Whether you've been out of college for 30 years, or graduated in this millennium, I would be willing to guess most people share the same sentiment about the transition from college life to full-time work – it's tough! Recognizing the long-term benefits of offering an “adjustment period,” particularly in the ever-changing world of software development, HomeAway introduced a training program in 2011 that sends graduates back to school.
HomeAway University (HAU) is a four-week curriculum that gives newly hired college grads and interns a first-hand look at life as a developer at HomeAway. Instead of just sending employees straight to their teams, HAU exposes participants to everything they need to be successful as a full-time employee, from using tools like Elmer & QuickBuild to problem solving in a team environment.
How does it work?
As one might guess, the recruiting team plays a huge role in the success of the program.
Months before the school semester ends, they travel to universities across the country to find top talent. For the 2013 HAU classes alone (they recruit for Summer & Winter sessions at once), they visited 5 universities (Rice University, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, The University of Wisconsin - Madison and The University of Colorado - Boulder), reviewed 600 resumes, conducted 77 on-site interviews and extended 49 offers to new hires and interns to fill both the summer and winter HAU sessions.
"HomeAway University is an incredible recruiting tool in that it shows candidates that we care about their future success. It can often be the deciding factor in whether someone chooses to work for us or the other guy," says Meena Rudmann, HAU Recruiter.
But as the saying goes… “it takes a village.”
Once the students are identified, next comes lining up the instructors who will trade in their day-to-day jobs for four weeks to train their new peers.
In Summer 2013, HAU was overseen by Marc Perlman (Senior Software Engineer) and Mike Kahan (Senior Software Engineer), with direction from Anita Dodia (Senior Manager, Software Engineering).
Perlman and Kahan had the difficult, yet rewarding task of providing informative lessons each day and coordinating presentations from other employees around the office, including the executive team. The goal was to give HAUers a comprehensive look at life at HomeAway.
“As a company founded on acquisitions, where we have several technologies that are forced to interact with one another, having a program like HAU is imperative in teaching new grads how the company operates from end-to-end and how they will play a part in that,” says Perlman. “I think HAU really sets HomeAway apart from other software companies because it’s so comprehensive.”
The Summer 2013 Class
Six students were selected for this summer’s HAU session, Liz Lass, James Debo, Austin Witt, Srinivasu Machavarapu, Dominic Cerminara and Yuki Davidoff. While they come from diverse backgrounds, they all possess an eagerness to learn and a zest for life, qualities that are celebrated at HomeAway.
Joined by a crop of summer interns, the HAUers spent the first two weeks of the program learning about the tools and technology used at HomeAway. However, by week three, the interns joined their summer teams and the full-timers got to put their skills to the test building a tool that would benefit HomeAway’s customer service operations.
“For the last two weeks of the program, we get to work on a project that is a real business requirement, not just an example from a textbook,” said Machavarapu.
However, it wouldn't be a "University" without a little fun – Fun Fridays to be exact.
Once a week, the HAU team would do team-building activities ranging from rock-climbing to sky diving simulators. The goal was to give the students a taste of the HomeAway culture, while enabling them to mingle with one another and other full-time members of the HomeAway development team.
“All of my friends are completely jealous of all of the fun activities we’ve gotten to do during HAU,” says Lass.
Over the past three years, the program has evolved and the curriculum has become more focused.
“We now have a better understanding of what HAU needs to be. Because of that, I think this year’s class really kicked ass!” said Perlman.
One thing’s for sure, the students come out of it feeling better equipped to begin their jobs and even more excited about their choice to work at HomeAway.
“Relative to other companies I’ve had training programs with, or other onboarding experiences, this is easily the best! [HAU] is the perfect way to ease out of college and in to real life,” said Cerminara.