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The “quality over quantity” mantra is extending to hiring, as companies long for the best new employees. 

Experience is beginning to be measured more than time in a career, and hiring teams are moving away from judging candidates based on resumes. 

A Durham-based creative technology agency, bootstrapped out of American Underground in 2010, embraces this change and believes in hiring people rather than resumes. That strategy has helped Smashing Boxes grow to 52 software developers, designers, product directors, project managers and marketers. 

It also prompted the agency to bring Durham’s first code school, The Iron Yard, to town last year and why its workers spend significant time building (and contributing to) a strong developer scene in the Triangle through meetups and workshops. 

It’s also grounds for a new effort—a 12-week apprenticeship program designed to bridge the gap between learning to code and understanding the nuances of doing it professionally, and developing an even stronger pipeline of talent for Smashing Boxes. Applications are due on Thursday July 30. 

Smashing Boxes' Nick Jordan and Brian Fischer
The company—specializing in design and development of web and mobile apps and embedded software—was founded by UNC Chapel Hill graduate Nick Jordan (left) and Brian Fischer (right). Credit: Smashing Boxes.
During the program, apprentices will be paid to hone their skills as professional Ruby on Rails developers, learning advanced programming concepts through the applied use of the “Ruby” programming language. The plan is to accept two to three apprentices per cohort and graduate three cohorts per year, similar to the Iron Yard Academy. 

Experienced Smashing Boxes developers Ian Donovan, Josh Van Cleef and Brandon Mathis will assume the role of mentors. They will each work one-on-one with an apprentice to ensure those new developers get the support they need as they hone their skill sets. 

The goal by the end of the program, according to Smashing Boxes Director of Growth Margaret McNab, is to promote apprentices to junior developers. 

This apprenticeship program isn’t the first venture Smashing Boxes has piloted in order to build an educational outlet for developers. In April 2014, the company partnered with Iron Yard—a Greenville S.C.-based startup accelerator and education company—to create the Durham branch of the Iron Yard Academy, a code school. Smashing Boxes funded the program and provided developers' time to mentor the companies.

A recap video of the first Iron Yard Academy class last year. Credit: Ryan Timms

But after the Durham launch last year, Iron Yard grew dramatically, adding campuses across the East Coast. That drew the attention of investors. Early this year, Iron Yard announced a strategic investment from Apollo Education Group, Inc., a Phoenix corporation that owns several educational institutions, including University of Phoenix

As part of the agreement with Apollo, Iron Yard bought Smashing Boxes out of the partnership. 

“The move was both a great achievement for them and one that we are in full support of,” explains McNab. 

Smashing Boxes still participates in Iron Yard’s triannual Demo Day, an opportunity for Iron Yard students to showcase their newfound skills in front end development, Ruby on Rails, Python or other programming languages.

Last Friday was Iron Yard’s cohort four Demo Day, in which more developers graduated into the local technology market. More than 100 people have finished the program since its start.

Smashing Boxes continues to partner with Iron Yard and other technology programs in the region “to help entry-level developers have more confidence and success in professional programming roles.” 

But the apprenticeship program is something unique. It creates a cohort of developers ready to join a company that metaphorically smashes the boxes of conformity by challenging the status quo, McNab says.

“Smashing Boxes is not just a name,” she adds. “It’s a mantra and a promise—a commitment to an attitude of uninhibited problem-solving.” 

Apply to the apprenticeship here. The program begins August 11.