SCNA 2011 Apprenticeship Panel

This year, at SCNA 2011, I had the honor of moderating a panel on apprenticeship. I was lucky enough to get participation commitments from an impressive list of individuals. I feared I would not be able to get a decent panel together and instead, I had to pare the panel from a list of eleven amazing people down to just six.

I want to thank all of the folks who agreed to participate; Shay Arnett, Ken Auer, David Crosby, Zach Dennis, Justin Ghetland, Corey Haines, Dave Hoover, Micah Martin, Robert Martin, Don Mullen, and Matt Yoho. Your commitment to furthering our profession is inspirational.

Audience Participation

We wanted to make sure we got participation from the audience, but also wanted to keep the discussion moving as quickly as possible. We decided to have the audience tweet questions with the #scnapanel hash tag rather than deal with the logistics of getting microphones to the audience or having to repeat every question asked.

As it turned out, this was a fantastic method. Questions that interested several people were retweeted, pushing them back to the top of the queue and I was able to hunt through the questions looking for common themes. This also allowed us to continue the conversation well beyond the panel. Dave Hoover and Ken Auer took the time to answer questions via twitter later that afternoon.

The Questions

As I mentioned, there were a lot of tweets in a relatively short period of time. We had over 300 tweets on the topic with more than 200 of them coming in during the live session.

There were a few common themes; how to select an apprentice, what makes for a good program, and how to get a program started. I've made the entire apprenticeship panel tweet stream available. The following are a few example questions.


  • What are the factors you take into consideration when building your apprenticeship curriculum?
  • what is the worst mistake you made as a mentor or in your program ?
  • does someone ever stop being an apprentice?
  • Any formal milestones in your apprenticeship programs? Complete a project, etc.
  • Do you also do apprenticeship with existing employees (developers) that might need more training to reach "the next level"?

Continuing the Conversation

I think apprenticeship is a valuable and important undertaking. If the name "apprentice" does not resonate with you, then call it something else. The assigned label is the least important aspect of growing and nurturing our next generations. I invite you to join the Software Craftsmanship google group and engage in the discussion.