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Why Pinnacle 21 is focused on early-career engineers

The clinical SaaS data vendor believes investing in younger employees will benefit the company — and their employees — in the long run.

Pinnacle 21 engineers participating in a hackathon. (Courtesy photo)

This article is sponsored by Pinnacle 21 and was reviewed before publication. Pinnacle 21 is a Talent Pro client.

As an engineering company, by design, there are few accidents at Pinnacle 21. Per the company’s VP of engineering, Martin Snyder, that includes its focus on early-career hiring and professional development.

Namely, software engineering manager Sue Gerace suggested developing an early-career engineering program, which the company has piloted for nearly a year.

Pinnacle 21, acquired by international biosimulation company Certara in October 2021, is based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and supplies its SaaS platform to the FDA, Japan’s PMDA, and pharmaceutical and biotech firms to analyze clinical trial data.

Snyder said the company typically hires two to five early-career engineers per year. Yet Gerace noticed once engineers arrived at Pinnacle 21, there was a gap in continuing education. She presented her idea to Snyder, who fully supported the initiative.

“It’s always a good indication to a leader when other people are bringing ideas to the table,” he said. “It’s a sign of a healthy culture at a company.”

Per Gerace, the program is structured as six-week cycles with biweekly meetings. The three pieces of training per cycle are as follows: 1.) a roundtable on a pre-selected topic, as well as a “show and tell” during which the early career engineers can present something they’ve learned; 2.) a tech talk, selected and presented by a senior engineer, and 3.) a group programming session. In addition to the professional enrichment of junior developers, the program provides an ongoing opportunity for senior engineers to step in as mentors.

“Our culture lends itself towards having senior engineers who enjoy sharing knowledge and collaborating and teaching the early career folks,” Gerace said. “It’s easy to get participation from the early-career folks because they want to learn. These sessions give them an opportunity to learn from senior engineers who they might not have access to just from their day-to-day job and team structure.”

Sue Gerace. (Courtesy photo)

Because the six-week cycles are continuous, employees can opt in whenever they’d like.

For Justin Jefferson, a software engineer, the program proved a valuable resource as he enters year four of working at Pinnacle 21 and looks forward to a role elevation, particularly considering this was his first tech role after completing the bootcamp Zip Code Wilmington.

“Pinnacle 21 provides steps for you to go where you want in your career. They challenge you, review your performance, and work with you to achieve your goals,” he said. “It’s been really helpful because I can make adjustments with my workflow so I’m consistently meeting the expectations of my current position.”

Jefferson joined Pinnacle 21 in February 2020, shortly after Snyder arrived at the company. As a manager, Snyder said hiring early-career engineers has long been a strategy of his for team development.

Pinnacle 21’s focus on early-career hiring goes hand in hand with the company’s high retention rate.

“When you bring in more senior people, you’re really only capturing a fraction of their value, and part of what they have to do is unlearn certain things, which always creates a possibility of friction,” Snyder said. “If you have early career hires, educate them and have a nurturing environment, the company can recognize their increasing value, but you need to treat them fairly from a compensation perspective.”

Martin Snyder in front of a beige background

Martin Snyder. (Courtesy photo)

“Eventually, you’ll cultivate employees who are familiar with company values and they’re perfectly aligned with your opinions as an organization,” he added.

Liam Munley joined Pinnacle 21 in December 2017 as a remote recruiter when there were nearly 20 employees. Now, Munley is the organization’s operations manager, and Pinnacle 21 has grown to about 75. In his current role, he still focuses on recruitment and onboarding, as well as employees’ overall experience.

Munley said several individuals he recruited about five years ago still work at Pinnacle 21, and he attributes the company’s retention rate to Pinnacle 21’s robust culture.

“There are definitely different facets that make it attractive to different types of people. For our early career hires, by prioritizing programs that focus on their needs we make it easy for them to connect to others who share a lot in common in terms of career and particular roadblocks,” Munley said. “It contributes to the feel of a community that exists here.”

In addition to the early-career engineering program, Munley spotlighted programs such as its public speaking group, events including office happy hours, an annual hackathon, and an annual chili cookoff.

Such efforts spearheaded by Gerace, Snyder and Munley are a large part of why Jefferson, the software engineer hired three years ago, wants to continue at Pinnacle 21.

“There’s such a community here,” he said. “The whole company encourages lifting each other up and working together. It has helped me gain the experience that I need to move forward. I don’t have a problem with asking any of our senior devs questions and acquiring knowledge from the breadth of people that have skill sets here. That’s just something that is super valuable.”

Learn more about Pinnacle 21

Companies: Certara

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