since you’re nodding your head first, I’m going to kick that one over to you. What are the benefits to doing an apprenticeship?

Jennifer:
Yeah, so at a high level, you can imagine, engineering is just one of the industries biggest opportunities to bring on diverse talent, level the playing field, and upskill for jobs of the future. And we believe our apprenticeship model has successfully shown us a way to achieve that, and if you know that equity is such a huge factor right now, and we see this as a way to create systemic change in reducing barriers to entry for those that have potentially been historically excluded from this amazing career route. So, at a high level, it’s a fantastic thing that every company should consider doing, and seeing how that aligns with your vision.

Jennifer:
But selfishly, at a company specific level, we’ve just been completely blown away by the quality of candidates that come through, their grit, and their passion for coding is just mind blowing. And what we actually see from that, is a huge cultural impact. So, we’ve seen manager and mentor effectiveness increase, team dynamics have been off the charts. So, there’s an increased amount of empathy, and collaboration, with teams that have apprentices on them. Even our product development has been so much better with those diverse perspectives. So, I think there’s just so many different aspects that we have seen that we’ve just been so excited to see these people flourish on our engineering teams, and have a greater impact, not just for the apprentices themselves but for everyone they interact with.

Erika:
That’s awesome.

Dan:
That’s great.

Erika:
It also resonates because we’ve had a lot of similar experiences. So, I’m just nodding along, “Yep, yep, absolutely. Yeah.” Taharah, what about at Ford? What are some of the benefits that you see in apprenticeship?

Taharah:
So, first the benefit is because we are such a large company, there’s so many different options for acquiring new talent, and also keeping the talent that we have in-house. So, it’s really great business-wise for obvious reasons but it’s also really good for the person’s side because what we’re doing is we’re showing employees that we value them. We want to keep them, we enjoy having them with us, and we want to make sure that whoever’s coming to work, can come to work with their whole selves. They’re coming, they’re enjoying their job, they’re loving what they’re doing, they feel like they belong, they feel like they’re being heard. And they’re not just stuck in a position.

Taharah:
You’re not pawns on a chess board that we’re just going to move you and say, “Okay, well, here’s an opening, let’s shove you in there.” That’s not what Ford is about. Ford is all about… If you’re a part of Ford, you’re apart of the Ford family. And a part of that is listening to your employees, and really helping them decide what career path they want to take. So, when you take about apprenticeships, this is something that they would not have had the ability to do previously. An apprenticeship has the obvious benefits to new hires, and to new talent coming in but I believe it’s even more important for current employees because by giving them the opportunity to switch their career, and to get re-skilled into something completely different, it’s just…

Taharah:
The benefit you have to the employees’ well-being, and their happiness, you can’t even measure it. It’s just so much more important to them. And I know Erika, you and I, we both can relate to this because we were joking-

Erika:
Absolutely.

Taharah:
We were joking before, we’re engineers, we’ve shifted into this new HR world, this whole new… I’m in learning and development, I’m in employee development, and having that opportunity and the trust to say, “Okay, my skills are what is more important than what my experience is.” Written down on my resume on paper because my resume is so much more than what I do at Ford, and we recognize that all employees might have that possibility, and giving them the opportunity to really follow what their passion is. Their productivity is going to go up, their loyalty’s going to go up, they’re going to feel like their… Their well-being is going to go up. You really can’t go wrong.

Erika:
Yeah, absolutely.

Dan:
So, Claire, from a Postmates standpoint.

Claire:
Gosh, this is such a hard question because I don’t even know where to start. If there weren’t benefits… Let’s be honest, we work at companies, we work at corporations, if this wasn’t beneficial to the business, it’s not something that would even be happening. Especially, from me sitting in a community role, walking that line of what is best for the community, and what is best for the business, this is one of those places where I think it’s really crystal clear that it’s equal parts good for the business, good for the community, and good for the individual. So, good for the business. I mean, having a… I just got goosebumps. I’m just so moved by how life changing opening that door for somebody can be.

