Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I always enjoyed being able to help people to improve their lives and mentorship seemed to be one of the best ways of doing it. