Nick Birch is the Director of Product Development at Eleven Fifty Academy (EFA). In his position, he helps the EFA team understand who they serve and how they serve them, in addition to implementing new program offerings to expand EFA’s impact and improve the lives of their learners.
As the Director of Product Development, I spend a lot of my time thinking about the experience of our students and how we can improve our programs for each and every one of them. When we launched EFA back in 2014, our mission was to transform the lives of individuals and communities in Indiana and beyond…and we haven’t wavered from that mission since. In part, it’s because we’re continuously working with the end in mind. This has led us to recently create a new, post-graduation program that is already proving to benefit those we serve.
There’s a quote by Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that I think really sums it up. He says, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
What does this mean for me? I’m an avid runner, so I liken it to training for a marathon. You’re probably not going to get there on day one—and if you do, I’d like to chat—but you have to keep your end goal in mind to stay the course.
What does this mean for EFA? At the end of the day, it’s not enough to just get our students through our programs (although removing barriers to completion is certainly always a goal). We have to take it a step further. We have to have a deliberate mindset of focusing on outcomes for our students and our alumni in everything we do. We have to know what our ultimate goal is and work toward it day in and day out.
So what is the destination, then—what is the finish line we’re shooting for? For our Career Launch courses, the number one outcome for our students is to get them a job. And not just any job…one that puts them on the path to a high-paying job where they can excel, learn, and grow as a tech professional.
In today’s competitive job market, that’s not always easy, especially for populations who have been historically excluded from the tech world. And although our job placement numbers have been steady—even throughout the pandemic—there’s always room for improvement. That’s a big part of what launched the idea behind our newest initiative: the Atlas Program.
Atlas is a free program that is designed to provide guidance, support, and accountability to our graduates as they expand their learning, apply for jobs, and launch their careers in tech. Yes, I said free.
It’s fairly straightforward: anyone who has previously completed an Eleven Fifty Career Launch or Skill Up course is eligible. Participants are placed into groups, and assigned projects like working on real-world scenarios or studying for extra certifications. This provides our grads with expanded learning opportunities, the chance to further develop soft skills, and a way to make their portfolios and resumes even more competitive. Plus, we believe it can provide our grads with even more confidence in their skills—something they’ll need to nail their interviews.
As one recent EFA graduate remarked, “I don’t think I would have been hired without having the experience from Atlas. I went from having almost no follow-ups for 6 weeks to having 3 offers on the table in the two weeks after I really started talking about my Atlas experience in interviews.”
What’s more, participants are matched with a technical mentor—typically an EFA alum who has been in their shoes, knows what they’re going through, and can offer real-world, relevant advice about entering the tech world.
For our students and alumni, we think it’s a win-win.
For our students and recent grads: We want you to know that from the very start of your program, we’re here for you when you need us. And we mean that. We want to help you finish your program and find a job, and we’re continuously thinking about how we can supplement our courses and career services to provide you with more opportunities.
For our alumni who have already landed a career you love: we hope you’ll consider becoming a technical mentor with the Atlas Program. We value the unique experiences and perspectives you can provide. And, we’re working to build out free (optional) leadership training to help you get ahead in your career, too.
At the end of the day, we’re focused solely on outcomes. It’s the finish line I keep in my head every day. If there’s one thing I want to bring to EFA in my role, it is that we not only provide our students with specific, technical skills…we figure out whatever else it is that’s going to help them launch or accelerate their career.
If you’re interested in the Atlas Program, either as a participant or as a mentor, learn more today.