Claire:
And so, yeah, on the business side, having that diversity of thought, and having fresh eyes. There was this one meeting… We were in a meeting with some of our product managers, and… Actually, this was not one of our apprentices but somebody new who joined with zero tech experience, and from a strictly non-profit background, and really had to figure it out like, “Okay, how do I work technical teams?” And there was this moment where we were talking about… There was some issue that we were thinking through and our product team was gearing up to, “Oh man, we need to have engineers fix this thing.” At which point, my colleague was just like, “Oh, what if we just rewrote that sentence?” And it was like, “Oh, that was right there in front of us literally the entire time.”

Claire:
We didn’t even think about that we could just rewrite a sentence. There’s so many things like that where it’s right in front of us but we all have tunnel vision, we all know what we know, and I think that the more that we’re in our own echo chambers, the more we think we know. And some things don’t have to be so complicated. So, that’s on the business side. On the community side… Well, let’s do individual side first. I think one of the best things that we can do is use our voice. Once we have a seat at the table, or get close to having a seat at the table, make sure that you’re bringing others along. And so, that’s been my MO, and having folks from under represented, underserved backgrounds have that door opened.

Claire:
The only reason I personally have ever been able to do anything, is because somebody somewhere sometime at some point, for whatever reason, thought that I could and opened that door. I realize there’s a lot of privilege that made that happen, and so, it really is just about that access to opportunity. People are smart, people that want these types of jobs, they’re… I heard grit earlier. There’s so much grit. Figuring it out, making it happen. And then, on the community side having that entry point into a tech job can literally impact somebody’s family for generations to come in a very positive way. And when I’m thinking about that from a very high level, I can’t think of anything better.

Claire:
We all have a voice, and we all work at these tech companies, and I think it’s really incumbent on us to use those voices, and make sure that we’re bringing others along because there’s zero downside.

Erika:
Yeah. Yeah, that actually leads us right into our next question. So, at Detroit Labs, prior to the onset of our apprenticeship program in 2014, we had about 5% of engineering team was women, and 0% was black, indigenous people of color. Now, six years in, about 30% of our engineering team is women, and about 35% is black, indigenous people of color. And that’s obviously not all apprenticeship hires but the apprenticeship program really was a turning point for us in terms of growing the diversity of our company. So, I’m curious to hear, how does diversity inclusion play a role in the apprenticeships at your companies? And Taharah, I’ll jump to you first.

Taharah:
Oh man, diversity and inclusion is a big part of Ford, and we’re actually shifting gears, and really enveloping it, and putting it in the middle of the business, and we’re making sure that every decision we make is part of diversity and inclusion. And even now, what we’re doing is taking it one step further into equity. And the reason that we want it to include that is because diversity means that everybody is represented. Inclusion means everybody feels like they’re included in what’s going on, they have a voice. And equity, really means that they’re getting what they need. And there’s this really great image that equality is different than equity.

Taharah:
So, when you think of equality, it’s everybody gets the same exact thing, everybody has the same opportunities, everybody gets across the board [inaudible 00:25:16] which is fair, right? But what you don’t realize is, it’s not always fair because equality is not the same as equity. You can’t give everyone the same thing but what you want to try to do, is give them what they need in order to succeed. And by creating all of these, you create a sense of belonging. So, that’s really ingrained in everything we’re doing within Ford. And we’re making a really big push because we recognize it’s not only diversity of people, and culture, and backgrounds, it’s exactly what Claire said, it’s diversity of thoughts.

Taharah:
And by discluding anyone, you’re discluding the possibility of so much for the business, and so much for the person. Bringing all of that a part of the apprenticeship programs is very important because for us, it allows people to bring new perspectives into new roles. Again, going back to my personal experience, me coming into work on reskilling programs, and apprenticeship programs, which is from an HR learning and developing standpoint but me having that background in engineering, I can really combine the two worlds. I built a bridge between these two worlds because if anyone that’s familiar, you know they speak completely different languages. There’s highly technical stuff, you get very technical details.

