For many companies in Silicon Valley, it’s fairly easy to find, train, and evaluate technical talent — for the most part, it’s easy to determine and quantify how well a person codes. But evaluating and training non-technical personnel is something many struggle with. To help change this, a new school called Tradecraft has emerged to help teach those seeking UX, growth, and sales positions the skills they need to succeed in the tech world.
Tradecraft was founded by Russ Klusas and Misha Chellam, who believe it (or something like it) is necessary to teach necessary skills to non-technical tech workers. The school was founded on the idea that Silicon Valley has done pretty well with training and setting expectations for technical personnel — that is, those who code or work with code. But it hasn’t done very well with non-technical talent, and they want to fix that.
Behind the school is a deeper philosophical belief that startups and tech companies in general could de-risk their organizations if their non-technical workers were better trained and equipped to do their jobs. That is, startups generally don’t fail because their code isn’t good, but they stumble due to poor user design, or growth strategy, or business development and sales.
Many non-technical workers at tech companies come in at the entry level and then it takes a year or two for them to grow into their role at the company. But if Tradecraft works, the team believes its students will learn enough in 12 weeks to be able to contribute right away.
So what is Tradecraft? It’s an intensive 12-week program designed to teach students all the necessary skills they will need to step right into a tech company and begin making an impact. It’s grouped into three tracks that will run simultaneously: UX, Growth, and Sales.
Each track will have about ten students in it and will be taught industry leaders: The UX track will be led by respected user experience designers Laura Klein and Kate Rutter, growth will be overseen by Match.com founder Will Bunker, and the sales section will be taught by Klusas. Tradecraft has also recruited top executives from each area of expertise to act as mentors.
Tradecraft will be taking a flipped-classroom approach to instruction, with less emphasis on teaching and more emphasis on “doing.” There will be some reading material for the curriculum, but for the most part students will be focused on actually working on various projects for different tech companies throughout the course of the program.
To do that, Tradecraft has signed up several company partners — ranging from a just-graduated Y Combinator startup to a publicly traded tech company — that have specific projects for students to work on over the course of the three months. Not only will that give students practical experience, but it will also give them some context for what type of company they’d like to work for.
One of the issues that the Tradecraft founders has identified is that some non-technical people who aspire to work in Silicon Valley don’t know where they’d best fit in, whether it be an early-stage startup, part of a larger organization, or somewhere in between. This approach will make them better informed as they look for positions after the program.
Tradecraft is taking applications for its first group of students now through December 5, with the curriculum starting on January 6 next year. Tuition is $12,000, with financial aid available to qualifying students. At the end of the program, it’ll also work on placing graduating students. But if somehow they don’t find a position within three months after graduation, Tradecraft will refund their tuition.