– Many thanks to John Fox (Business Analyst and Bootcamp Scrum Master) for contributing this blog.
The moniker ‘Bootcamp’ is a curious one. You would be forgiven for sooner imagining some high-budget, jarhead-centred feature film – or, perhaps, SAS: Who Dares Wins – than the dynamic training program for Alchemy’s newly qualified Guidewire Professionals. But it stuck around, nonetheless, just like the program itself.
What was originally the brainchild of our very own Business Analyst, Nikki Cairns, Bootcamp was conceived in early 2020 as a project simulation experiment to prime our people for that inevitable, often intimidating, transition to billable project work. It is a transition that, for many Developers, Testers, and Business Analysts alike, can be a proverbial baptism of fire. There had to be another way, a way of demystifying the project environment for the up-and-coming.
One crucial step taken towards dispelling myths about project work through Bootcamp was ensuring that our simulation was as close as possible to the ‘real deal’. Seasoned Software Developers are, therefore, likely to see their familiar Scrum-based team arrangements mirrored in Bootcamp. At any one time, we sport two full team complements of Developers, Testers, and Business Analysts, averaging at ten Bootcampers per team. Devout Agile-ees that we are, sprints on Bootcamp mimic a core selection of Scrum ceremonies prescribed by the methodology.
“By flexing to real world-informed business challenges, not least those posed by Lockdown, Bootcamp guarantees that our budding professionals’ continuous learning is streamlined by issues that genuinely matter to our clients.”
But perhaps ‘mimic’ does the initiative a disservice. With each of our Business Analysts churning out new Jira-based stories at a rate of knots, Alchemy Bootcamp has taken on a life and vigour of its own. And what would a project simulation be without a fully realised ‘client’ to steer the creative juices of our BAs? We have our resident insurance expert, Jennifer Cassidy, to thank in that regard, whose 22 years of industry experience made her the star candidate for spearheading the client business ‘sim’ of our initiative, dubbed Amalgam.By flexing to real world-informed business challenges, not least those posed by Lockdown, Bootcamp guarantees that our budding professionals’ continuous learning is streamlined by issues that genuinely matter to our clients.
Do not let this orderly tableau of Bootcamp’s setup be mistaken for rigidity, however. We still manage to enjoy a healthy degree of flexibility while training. It is our initiative, after all. Our BAs, Developers, and Testers have that extra wiggle room to mine Guidewire products for untapped or potential functionality, all while developing those all-important stories to spec. And with stories ranging from ClaimCenter themes, to PolicyCenter ratebook adjustments, variety is very much the spice of life on Bootcamp! A once embryonic concept has fledged into a potential workshop for alchemising our company’s own accelerators: pre-defined software solutions that can be integrated with a client’s existing IT system.
Bootcamper and BA, Prachi Solanki, sees the horizon-broadening impact of Bootcamp in her own work. No longer is Guidewire’s PolicyCenter about playing with ‘coverages’ and ‘terms’. Instead, she now searches for ‘trends, disruptions, and issues’: a bigger picture in which Alchemy and Bootcamp can interface with the insurance industry’s key challenges through Guidewire products.
It is worth drawing attention to a no less critical element of Bootcamp’s success. During what can at best be described as trying times, many have found recourse in Bootcamp’s ever supportive and nurturing culture. Colleagues are but a message or video call away. One of our own BAs, Emma Nugent, was quick to praise this boon to our training experience. ‘Everyone is just so supportive,’ she beamed. ‘No matter the time of day, I know that I can reach out to my fellow BAs for guidance, especially when it comes to writing User Stories!’ The key to Bootcamp’s sustained success – bearing in mind that it coincided with the onslaught of Lockdown – owes much to excelling at the basics. Just turning that webcam on during stand-ups, sprint retrospectives, backlog refinement and sprint planning sessions renders the entire venture in an approximation of the 3D normality we had taken for granted for so long.
In a nutshell, Bootcamp is an outworking of the core values – the ethos – underpinning Alchemy as a business and brand. The ‘Bootcamp family’, as our Project Lead, Rachel Dalzell, would have it, is foremost about offering opportunities for expanding knowledge, upskilling, and allowing our people to flourish before tackling our clients’ many and diverse needs. As our journeyers drift off to meet their sundry client and project commitments, they know that Bootcamp presents to them a sanctuary to which they might return and impart their newfound skills and wisdom.