Taharah:
You have this logical side of things, and you want to check off, and you want to be all serious, and then, you get into HR world, and it’s still quite serious but it’s more personable, they speak in a completely different aspect, they come from a different point of view and it’s so important to have all of these different points of view because it opens up the different opportunities, and the possibilities. And what all of us this does inevitably, is it brings innovation, and innovation is the base of a business moving forward. If you want to continue to move forward, you want to improve, you want to do better, you want to ensure that you’re giving your customers not only what they need but what they want, and what’s going to benefit them in the future.

Taharah:
Especially, in a car company. In any company really, you need innovation, and to have innovation, you need people to feel like they’re able to come up with ideas. They feel comfortable, they feel like they belong, they feel like they’re included, they feel like they’re represented because if they’re uncomfortable, they’re not going to go to their management, or even higher up and say, “Hey, I have this great idea.” And by not creating that environment, and that sense of belonging, and that sense of, “Okay, we are an actual family.” You’re missing out on so much, and that’s why it’s so important that especially, with this apprenticeship programs, we give our employees the opportunity to do that.

Erika:
Yeah. Thank you. Claire, you already spoke to this really beautifully but I know from our previous conversation that this is an area that you’re really passionate about, so I’d love to jump to you. Is there anything you wanted to add?

Claire:
Yeah. I mean, I think it… It’s hard to decouple, at least [inaudible 00:28:16] Apprenticeships from the concept of diversity and inclusion, and that’s been my experience at Postmates because what we’re doing is essentially, is very intentional carving out space for folks who have non-traditional backgrounds. And so, those are often folks who are from communities that have been traditionally underrepresented, underserved, and yeah, I think it’s all about making that space for diverse people… People from diverse backgrounds to join the team. And I think that, that inclusion piece is so important. This country’s having a very real, and very necessary moment of reckoning right now on that front, and I think we’re seeing that diversity alone is not enough if we’re not building infrastructure for people to feel included, then there’s almost no point in doing the…

Claire:
Getting folks in the door because if we’re not thinking about building systems that speak to, and accommodate everybody, then we’re not anybody any service at all. So, they’re so intimately intertwined, that it’s really hard to pull them apart.

Erika:
Sure, absolutely. And Jennifer, you also mentioned this regarding LinkedIn, and the benefits of the program. So, how does D&I factor into your program?

Jennifer:
Yeah. Well, coincidentally, all three of our apprenticeship programs, we did not consider diversity as the main driver for the program. It was really based off of we just couldn’t hire programmers fast enough, and we just needed to break the way we were initially thinking about what top talent looks like, and where we were getting it from. But you can imagine, just organically by doing so, you address the network gap, opportunity gap, and skills gap, and that ultimately opens up the opportunity for folks that have traditionally been shut out. And so, we have hired groups that are more representative of our community but they’re not just necessarily diverse in the strict sense of race and gender but diversity of thought, as Taharah had mentioned earlier.

Jennifer:
They’ve come from past teaches, nutritionists, even food truck owners. And I know you were sharing a story of what that was like, Claire, of having someone with a different mindset to come into a meeting but that’s exactly what happens, is you bring in true diversity in that it’s diversity of thought and not necessarily just race and gender. But in regards to inclusion, I thought that was a really interesting part to focus on, was that by bringing in folks with non-traditional backgrounds, you’re really challenging your managers and the team members around them to go beyond just learning theory. So, I’m sure all of our companies rolled out a lot of training in the last few months related to diversity and inclusion but it’s really hard to take that as a concept but rather, when we have apprentices on teams, you’re actually challenged on a day to day basis to really look at your unconscious bias, and think differently about how to coach someone.

