InnerWorkings Lets Visual Studio Programmers Learn By Doing

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based company offers a hosted developer-training system that teaches programmers while they're plugged into live Visual Studio sessions, company executives said.

InnerWorkings charges $400 per Practice Set, comprising eight hours of programming time. The company recently received funding of $8.8 million from Benchmark Capital Europe and Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Unlike other computer-based training, InnerWorkings' interactive model allows developers to work with real code and get feedback as they go. "This is an integrated, experiential-based developer training, very focused on [Microsoft's] .Net," said Sam Jadallah, general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Another plus is that users can pick a specific skill set and zero in on it, depending on their latest job requirements. There also are drills to learn skills and then apply that knowledge to real code and applications. "Maybe you use the compiler to do work, and then you run your work through a judging engine," that provides feedback, Jadallah said. Also, for a manager with a large integrator, there is an accessible scorecard of how all the programmers are doing, he added.

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Jadallah knows a little something about Microsoft and its channel partners, having led that company's partner effort before becoming a venture capitalist several years ago. One thing he knows from his past life is that partners spend a lot of time and money on training and certification and want to accomplish it in a way that doesn't needlessly impact billable hours.

"Training has to be highly flexible. The hard part is, in between contracts, you want them to learn," Jadallah said. "They need to do it on their schedule, not when the trainer happens to be available."

The hosted offering includes an online personal tutor and reference framework with content from MSDN and Safari Books Online, said John McIntyre, InnerWorkings' co-founder and vice president of marketing and business development.

Elliott Whitticar, assistant vice president of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Technology, Pennington, N.J., said he was impressed with an early version of the InnerWorkings system he saw last year and may end up using it.

"Most training software is a bunch of slides and bullet points with a quiz at the end. This is the first product I've seen that actually teaches programming by having you program. It's a lot more engaging," he said.