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Preparing for the Starting Lineup: Rural Sourcing’s Junior Associate Program

With college basketball season in full swing and March Madness right around the corner, I’m reminded of the sixth man concept that we use in our Junior Associate (JA) program, which prepares entry-level colleagues for successful careers in tech. As in basketball, the sixth man concept is all about having a “non-starter” prepped, practiced, ready to enter the game and immediately start contributing. This concept is the very core of our JA program, as it gives JAs the chance to learn skills that go beyond developing software.

As entry-level colleagues, JAs may not be used to using a consultative approach when working on engagements. That’s why our program gives them a chance to learn the skills needed to be a consultant and true partner to our clients, while getting comfortable with working in an Agile team setting. Here’s a breakdown of the 16-week program.

First Quarter
Our colleagues are helping the JAs set up their plays for the rest of the game. They attend new-hire orientation and a separate JA program orientation that is focused on team-building. They also attend a modified version of the RSI Professional Services Orientation Series (RPSOS), a training series that our full-time colleagues attend, which is focused on the tools necessary to succeed in a professional services environment. They also attend a two-day training on GIT best practices.

Second Quarter
Now that they’re warmed up, it’s time to execute. JAs attend the project kick-off, where they’re assigned a specific role in .NET, Java, Web or QA on either an internal or client project. Past internal projects include a colleague dashboard for Development Center Directors to utilize, an automated SMS communication tool and a volunteer opportunity calendar. These projects replicate the Agile team structure that JAs will experience working on a client project with sprints, demos and a product owner and project manager. For those working on client projects, tasks could include building an API, writing unit tests and even learning a new programming language. Our clients value a leveraged team, which provides cost advantages without impacting the quality of work.

Third Quarter
JAs spend these crucial moments in the game preparing presentations in teams for the internal and client projects that they worked on. They also take some time to assess what they learned throughout the term.

Fourth Quarter
The final buzzer is moments away as JAs share their project presentations. This gives them the chance to show off the hard work they’ve put in throughout the 16 weeks. These presentations are well-attended by our colleagues who love showing their support! The JAs also work with project managers to give their feedback on all aspects of the program.

Throughout the entire process, JAs have the support of RSI leaders, their team captains and other colleagues, who provide guidance and encouragement. It’s a welcoming and inclusive program for JAs of varying educational and professional backgrounds. For many JAs, the next step is a full-time offer as an Associate Colleague.
That’s why, as the season progresses and March Madness arrives, pay special attention to the sixth man players. They might be the sixth man this season, but they’ll be in the starting line-up before you know it.

About the Author:
Mia Petersen is Rural Sourcing’s Senior Learning and Development Manager, who leads the JA Program and other learning initiatives. She has been supporting colleagues in their professional development and career advancement at RSI for over four years and has worked in People Operations for over 15 years. Outside of work, Mia loves spending time with her kids and dogs, meditating and taking barre classes.

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