Jennifer:
How to question all of your assumptions of what people know, and what they don’t know, or how to solve a problem. As a result, all of our teams have showed that they’ve increased awareness, increased empathy, and they’re all really rooting for this person to succeed in a very different way than they had worked together before. So, I think there’s this huge sense of inclusion that has been a result of our apprenticeships.

Erika:
Awesome, thank you.

Dan:
All right. Jennifer, I’m going to stick with you on this next one here because I’ve heard this a couple different times, non-traditional backgrounds, you mentioned food truck operator. What do you view are the requirements for entering an apprenticeship program?

Jennifer:
Yeah. For our engineering apprenticeship, we look for individuals that can basically be successful on the job. Meaning, that they can add value to an engineering team but not just in the short run, but in the long run. So yes, there is a technical component where we actually expect them to have coding skillsets before they join, which may differ from a lot of other programs. So, most of our candidates usually have gone through at least a boot camp, or so. But what we’re really looking for, and what I think really drives the successful candidates versus the non-successful candidates is that display of a passion for coding, problem solving ability, and that drive for self-learning to become an engineer.

Dan:
That’s fantastic. Taharah, what about you, and what about Ford? What do you view as a requirement for entering an apprenticeship program?

Taharah:
So, for us, it’s also a little bit different because the way we’ve done it already, it’s been done in pockets and little groups. [inaudible 00:33:23] Have made the decision that they wanted to set their employees in there. So, for us, the requirement was different, you need to have a desire, the passion is there, and a want to know not only through coding but to go into what the coding… The position that the coding is going to need. Like, what are you going to be working on? In that sense. So, we were very specific in that aspect. We’re still investigating on how we can do it for new hires, and that would bring a whole host of different technical side, and aspect.

Taharah:
But I know one of the big things that we think of is the soft skills that people have, which is more than just… It’s the passion, it’s their curiosity, their desire to learn, their desire to grow but it’s how they handle themselves, and how they’re able… Are they flexible, do they have resiliency? Problem solving, critical thinking but also the aspect of not getting stuck on things. What do you have within yourself that you’re capable of making decisions? Are you a self started, do you need more direction? Time management, project management. A lot of these skills are all extremely important because these are things that they can be taught but people can also have their innately.

Taharah:
The people that have them already involved, it’ll take you above, it’s one step more so it’s even better to have that.

Dan:
That’s awesome. Claire, from Postmates, what do you view as the requirement to get an apprenticeship?

Claire:
It depends on the role, honestly. But I think just foundationally, two of the most important things are going to be grit, and coachability. Our apprentices have come from some type of formal training program, whether a boot camp, or otherwise. But I think the most important thing is the potential for those soft skills to develop. The technical skills, you have to have foundationally but a lot of that can be taught, and you can learn. The soft skills, same thing but I think those are also things that either, you have the capacity for, and you can develop over time. So, we don’t expect necessarily day one to come in, and know how to navigate the workplace. That, I think, is the hardest part of having a job, is navigating the workplace.

Claire:
And they don’t tell you that in school, they don’t tell you that in college, and the only way you’re going to learn to navigate the workplace is by navigating the workplace. That’s literally the only way. And so yeah, we look for indicators of, is this somebody who has their own willingness and desire to figure that out as they go, and also understand that you don’t have to figure it out all on day one. One of our apprentices, I think it was her orientation, and I had lunch with them, I was like, “How are doing?” And they’re just like, “Oh my God, I feel like everyone here is so professional.” It’s like, “First of all, we’re not.” And they’re just like, “Well, everybody knows what they’re doing.”

Claire:
And I was like, “Also, there’s a little thing called imposter syndrome, that’s what you’re feeling.” Everybody feels it, everybody’s faking it, and that’s this big secret that just blows my mind the further I get into my career, is that we’re kind of all apprentices. I’m learning literally every day, and challenged to learn every day. So again, it’s just about that foot in the door, and I think that if you find the folks who are willing, and eager to ask questions, that is one of the biggest indicators of success. Knowing, and being okay with, and out in front of what you don’t know. Acknowledging it, and then, asking for help.

