IT Careers with the Potential to Transform Communities

The Situation

The Thrive Accelerator program addresses two specific problems in our community. Thousands of tech jobs go unfilled each year in our region. Meanwhile, thousands of our neighbors are unemployed or underemployed and struggle to thrive. The Thrive Accelerator launched in 2016 with the mission to connect high-aptitude, motivated adults with a pathway into high-paying and sustainable IT careers.

The Solution

Thrive Accelerator Apprentices are identified through partnerships with local programming and software testing bootcamps. After successfully completing intensive technical skills training, graduates are offered positions with Ingage Partners as an Apprentice within our Thrive Accelerator program. Apprentices are assigned a Mentor, an experienced Ingage Consultant, to gain on-the-job experience in delivering project work at one of our industry-leading clients. The Mentor provides professional and technical coaching and skill-building guidance. Learn more about our Mentors. In addition to on-the-job experience, Apprentices benefit from other professional skill–building opportunities like interviewing best practices, career pathway discussions and building a network of industry professionals. An Apprentice will graduate from the Ingage Accelerator program after 12 months, or upon accepting an offer from a client or another employer in the industry. Learn about our Apprentice Graduates. The Thrive Accelerator program relies on strong client partnerships to provide opportunities for new IT professionals to develop a much needed talent pipeline for our community. Through a variety of projects that involve designing, building, and delivering business solutions, these companies are building a future talent pipeline while providing opportunities for our Apprentices to develop valuable experience and achieve their dreams!

The Impact

Since 2016, the Thrive Accelerator has offered a proven model for developing a local pipeline of diverse tech talent and providing transformational opportunities to people in our community. A broader community benefit also exists. Increasing the taxable income of low-wage workers and reducing reliance on public assistance benefits have a compounding financial impact. Since the programs inception this financial impact totals over $1.2MM.

project search

Sparking Instrumental Growth for Training and Employing People with Disabilities

About Project

About Project Search Project SEARCH provides employability skills training and workplace internships for individuals with significant disabilities, particularly youth transitioning from high school to adult life.

The Situation

The Project SEARCH team was overwhelmed by the growth of their program. It was challenging to keep up with thousands of institutions while trying to track graduate success. Project SEARCH relied on manual information input from 400 global sites, resulting in systemic inefficiencies and inconsistent data.

The Solution

Ingage designed and delivered a data-rich employee website application, extending the use for external partners and transitioning Project SEARCH to the cloud. Our cross-functional team conducted business analysis, created wireframes and designs, developed and tested the solution. Ingage delivered: Enhanced student success tracking and accurate and transparent financial reporting New card-based navigation system Built-in CRM, document repository and video library Message board for sharing across external partners.

The Impact

The new website sparked tremendous growth for Project SEARCH, expanding internationally. Early success led to improved funding within Children’s because of demonstrated return on investment. Recruiting potential employers and institutions is easier with extended features and tools.

Design Improved User Centricity, Empathy and Impact

The Situation

Kroger invests in consumer insights seeking to constantly improve customer service. They sought our help to create an improved experience in their pharmacy area. Ingage provided experienced Consultants to work closely with multiple product teams. The overall objective was twofold; improve the wait time for pharmacy customers and increase work productivity for pharmacy employees.

The Solution

Fundamental to the success of any customer solution is a solid foundation of research with deep insights into customer preferences and unmet needs. Our team conducted interviews, usability tests, and led a cross-functional team through the solution architecture, wireframing, sketching and prototyping. Based upon our learnings, we created personas representative of Kroger customers for an increased level of empathy as we developed a solution to meet their needs. One significant opportunity to reduce wait time was to streamline the prescription notification process to customers. Within just a few weeks, this insight led to the development of a privacy-compliant text message notification option to simplify the process and remove pain points for both customers and employees. By including a link to information, customers would be able to quickly find information on the company website, and eliminate the need to call the pharmacy.

The Impact

There is a marked improvement in teamwork and motivation among Kroger Associates. Design sprints that require underlying work process changes are always met more favorably when there is an understanding of the “why” behind the solution. Having engaged all teams throughout, we were able to drive more accountability internally to ensure adoption and successful launch. But the biggest win was for Kroger customers in improving access to information, thus reducing wait times.

