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Meet the Team: Interview with Darya Philippova

Team Life
Jun 28, 2023
Meet the Team: Interview with Darya Philippova

Careerist Career Coaches improve the lives of their students by helping them become part of the tech world. In this interview, we will talk about coaching processes and approaches with the head of our career coaching program. Darya shares the challenges and successes she experienced while building the awesome team that boosts student motivation during the job hunt process. 

What is the title of your position? What are your responsibilities?

It's Customer Success Director at the moment. I manage three departments that work in client service. My people do everything possible so that the students receive training services at a reasonable level and face no difficulties. We make sure the students feel good and confident throughout their whole Careerist journey—from the moment they enroll in one of our programs, during their courses, and until they find a job in tech.

Another part of our program is JAS (Job Application Service). JAS is a system which speeds up job search process and is available for students after graduation. It helps find relevant vacancies for our graduates by using an aggregating system based on major job boards in the US. 

What do we mean by "Career Coaching" at Careerist?

First, our coaches help with job search preparation. Then we support the search for relevant vacancies.

And what is the student journey? At what point in the process do students receive career coaching?

First, the student goes through the learning stage. Then they get practical experience during their internship and apply the knowledge they learned throughout the theoretical part of the course. They learn how to do tasks and experience the work environment of the tech industry from the inside. They learn to attend meetings, write tasks correctly, and many other organizational aspects. Once the candidate has successfully passed all the theory and internship tasks, reaching a certain score level, we know this graduate is ready to proceed. When we know a student has the skills to perform, we bring in the coach.

So what do your coaches do for the students?

The coach's role is to teach the students to present themselves in a professional way. Often, students have the knowledge but do not know how to present themselves. We have cocahes to fix that. Coaches deal with self-presentation and resumes. We call these people buddy-coaches. We also have tech coaches. Tech coaches are experts with years of experience in the industry. They can help deal with issues technically, check or boost hard skills, and check how good the student is at a specific skill.

Could you dive deeper into the buddy coaches' role? What are their responsibilities?

It's about interview preparation. Buddy coaches help students prepare for questions that might be asked in the industry. The buddy's task is to ensure the student is prepared and their answers sound good. Careerist offers a whole packet of information, including a list of possible questions and answers to prepare. And we ensure students have prepared well using these sources.

Buddies also deal with resume preparation. It's worth noting that we do not write the resume instead of the trainee. We give the pole, but not the fish. We explain why it should be put together this way, what should be added or removed, and give recommendations. We do further checks to see that our recommendations were taken into account. It can be a long cycle because only some students follow our recommendations right away, and we insist on listening to our advice. The LinkedIn profile is a similar story. Since it's the main professional networking site in the US, the chances of finding a good job are higher than on standard job boards.

Why are they called "buddy coaches"?

There is a huge soft component to this role. A buddy monitors the student's performance, motivation level, and effort. They track the student's emotional state, and that's where they're different from the tech coaches. There are many dynamics throughout the course, and this stage comes rather late. Many trainees get tired and tend to lose motivation. Our task is to ensure that the motivation is still there. Otherwise, we will try to help students find it again.

As far as I understand, the student journey looks like this: they enroll in the training and go through lessons for one and a half to two months (depending on the course). When exactly does the buddy coaches or tech coaches appear?

The standard process we try to apply everywhere looks like this: there is a training block that lasts for some time, and coaches do not interfere there because it's too early. The students are adapting to the program, and the coaches' participation would be overwhelming.

How long does the internship last? And what happens next? 

On average, the internship lasts four weeks. Once the internship is done, we ensure the student's tech and practical background is okay. Then we pass the student into the hands of a coach. The process is simple: the internship team provides data on student progress, and those who have finished successfully are assigned to coaches.

Is it group coaching?

No, it's one-on-one meetings. Once the coach is assigned, it is an autonomous process. Nobody interferes here except for the technical coach (if there is a request). The latter is optional.

Depending on the training, a student moves to the coaching portion of the program in two months. How is a coach assigned to the student? What are the matching criteria?

We have a file on capacity with a certain benchmark for each program. There is a limit on the number of students who can be assigned to a coach so that each can get enough support. We also pay attention to the students' diversity. Some need assistance more often, while others are more independent and show up once a month on a call. 

We start monitoring students' performance in the first two stages of learning and internship. We try to give each coach an equal number of slow and fast runners.  

If the match doesn't work out, do we offer another coach?

Yes, but we look into the root cause first. We still try to persuade the student that this is the right person to help.

We had situations where students wanted to switch coaches because they didn't like the coaches' accents. Again, we always explain to the students that there are many people with non-American accents in recruiter and HR positions, so career switchers should get used to different accents. We switch in rare cases, but not often. 

When some students share their success stories, they highlight their coaches. However, the truth is that every coach has the same success score, and there is not much difference between coachess.

You've mentioned the coaches' capacity. What do you mean by the word "capacity"?

Coaching  is split into two parts. The first one is actively preparing students for the job search. Once the job search starts, the coach keeps track of the student and keeps in touch once or twice a month. Each coach has people preparing for their job search and people searching for a job. 

How many coaches are there at Careerist currently?

For the Manual QA course: 22 people, Automation: 2, Sales Engineer: 36, and Systems Engineer: 3.

Who are our coaches? What characteristics do they need to become coaches?

We try to hire people with an understanding of the tech niche. We also have people with manual testing experience. We search for those who have experience in coaching client service at a high level because students are all different.

All the coaches have either client service or teaching backgrounds. We seek young and charged people eager to grow in tech. 

What kind of background and training do coaches have? Do they get some kind of training with us before they start working? 

Once they come to us, they go through training. They learn about the course by reading and doing the program test to understand it better. There is also an opportunity to learn API and SQL questions. They dive deep into it. They can even answer some expert questions. 

How do we know student satisfaction levels?

We use CSAT in the learning space, with a pop-up after each session that asks students to rate their experience. Since the Learning Management System is often ignored after all the learning and the internship are done, we tend to ask students to evaluate the experience in person. 

On average, how much time does it take to find a job now?

The average preparation time between an internship and finding a job is five to six months. This time period strongly depends on the market and the candidate's experience. Manual Quality Assurance testers tend to have little experience and thus search for longer. The Sales Engineers finish a bit earlier, within three or four months.

That's a lot. Were there any difficulties launching the coaching system?

I joined Careerist in April of 2021, and there was already a formed department. However, it was much smaller. 

Max Glubochansky assisted us as an expert. Now we have mid-level and lead people who share their experience and case solutions.

The other problem we faced was the rapid growth of the Sales Engineering course. The coaching department grew from 5 to 35 people in a few months. The manual processes were difficult to handle, so we found digital solutions. Overall, the general understanding of a coach's role and their principles for the Sales Engineer program were outlined from September to December of 2022. It was a whole year of dedicated work.

Do you have a story that shows the value of coaching?

The perk of coaching is one-on-one meetings with the student within the framework of our training program. Our other interactions are with a certain batch of students. Students have a single person who builds communication processes and stays in touch with them. 

We had many situations where coaches helped older people (aged 60+) find a job by providing motivation. We had a super unhappy lady who found a job in a month or two and was very grateful. Coaching is about feeling the person's vibe and building trust. 

Thanks for sharing your insights. Happy to hear that your team is growing professionally and expanding. Looking forward to the upgrades on team coaching and new effective solutions.

*This interview has been edited for clarity.

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