Erika:
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. It’s interesting because we talked about requirements and everybody spoke to some soft skills, and some grit, and curiosity, and problem solving, and all of those things. People are always surprised, our hiring process and selection for the apprenticeship program very much focuses on soft skills, and there’s some assessments [inaudible 00:37:55] Intuition there as well but we generally think of technical skills as something that we are pretty good at teaching at this point. We are pretty good at helping people go from zero to developer in three months. But the soft skills, we look for a strong foundation there. We think those are coachable as well but we really dig in and we see does somebody have…

Erika:
Grit is a word we use a lot, as well Claire. We look for the ability to give and receive feedback, what kinds of questions do you ask, and do you have that innate curiosity? All of those things. So, we identify those as so important here at Detroit Labs. And Taharah, why are those important at Ford? Why do those soft skills seem so central?

Taharah:
Honestly, it can be the difference between a good employee, and a great employee. What these soft skills do, is they help drive innovation essentially. And they are the basis of leadership, and I’m not only talking about leadership as in supervisors, managers, and the typical sense but in your job, you have to have leadership skills to the beginning, you have projects you have to work on, you have project management skills, time management skills, flexibility. One of the biggest things is a growth mindset, and the growth mindset is getting out of this tunnel vision that, “This is my project and this all I work on.” But recognizing all of the other things that your project, and whatever you’re working on touches, and the possibilities, and building that innovation.

Taharah:
And to me, soft skills are so incredibly important to employee development because when you are strong with soft skills, you’re more inclined to take control of your own career, and a lot of the things that I talk about a lot of time is there’s ladder growth, where people want to move up the ladder and they want to become executives in management. That’s not always in everybody’s job description, or in their goals, and that’s not the idea of how they want to succeed. So, what do we do? Do we forget about those employees, do we not foster their growth? Of course not. So, one of the things that I’m developing is lateral growth.

Taharah:
So, you can still continue to grow, and develop new skills, even while staying where you’re at. You don’t have to move positions, you don’t have to move up, and that’s so important because as you develop new skills, your goals might change. You might change your idea of what that growth looks like to you. Being curious, being flexible, having resiliency, being able to bounce back. These are all things that we all needed to think about within extreme example, the pandemic, and working remotely. You had to be able to be resilient, you had to change very quickly, literally overnight, and be able to handle these things. And I think the difference between certain employees that were able to hit the ground running, and ones that struggled a little bit more is their soft skills.

Taharah:
And to me, I think… I believe that yes, you need them to a certain extent but I’m also a really big believer that just because you don’t, doesn’t mean that you can’t build them. It’s creating a self-awareness, helping employees create this self-awareness of who they are, and what they want to do which sounds simple but if I asked you a year ago, “Who are you?” I hate writing my own bio, I absolute hate writing my own bio because it’s… Dan, you mentioned it too. Who am I?

Dan:
[crosstalk 00:41:19]

Taharah:
Right. Like, who am I? I don’t know. And I’ll forget stuff, and my friends will be like, “Don’t forget the TEDx part.” I was like, “Oh yeah.” “[inaudible 00:41:29] You write…” I’m like, “Oh yeah.” I don’t think, I get very technical, right? It’s so important to be very well-rounded, and to have all these other ideas, and the most important is the soft skills because that’s what can give you that edge, that leading edge to take you and your career to the next level, to figure out who you are, what you want to be, and to create innovation. And that is going to be even better for the business as well.

Erika:
I joke sometimes that I’m going to start a campaign to stop calling them soft skills because that, I think, it equates with easy. I just call them foundational skills because that really imitates how core they care.

Claire:
[crosstalk 00:42:07] It is so hard. It is the hardest part of my job every single day, is the soft skills, and I’ve found that I have to communicate differently with almost every member of leadership that I interact with. Whether it’s written, or verbal, and that is the work that I did not feel prepared for. Maybe they’re talking about it in college now but I don’t remember that ever being a topic of discussion of, “Oh, by the way, people have personalities, and there’s sometimes ego involved, and…” Oh my God. This concept of building influence, and consensus is so important, and… I mean, at least, I feel like we’re talking about it more, whether we call it soft skills or not.