Delivering Fleet Management Product Innovation

The Situation

Clarke was stuck in analysis and definition. They had rolled out multiple systems and had different processes for serving their retail and fleet customers. This forced their customer service representatives (CSRs) to enter duplicate data into multiple systems, all while trying to provide great service to that customer.

The Solution

Ingage Partners conducted stakeholder interviews, analyzed user stories, and held a workshop to identify the most valuable and impactful functionality to deliver first. After aligning to team agreements and an iterative approach, the team conducted observational research and developed personas to reinforce design thinking, customer-centricity, and empathy across the entire product team. Ingage developers built a solid foundation for continuous integration and equipped Clarke for automation. Low-fidelity wireframes and prototypes were integrated into the agile process, utilizing Lean UX principles.

The Impact

VAMS operational forecast solution has been very well received in pilot locations and is expanding to all Clarke locations within 2 months of launching. Client service representatives appreciate the reduction in manual entry and data loss. And, they appreciate how the new forecasting visibility fuels retail loyalty and improves fleet compliance. The client resources working closely with the team are learning and applying design thinking, continuous integration, and iterative product development.


What’s In It For Me?

Want to move forward in your career?

Want to be upwardly mobile in the software development ecosystem?

What to know one of the most effective ways to climb the career ladder?

Help someone else out with their career.

This is not intuitive. Since, on most days, I’m the only one inside my head, it’s natural for me to focus on myself and do what’s best for me.

The paradox is that often, many times–ok, almost always, what’s best for me is to take the spotlight off of my own funky bad self and train it on those around me, especially people that I can help in some way. Particularly in the software biz, where teams are highly valued and culture-fit is of primary importance, it’s imperative that we build into one another.

There is an infinite number of ways we can help other developers learn and grow. Speak at meetups, user groups, and conferences. Conduct hackathons and katas. Start a book club and read technical books together. Tutor college and high-school students. Write a blog. Create videos. You can probably think of other ways.

The truth is, finding ways to help people is not the issue. The issue is truly understanding that as you build into others, your career benefits as well. In fact, it’s one of the most effective things you can do as part of your career trajectory. As motivational maven Zig Ziglar put it, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

So if you care about your career, start caring about others as well.

What’s In It For Me?

I’m not quite there, Ken. Sounds like a mess of self-help mumbo-jumbo to me.

Fair enough. I said earlier it’s not intuitive. So here are some thoughts on how we help our own careers as we build into others.

  • Helping others broadens your perspective. When we work with others for the express purpose of helping them learn and improve, we quickly realize that their education, background, and experience are radically different from ours. We are exposed to different ways of thinking. This broadens our perspective and many times challenges us in ways we don’t, and in fact can’t, anticipate. This often exposes areas of weakness that had hitherto escaped our notice.
  • Helping others deepens your understanding. Helping other learn helps us learn. It is proverbial that if you really want to learn something, teach it to someone else. When we explain something to another person, our knowledge and skill gaps are painfully exposed, driving us to learn more and develop our understanding.
  • Helping others increases your value. Building into others increases your value to your employer and to potential employers. As you build into others, you will naturally become more knowledgeable and technically competent. You will also develop the soft skills that employers covet in their teams.
  • Helping others strengthens your network.We strengthen our network, in both breadth and depth, when we help others. The more developers we know and help, the greater the chance we will be mentoring a future colleague. Or maybe the next Bill Gates. And if the next Bill Gates ever thinks back on me, I want them to be kind, generous thoughts.
  • Helping others is its own reward. It just feels good. Even if there were no other benefits to serving the community, we would still be obligated to help one another. It’s the right thing to do. And we feel an inexplicable joy when we help someone, and that is reward enough. In fact, if it’s not enough, we’re not really helping them; we’re using them.

Guarding the Guild

We are members of a profession. We are also members of a guild. Guilds are associations of trades people organized to establish standards of excellent work and help their members deliver work that meets these standards. While not a formal organization, good developers recognize that it benefits everyone—stakeholders, manager, techies, society in general—when developers follow good practice and deliver great systems.

This is another powerful reason to build into one another. We need to guard the guild. Just as an army drill instructor looks on recruits as those with whom he or she may have to depend on in a firefight, so we need to prepare our fellow developers for the battle. We don’t know with whom we will someday share a foxhole.

