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Commerce’s unique program for aspiring software developers is hitting major milestones.

Commerce Bank has long been dedicated to attracting and retaining talented people. One of the ways the bank’s IT department attracts aspiring software developers is through a unique initiative called the Developer Acceleration Program, or DAP.

Charity Hibberd, an IT manager who oversees DAP, says the program was created to offer a multi-faceted experience to potential team members. “In most IT organizations, when people are hired into their first full-time software development role, they’re simply placed on whichever team has a need,” she explains. “The candidate might not know what the team does or what technology they use. DAP provides new software developers the opportunity to experience lots of different teams and experiences before getting placed in a permanent position.”

Commerce created DAP ten years ago, establishing it as a 12- to 18-month program that provides aspiring software developers with an overview of multiple IT teams at the bank. “It starts with a three-month onboarding project, during which participants work together as a cohort to bring the project to fruition,” says Hibberd. “We familiarize participants with our ways of working as well. Once that’s concluded, they participate in three different five-month rotations, working with various teams in IT so they get exposed to different kinds of work, different team sizes and different experiences with lines of business across the bank.”

The program is geared toward people who are either completing a four-year computer science degree or have the equivalent work experience. The team is also piloting an option that allows people from other areas of the bank to move into IT through DAP.

“Our ideal fit is someone who’s flexible, adaptable and eager to learn,” says Hibberd. “With this program, people learn a lot in a short period of time.” The team does most of its recruiting each fall at college fairs. Hibberd notes that the bank typically receives strong interest in DAP and eventually hires about a dozen people each year to participate in the program.

Kyle Haas, a software development engineer at Commerce, was a member of the very first DAP group hired a decade ago. He has fond memories of his time in the inaugural program. “I met so many great people and teams during that time — people I might not have met otherwise,” he says. “I was able to learn a lot, and I still work with some of the people I met while in DAP.”

Haas believes participating in DAP helped jump-start his career. “It was a kind of crash course after college,” he recalls. “I went from learning to doing real applications, building on what I learned. It gave me the opportunity to try a lot of new things to find out what I wanted to focus on. It was really exciting.”

Last year, Haas paid his experience forward by serving as a mentor to members of the DAP class. “I really enjoyed doing that,” he says. “It’s cool to see how far DAP has come since my time in the program. It was fun to see it from the other side of the table when I served as a mentor. I also learned that students coming out of college today are really advanced — certainly more than I was at their age.”

Hibberd views Haas, who has been promoted multiple times since completing DAP, as an example of the kind of outcomes the program was envisioned to create. “When we’re able to make a great fit, one where the individual and the team are happy to be working together, developers are more likely to be engaged in their work and want to build their Commerce careers over the long term,” she says.

DAP is Commerce’s way of investing in its software developers — and in the long run, its customers. “The talented people we hire and retain are developing innovative technology solutions like our Online Banking services, Commerce Connections® Direct, Health Services Financing, and Prefer Pay®. These are the kinds of services that make the experience of banking with us better all the time.”

The program has also hit a milestone, having just hired its 100th “DAPper,” as Hibberd likes to call the program’s participants. She says a reunion of former DAP participants is being planned. Such an event could have a good turnout: two thirds of all DAP participants are still Commerce team members. “A two-thirds retention rate over ten years is something we’re really proud of,” Hibberd says. “And hitting the 100th DAPper milestone is exciting.”

Haas says he would recommend DAP to anyone interested in software development as a career. “It was a great experience, and it provides so many opportunities,” he says. “You can determine what you want to do at Commerce, and the culture here at the bank is great. There are a lot of benefits to going through DAP.”

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