Erika:
Yeah, absolutely.

Taharah:
And it’s so funny you mention that, Claire, because actually one of the things we do within Ford, is we do personality tests. And we do… So, we have the Myers Briggs test that we offer employees, and we actually encourage our… We do within our leadership program but we also encourage our leaders to do that with their employees, their direct reports because by creating this, you can learn a lot more about how you function but it also helps communication to make sure that nothing gets lost in translation. And you learn about your employees different personality types, you learn how to communicate, how are they motivated? And we also have courses that are teaching them self-motivation, like what motives you?

Taharah:
Some people are motivated by titles, some people are motivated by the promotion, and the money, and some people are motivated by impact. But by understanding how people are motivated, you understand how to communicate to them. Like, if you came to me and said, “Hey, this is going to get you a lot more money.” I’d be like, “Okay, so? What’s the difference? What impact am I making?”

Claire:
I feel like I’m going to be applying for a role at Ford. [crosstalk 00:44:11]

Taharah:
[crosstalk 00:44:12]

Claire:
Because similarly, I’m always like, “Who am I? What do I do?” We’re such… There’s just so many layers to our work.

Taharah:
Oh yeah.

Claire:
And nailing it down to a few sentences, or a bio, or whatever is really challenging.

Taharah:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Claire:
So, it’s cool to hear that y’all are thinking about that.

Taharah:
And it’s so important. We do the Myers Briggs which is really… It’s a great test, and it gives the four different… Like, introvert versus extrovert, thinking versus feeling, judging all these different things. So, we’ll go into meetings and be like, “Oh yeah, I’m an [inaudible 00:44:49]” And they’re like, “Oh my God.” So, it’s like how we talk with each other. It’s fun but it’s also very vital to communication, effective communication, your feedback, how do you talk to people? Cultural belonging, understanding the differences between cultures. I took a training where in certain cultures, if you give people a thumbs up, it’s very bad.

Taharah:
And I can’t remember which one it was but if you go and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s great.” You’ve just insulted them. And it’s like so many things that now within this diversity, you have people that have been in the country for not that long, so this soft skill of building empathy is so important because you have to understand that not every single… Somebody might be standoffish because that’s part of their culture. In certain cultures, they don’t look you in the eye, so when they speak to you, or when they’re listening, they show, “I’m listening intently by looking down.” Here in the States, if you’re not looking me in the eye, I’m like, “Hello, you’re not paying attention to me.” Right?

Taharah:
So, I might feel like I’m offended but understanding these cultural differences, and having this empathy, and saying… And again, creating this sense of belonging so I can have that conversation with who I’m talking to, and say, “Hey, teach me your ways, and teach me what you do, and let’s meet in the middle and figure out how we can not offend each other.” So, these are all the soft skills that we need, and it’s this people aspect of things that really makes the company move forward, and gives them that leading edge.

Erika:
Dan, we got to have this whole crew back for a people and soft skill’s episode.

Dan:
Yeah, no kidding, hmm?

Claire:
Only after we decide how to rebrand it though.

Erika:
Right, that’s right, we figure out what it is. [crosstalk 00:46:41]

Claire:
[crosstalk 00:46:38] Concept entirely.

Dan:
All right. So, I’m actually going to… Erika, I’m going to skip ahead one here because I think there’s one thing I… And this was going to be your question but I’m going to ask it, and let you bring it home afterwards. This one in particular has really stood out at least to me. So, viewing this, and I’m sure the folks viewing this livestream are getting this as well. It’s very clear that the apprenticeship model motivates you all personally. It’s very clear that at the core of this, I can see the excitement every time, I can see the smile. Every single time, you’re just passionate about this. So, I want to go through and this will be our wrap up question because I think that in order for these programs to be successful, anybody who is spearheading this in some way, shape, or form, leading this in some way, shape, or form, needs to be bought in on a personal level.

