The Agency of Learning with Dave Paola

On this episode of Ruby for All, Andrew and Julie have joining them, Dave Paola, Founder of Sierra Rails, a Ruby on Rails Software Development Agency. Today, Dave talks about his experience coaching Junior Developers and Early Career Developers.  There’s a discussion on the success of Pivotal Labs and the importance of hiring Early Career Developers in pairs.  Dave tells us about his Junior Developer Bootcamp and his aspirations to help Junior Developers kickstart their careers. Andrew, Dave, and Julie discuss the importance of hiring Junior Developers in pairs to improve their onboarding experience, and the value of retro meetings or biweekly team meetings to improve team culture and processes.  We’ll also hear about Dave’s experimental program, The Agency of Learning, which focuses on helping Early Career Developers prepare for their first job through a volunteer-based pilot. Press download to hear more! 

[00:00:55] Dave tells us a little bit about himself, why he prefers Early Career Developer versus Junior, and Julie explains why she prefers Early Career Developer.  

[00:04:23] We hear a story that Dave shares about the success of Pivotal Labs, which is gone, and their great approach to hiring in pairs, starting a Junior Developer Bootcamp,  and how this evolved into him writing a book.

[00:07:17] What made Pivotal Labs so prolific back in the days?

[00:11:20] Dave explains why he believes in pairing Juniors together.

[00:12:10] Andrew shares his pairing story when he first started out, and Dave shares a story as to why he thinks psychology has a lot to do with hiring in pairs.

[00:16:16] We hear some experiences Andrew had in computer science school with people being put in impossible situations and they end up quitting, and then the positive experience he had when he started at Podia. Julie shares her school experience working in groups.

[00:20:12] Dave stresses the benefits of holding weekly retro meetings to improve team culture and processes. 

[00:21:58] Andrew tells us at Podia they do biweekly developer meetings which he finds more helpful than weekly retro meetings. He stresses the importance of getting the team together, especially for the Juniors or Early Career Developers. Dave highlights the benefits of meetings for developers to come together and share challenges and ideas.

[00:24:52] Julie tells us about her biweekly engineering meetings, where there’s no leadership, but teams, and the engineers get together and just be real.

[00:25:57] Dave talks about his experiment, The Agency of Learning, which is a volunteer-based pilot for Early Career Developers who are looking for their first job. He’s looking for coaches, so if you’re interested, please reach out to him. 
[00:29:26] Find out where you can follow Dave online. 

Andrew Mason
Julie J.

Dave Paola



  • (00:00) - Introduction
  • (00:55) - Early Career Developers versus Junior Developers
  • (04:23) - The Success of Pivotal Labs
  • (07:17) - Hiring in Pairs
  • (11:20) - Pairing Junior Developers
  • (12:10) - The Psychology of Pairing
  • (16:16) - Challenges Faced by Early Career Developers
  • (20:12) - Improving Team Culture and Processes
  • (21:58) - Biweekly Developer Meetings
  • (24:52) - The Agency of Learning
  • (29:26) - Conclusion

Creators and Guests

Andrew Mason
Andrew Mason
Senior Product Developer at Podia, co-host of the Remote Ruby podcast, and co-editor of the Ruby Radar newsletter
Julie J
Julie J
Software developer at Codecademy
Dave Paola
Dave Paola
Founder @SierraRails with a passion for building relationships and coaching early career developers.
The Agency of Learning with Dave Paola
Broadcast by