Last week, we shared with you our interview with Miles Bonner, a Portal alumnus. He expressed that his time at The Portal helped him cultivate communication skills, in addition to providing him real-world technical experience.
This week, we want to show you that Miles does not stand alone in his assessment of The Portal. Our student apprentices highly value the experiences and skills they gain when they learn with us. After surveying almost 30 of our students, here are the top 5 reasons students love their experiences at The Portal:
1) Sharpening their skills through real-world experience
When students learn at The Portal, they gain experience on live projects for real clients. We want to fill the skills gap. When students graduate from college, they start applying to jobs so that they can gain experience. But when they go to apply to jobs they discover that they need experience just to apply! How’s a student supposed to get ahead?
The Portal solves this problem by mentoring students as they are trained on live projects. Our students learn applicable technical skills, as well as soft skills like communication and teamwork. By the time students graduate from The Portal, they are prepared with experience to land the jobs they want.
2) Practicing teamwork
Just like technical capabilities, working on a team is a skill we aim to cultivate in our students. In classes, students are asked to work on group projects. But have you ever been in the situation where you end up doing all the work, and someone else gets the same credit you do?
When students are involved in real projects at The Portal, everyone pulls their own weight. As students work together, they learn to ask for help when they need it, and how to help their peers in turn.
3) Talking with clients
When our students talk with clients, they learn that they are doing much more than coding. Every company we partner with is aiming to solve a problem with their product or service. Our developers come alongside our clients and help them execute those solutions.
4) Mentorship by our professional staff
Our professional staff is passionate about helping students and ensuring our clients receive quality products and services. We work hard to cultivate a learning environment where all of our developers are encouraged to ask questions.
We ask that our students to take initiative and have a desire to learn on their own. When they do, our professional staff is ready and excited to help.
5) Cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit
The Portal is a small company and we partner primarily with other small companies. Because of this, students are constantly surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit that encourages them to try new things and solve new problems.
In their time at The Portal, students learn what it takes to start a business as they observe their clients. A desire to find solutions, no matter the context, is an attitude that follows our students long after they leave The Portal.
Now that you’ve learned what students appreciate about The Portal, are you ready to join our team? Great! We are currently accepting applications for our development apprenticeship program. We look forward to meeting you!
The Portal prides itself in being a safe place for students to learn and gain confidence as they gain experience through live projects for clients. When students graduate from our apprenticeships, we want them to leave as different people -- cooperative, confident, and capable.
This week, we sat down with one of our alumni: Miles Bonner. Miles came to us in 2015 and stayed with us for a year and a half. He graduated from UC Irvine in 2016 with a degree in computer game science. During his time with us he gained experience on eight projects, including creating websites and developing apps for our clients.
While Miles learned web development skills here that he did not learn in his classes, the biggest thing he gained from his time here was a soft skill: clear and effective communication.
Cultivating good communication skills takes time. Miles shared with us that on one of his first projects at The Portal, creating a successful product for the client was difficult both because The Portal lacked an effective system of communication, and because Miles did not have experience speaking with clients to determine their needs and timelines.
Yet communicating with this client proved to be an invaluable learning opportunity. On the following project, developing a new app, Miles was our project lead and worked directly with the company’s founder to ensure the product we delivered would meet the company’s expectations. While he was working on the project, Miles realized that the founder needed help solidifying his company’s vision. By asking the right questions and finding creative solutions to the problems that presented themselves, Miles helped form the vision and trajectory of the client’s company.
Miles learned not only how to communicate effectively with his client, but also with his peers. He encouraged all of his peers to speak up when they needed help, and always found a way to accommodate them. As a result, the project was successful, and the client was very pleased with the product he helped deliver.
Miles’ communication skills culminated in presenting The Portal at one of our Face to Face with Investors events with an audience of almost 200 people. After all the hard work he put into advancing his communication skills, speaking for The Portal was an easy task for him. We were excited to provide him with yet another opportunity to expand his skill set.
After graduating from The Portal, Miles used his new development and communication skills to work as a sales engineer for a card reading company. In his new job, he had the opportunity to travel the United States, Europe, and Canada to implement his company’s hardware and software solutions. Using his exceptional technical and interpersonal skills, Miles has exceeded our expectations and makes us proud to call him an alumnus.
This week, Dean Marios Papaefthymiou of UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences visited The Portal because he recognizes the value of the services we provide to our community.
Papaefthymiou is new to UCI. He began serving as the dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences in January of 2017. He received his doctorate in computer science from MIT and received his B.S. in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
Papaefthymiou is interested in The Portal because we share his passion for entrepreneurship. He was the co-founder and chief scientist of Cyclos Semiconductor. I did some research to find out what his company does.
Papaefthymiou’s company, Cyclos Semiconductor, found a solution to a problem: it’s hard to make computers fast and energy efficient. We know that computers require energy to do even the smallest tasks, like a Google search. Cyclos Semiconductor found a way to make the clocks inside computers faster and more energy efficient! Head to their website if you want to learn more.
Here at The Portal, we bring Dean Papaefthymiou’s two passions for education and entrepreneurship together. As the students talked with the dean, one person mentioned that in most internship opportunities, students rarely have the opportunity to work directly with clients or learn how running a business really works. The Portal is different! Our students interface with clients and create products their customers love.
Dean Papaefthymiou also asked how students learn about entrepreneurial opportunities on campus. He mentioned that in many cases, if students want to be successful after graduation, they’ll need business skills. The students admitted that usually they don’t know about how to build their entrepreneurial skills. Fortunately, when students work with The Portal, they interface with clients and learn how to deliver products their customers will love.
In the apprenticeships at The Portal, students learn real-life entrepreneurial skills. Because we are a small business, students have opportunities to learn and contribute to the decisions we make. At the same time, when students work with their clients, they also learn how those businesses work and what makes them effective.
We are very glad that Dean Papaefthymiou came to visit us! It’s clear just how closely associated our passions are: equipping students with both development and entrepreneurial skills, which will allow them greater success upon graduation.