Dan:
And Jennifer, I’m going to kick it over to you first here. What motivates you personally, about apprenticeship?

Jennifer:
Oh yeah, so much. What I find most inspiring about working in this space is really getting to meet these resilient, and talented individuals, and be part of their journey to get them to their dream jobs. You can imagine, we get thousands of applications, and their stories are just mind blowing, and a lot of them have had doors closed on them throughout their lives, which is so extremely difficult for me to read because I know they deserve it, and you read about their story, and you see how talented they are. So, for you to be the one to finally open that door to them, and to finally have that entry point for their opportunity and I think, Taharah…

Jennifer:
Or, I’m sorry, it was Claire, where you’re actually opening up the opportunity for generations to come, and that’s so inspiring that you’re actually just that one point in time helping them but they already deserve that opportunity, and you can see that trickle effect, and that cascade because they’re going to continue giving back to their communities as well.

Dan:
That’s awesome. Claire, what motivates you personally?

Claire:
Woo. All right. Man, there’s so much but yeah, a couple of years ago, I was trying to break into tech, and I was having a really hard time, and I finally got my foot in the door, and I was struggling, financially, very much so. Right at, if not below the poverty line. And there were times where I couldn’t afford socks, or tooth paste but I also recognized that I was born to a white, middle class family in the United States of America, and that has afforded… That privilege, has opened so many doors, and that literally took zero talent on my part. I did nothing to deserve being born a white, middle class women.

Claire:
I didn’t earn that, I didn’t… There was nothing on my parts that I did, and even with all of that privilege and experiencing how much I struggled, I… I don’t know, that was a really pivotal experience for me, and really changed everything that I thought I knew, or wanted to do, and I basically just made a promise to myself that wherever I landed moving forward, whatever type of role I was in, that I would use my voice, and my privilege to bring others along. And I think that for me, I am someone who’s loud, and makes a point to take up space, and so, it’s really incumbent upon me that as I’m getting closer to having that seat at the table, I’m bringing others into the fold as well.

Claire:
And actually, one of my mentors who is… She leads CSR at Amazon, somebody who I reached out to, cold LinkedIn message, I wanted to break into the social impact space, and was just doing cold prospecting, and trying to meet people, and people were so kind to me. A stranger, who I’m like, “Why are you giving me your time? You don’t know me, I don’t even work with you.” And her name is Erica, and she was like, “Claire, all I want is for… Once you get that seat at the table, you have to bring others along. And particularly, specifically, women of color, and make sure that you are creating that pipeline.” And so, this is something that honestly, is not core to my day to day job but something that I think is so important, and worth investing in.

Claire:
And again, I’ve been given a lot of coverage from leadership to pursue this, and that… I can’t think of anything better, or more impactful. And it’s honestly such an honor to even get to play a small part in this space, and in people’s lives. It’s insane, so insane.

Dan:
That’s awesome. Taharah, how about you?

Taharah:
I kind of touched on what motivates me is a lot about making impact, and creating impact, and making a difference, and not only in employee’s lives, but in everyone’s lives. And within Ford, we’re working on mobility solutions. We’re more than just cars. People need to be able to get to one place to another, from one spot to another. By creating these innovative solutions, and these new ways for mobility, we need to have a good foundation, to have a good foundation, our employees need to be their best selves. And what really helps motivate me is from my own experience of not having the right mentors in place, and not having the right direction, and not having these opportunities to really grow into where my passion is, and my purpose really.

Taharah:
And my purpose is to help people, and my purpose is to make sure that they are enjoying their job, they love their job, they’re happy where they’re at. They’re heard, they’re valued, they belong, and really just making a difference within their lives but by doing that, it has a trickle town effect. It’s going to get to our customers, it’s going to get to the people buying our cars, it’s going to get… It’s going to allow us to create these innovative solutions, so that people have more options to get for where they need. Mobility is more than just buying a car, and going from home to work, or work to home.