So do yourself a favor. Forget about your career once in a while and help someone else with theirs.

Cultural Change

3 Essentials to Make Lasting Cultural Change

What three keys are essentials for lasting cultural change? A Ingage, embracing diversity, empathy, and flexibility leads to significant impacts. We’ve seen the breakdown of silos, improved innovation, collaboration, and customer-centric strategy shifts. We’re going to walk through three proven keys to unlocking lasting cultural change for your business:

Multifaceted diversity leads to meaningful mindset and culture shifts

To deliver inclusive and innovative solutions, increasing diversity across technology teams is vital. Team diversity is multidimensional and should reflect race, gender, socio-economic status, education, age, or other ideologies to best reflect a customer base. Our Thrive Accelerator program addresses the Tech Talent gap to support companies all over the region while developing a more diverse tech sector. We actively recruit, coach, and develop new talent from underrepresented backgrounds to jumpstart a successful career in technology.

Like many companies in the US, our partner, a major Cincinnati insurance provider, has challenges finding quality IT talent. An executive there expressed interest in the Ingage Thrive Accelerator program as a way to address the shortage of IT talent.

We were able to recommend an apprentice, paired with a mentor, for an open quality assurance position. Our mentor onboarded quickly, helped train the apprentice, and recommended quality assurance process improvements. The training worked so well that the apprentice was hired ahead of time and has since been promoted.

Our mentors learn critical leadership skills and our client partners are increasing the diversity of their technology teams without disruption to their business.

Our mentors learn critical leadership skills and our client partners are increasing the diversity of their technology teams without disruption to their business, while also filling staffing needs in a competitive marketplace. After witnessing the success and impact that our program can have, our client partner is now a huge advocate for our accelerator program.

User Research increases team impact and cohesion.

When we first started working with this major grocer, the product team was focused on catching up to the competition. Our client partners didn’t realize they were overlooking incredible opportunities to better serve their customers and employees.

Stop looking at what other companies are doing. Start spending more time with existing/potential customers.

— Luke Wroblewski, 

An Ingage experience design consultant partnered with user research to create personas that increased empathy for the product team. We led the team through design sprints, sketching, prototyping, and usability tests to create collaborative and cross-functional solutions that better served both employees and customers.

We witnessed increased team motivation and cohesion because of an increased understanding of “the why” behind every product change. The team’s strategy shifted from a focus on the competition to a focus on customer experience. Exposing the full product team to user research has enabled everyone to connect their work to the customer, and along with it, business impact.

Embracing agile and design thinking increases transparency, flexibility, and accountability.

We’ve witnessed the most dramatic transformations from client partners that have come to us for full product or project team solutions. We adapt agile and design thinking to their team and needs, training our clients along the way.

A major fleet management company reached out to us for help because they were stuck in analysis and needed to modernize their software development process to better fulfill business needs. We not only adapted our process to fit their existing culture, but we continued to evolve our team makeup.

In the midst of the project, we witnessed that lightbulb moment, when the team realized that it is possible to deliver something of tremendous value in short sprints. With increased transparency and accountability, our business stakeholders felt like they were helping to shape the product. Our project teams were embraced by client partners with a growth mindset; they truly believed that people could adapt, learn, and grow into new roles and new mindsets.

The biggest impact has been to the team culture with an increase in transparency, autonomy, and innovation

We’ve helped a major ministry client partner adapt to an agile methodology, and user-centered discovery process, enabling them to scale their website and ministry program to serve tremendous growth. This work prepared them to better fund missions and increase community engagement by improving existing products. But, the biggest impact has been to the team culture with an increase in transparency, autonomy, and innovation.

These project teams have adapted agile principles and design thinking in different ways. However, what they have in common is incorporating user research, UX, and design into the SCRUM process distinctly. The ability to be flexible is essential for implementing changes with staying power.

The approach to delivering business solutions is key to unlocking the innovative potential. True partnership with a client takes bravery, passion, and influence. At Ingage, we are passionate about our craft, improving team culture, and fueling positive change. We pursue success with our client partners, and leave a lasting impact on culture.

Do you need help problem-solving a business challenge? Let’s work together. 

This was originally published in the TechnologyFirst May/June 2020 Magazine.