Celebrating 5 years of Harness!

This month marks a 5 year anniversary for Harness Projects. It’s never easy to write about your own birthday, yet this year we have chosen to do so to commemorate a significant milestone in our journey to bring the value of Real Project Learning to the world.  One of the early inspirations for Harness Projects came from a deep affinity my co-founder Mike and I shared for the work of Joseph Campbell and his book – The hero with a thousand faces. In the Harness Projects story, the hero’s are our students, the ones who dare to go within, to reach a new version of themselves. Perhaps best summed up in this Joseph Campbell quote:

“In the cave you fear to enter lies the treasure you seek.”

We wanted to design an environment to foster a hero’s journey, to support and guide those who were ready to take on their personal call to adventure. Over 7 years of work and many more years of life experiences led us to a model of education we call Real Project Learning. A process of stepping into ambiguity, (the project), learning from masters who have walked the path before you (the mentors), and overcoming the parts of ourselves that may hold onto fear and may not believe we are capable of being great. In each of the 7-9 week projects that we run, we see this story being played out for hundreds of students. Each step of the journey expressed differently on an individual level but all reflecting the same human desire for growth and the uncomfortable moments that come with it.

On a market level, Real Project Learning is our vision to solve an age-old problem with traditional education.

That is, the ever-present job-readiness gap that many universities, colleges, bootcamps and training providers have failed to address. For years, we’ve heard the stories, students graduating from courses saddled with debt but without the demonstrable practical skills and experience that hiring managers need to feel confident when making a hiring decision. Larger companies have developed various internship programs to address this gap with varying success. Something is wrong with education when graduates are starting a job and are having to be retrained & mentored in order to be able to perform an entry level profession. What is a qualification if it provides no confidence in one’s ability to perform tasks in a real work environment?

Real Project Learning has been our solution to this market problem. By bringing companies into the learning experience and structuring a curriculum around a real project brief, we have been able to help our students learn what it’s actually like to be in a particular profession. Building their confidence and capabilities with high quality portfolios to demonstrate the experience they have formed. It’s been a joy to watch the hundreds of graduates who have made their way into their chosen industry following the experience they have gained throughout our projects. 

A core principle and responsibility of delivering our Real Project Learning model is striving to ensure the projects our students work on have an impact beyond simply their own learning.

That is, to support important social initiatives in the wider global community. Over the past 5 years, our students have contributed their talents on an incredible array of social projects tackling issues such as; carbon offsetting, disability support, mental health, homelessness, disadvantaged youth, environment sustainability practices and many more. We believe that leveraging the power of the learning market for social good should be a tenet for any modern education provider. 

Yet, no course is infallible and we know there is still more that can be done to improve the chances for every one of our students to have a successful outcome. We strongly believe that graduate outcomes are a shared mission. As a provider, we put our reputation on the line and our best foot forward to support students that join us, by doing the same in their commitment to the program. Our Job Guarantee program has a 100% success rate for students that have completed the 90 day process. Some, we have invited back for an extra project at no cost when they haven’t found a role within 90 days and we’re proud to say that each of them have gone on to land jobs in the industry shortly after as a result.

2022 has been a landmark year for Harness Projects.

In April this year, we expanded our offering into the US market and have since delivered multiple UX Design cohorts with company partners such as Greenpeace, The University of Florida, Washington Tech and many more. Our model is reliant on great partnerships with industry and we would like to thank all of our incredible company partners across Australian and the US for their support, belief and contribution to this mission.

Our students are the stars of our model, however none of this is possible without the expert guidance of our industry mentors who I am continuously in awe of for their passion and commitment to our student groups. With over a 50+ roster of industry leaders from organisations like Google, Atlassian, Tesla and others, our focus continues to be on building a roster of the world’s top hiring managers who offer their time to guide the next generation of professionals into the workforce.  Lifelong relationships have been formed during our projects and it’s always a joy to see our students bond with their mentors and continue that bond well into their careers.

Running a startup is very much our own Harness Project, where we learn by doing.

As founders of Harness Projects, we like to remind ourselves that the model we have built for our students is the same experience our own team goes through every day. The realness of all the variables that stretch and pull you to grow as an individual, to meet challenges, overcome complexity and demonstrate resilience and to wake up each day and take on the next set of challenges. It hasn’t always been an easy road developing an education model with no precedence before it. Yet, the rewards, the student stories and yes sometimes even the thank you donuts sent to our offices, keep us inspired to continue the work and open up more pathways for more individuals to realise their dreams.

Looking forward, our journey will continue. Our passionate team is growing and so is our reach. 

This year we have welcomed an incredible advisory team to act as a strong sounding board, to keep us honest and challenge us to be greater. Thank you to everyone who has supported us, from our students to our mentors and company partners.  Thank you for providing the sandbox for our students to glimpse their dormant talents and for enabling the right conditions for those talents to sprout and flourish.  You all make Real Project Learning what it is and with your continued support we will continue to steward the next generation of digital professionals into futures they can be proud of. And finally but definitely not least – thank you to the team that tirelessly works to bring this model to life, my co-founder Mike and the Harness team; Mitzi, Charlie, Herman, Kat & Erika. 

I also asked my co-founder Mike to share his thoughts on the last 5 years, here’s what he had to say which felt like a great way to conclude this birthday message. Thank you Mike for walking side by side on the journey with me:

There are many factors that determine the success of a start-up; market timing, business model, ideas, funding etc. Looking back on the success of Harness Projects over the past 5 years,  I would argue the 2 most important factors are your vision and team. At Harness, our vision keeps us motivated to continue transforming lives. Our team is the beating heart that sustains our growing ecosystem. I have a great deal of gratitude to everyone who has supported our vision and been with us on this incredible journey. When Chris and I started Harness, we instinctively knew that a strong founder relationship would be like any other strong relationship; based on mutual respect, empathy, trust and the ability to have a laugh. We know that with a shared vision, the strong relationships we nurture with our team, our mentors and students will be central to our continued success. – Mike O’Brien Co-Founder & CCO

Happy birthday!

Chris Ventura, CEO.