success stories

Volley & Onramp: A Case Study in Apprentice-Hiring

Onramp is excited to announce our acquisition of Edlyft’s Intern Development Program to strengthen our mission and extend our impact.

Volley is the leading developer of voice-controlled entertainment experiences. They create products used on Alexa, Google Home, Fire TV, Roku, and other voice-entertainment services. Imagine playing Jeopardy out loud with your smart TV, Volley might be the software making it possible. Basically, says Aaron Sarazan, VP of Engineering, we work with “anything with a microphone.”

What brought Volley to Onramp? 

Volley knew that they wanted to prioritize pipeline diversity and increase the diversity of their engineering teams. They believed that fixing any imbalances or homogeneity in their teams was easier while they were still relatively small (approximately 80 people), and they wanted to kick off a more inclusive set of processes. 

“When you start off hiring, you think it’s going to be easy,” said Sarazan, “but it’s so hard to find amazing fits. It’s like drinking from a firehose, and you spend a lot of time on ‘misses’.” Volley was looking for a way to find great candidates from marginalized groups–perhaps from candidates their existing processes were missing–without spending a huge amount of time with the “firehose.”

How Onramp helped Volley find great fits

The team started by reviewing what other DEI efforts looked like at other companies and heard over and over again that finding diverse, senior talent was really hard. “There are lots of reasons for that,” Sarazan points out, “for example many people are under-mentored or driven out by hostility.” The Volley team realized that their best bet to diversify their technical teams was to invest in entry level talent and help them grow into more senior roles. “I think of it as hiring future leaders,” he said. 

A colleague recommended Onramp as a potential source for diverse, often-overlooked entry level tech talent. For each round of hiring, Onramp provided a short list of candidates that had been vetted specifically for Volley’s needs. “What Onramp has provided, we really haven't gotten from anywhere else,” Sarazan said, adding “They have a remarkably good filtering system, and we have an absurdly high ‘hit ratio’ with their candidates.” In particular, he noted that it’s often hard to differentiate new college or bootcamp grads because their experience is typically so thin, and what Onramp optimizes for is finding the intangibles like curiosity, eagerness to learn, warmth, work ethic, etc. 

Why apprenticeships work at Volley

For Volley, Onramp curated a small pool of candidates based on the company’s precise needs and helped Volley think through how an apprenticeship might work. “It’s not an internship,” emphasized Sarazan, “We fully intend to convert folks to permanent jobs after their 6 month apprenticeship.” (Note: Volley ensures apprentices are paid and supported like permanent staff).

During the apprenticeship, the apprentices get structured support from their manager and from an additional mentor. Sarazan notes that many companies think the investment of mentor and manager time is too heavy, but points out that if senior leaders buy in, others will as well. For example, mentorship is a core responsibility at Volley, not something you do “after hours”, and it’s a way for folks who want to grow into management to demonstrate those skills. He’s found that managers are eager for apprentices on their teams now, as they’ve realized what an asset excited, motivated learners can be.

Results of the Volley + Onramp partnership

From Sarazan, “Partnership with Onramp helped us to pinpoint our needs, think about how we could frame that as an apprenticeship, and then get the word out to untapped areas to find a more robust talent pipeline.” Volley has since onboarded four apprentices from Onramp, as well as two additional apprentices using the model they developed with Onramp. Thus far, of the five apprentices who have completed their apprenticeships, all five have been offered permanent roles (a sixth is still mid-apprenticeship).

They have found that these apprentices bring incredible energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity to the work, as well as interesting perspectives. Volley votes on superlatives on their annual retreat, and one former apprentice who has converted to permanent, Emme, was voted “Rookie of the Year.” 


Written by
Onramp Team

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