Taharah:
It’s such a bigger opportunity, and there’s so many more solutions. And by widening this pool through apprenticeship programs, you’re creating more diversity, you’re creating more inclusion, you’re creating more opportunities, allow people to do what they’re passionate about, and to move into what they do without losing their jobs, and while still getting a chance to get paid to learn, that’s mind blowing. That’s not something you hear very often within an automotive industry. And the fact that it’s coming up, is just… It’s so impactful to me, that I feel more driven to say, “Okay, how can I help? How can I create new opportunities for even more people?”

Dan:
That’s awesome. Now, I’m going to break the rules of a panel. Erika, what… Since you’re a cohost, I’m not supposed to ask you this but what personally motivates you about apprenticeships?

Erika:
The thing that always come to mind for me… And it’s been a minute now since I’ve walked through our office but still, I walk [inaudible 00:54:31] Every day. When I get to walk through the office, and I see people that came in, and had never written on a code before, and I remember the first time they all walked off the elevator, every single one of them, and now, they are leading projects, and they are coaching others, and they are growing people, and they are infusing our teams with their curiosity, their grit, their energy, all of those things that we looked for and saw in them when they came to the apprenticeship program. That’s what motivates me, seeing the apprenticeship and what we gain from it is now part of the DNA of Detroit Labs. It’s the best thing in the entire world.

Erika:
There’s so much about it that’s rewarding but I think for me, that’s the thing that drives it.

Dan:
Awesome. All right. Well, I think with that, I wanted to end on that personal connection because it feels like without it, the apprenticeship program is just… It’s not what it is, right? I think the key value there is it’s certainly important for the business, for a number of different reasons but it’s also opening doors, it’s providing opportunity, it’s giving space for non-traditional backgrounds to flourish, and I think that’s fantastic. So, with that, I’m going to wrap things up here. I want to say, thank you Taharah, Jennifer, Claire, thank you so much for joining us, taking the time out of your day to be on our little livestream here. We appreciate it so much. I’m going to move each one of you to the backstage area, hang out there for a minute as we wrap things up here.

Claire:
Thank you for having us.

Jennifer:
Thank you.

Taharah:
Thank you.

Erika:
Thank you all so much.

Jennifer:
Thanks.

Dan:
Erika, that was fantastic wasn’t it?

Erika:
What a great show. Something Claire said really stuck with me. She said, “We’re all apprentices.” And I thought, “Oh, I love that.” And I think the reason that I love it is because we can all benefit from embracing a beginner’s mind, from our curiosity, from our questions, from our focus on human development potential, and all of those things lead us to drive innovation, to grow, and succeed as a business. So, that was really cool, that was such a great talk.

Dan:
Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better myself. And so, I think with that, we’ll end this episode of Labs Live. That was incredible exciting. Thank you to our panelists, taking the time to be with us, that’s amazing. Apprenticeship is something that we are fond of, we love it, it’s so great to see other companies… Especially, larger companies really embracing this, utilizing it as a tool for growth, a tool for diversity, inclusion, creating a happy workforce, a diverse workforce, and a healthy growing company. So, with that said, we don’t have a Labs Live scheduled yet for December. Take a minute, go to our social channels though, check out our previous episodes.

Dan:
Don’t forget to like, share, all of those things that I’m supposed to tell you to do, it would be fantastic, and helpful. With that, I think we’re going to end this. And Erika, thanks for co-hosting. Tobi’s been in the comments this whole time.

Erika:
All right.

Dan:
[crosstalk 00:57:40] Every comment you’ve made. They just have them muted on the screen, but I’ve seen them, don’t you worry.

Erika:
Well, thank you so much for having me, it was super fun, and Tobi, I hope I did you proud.

Dan:
All right. Well, take care, everybody.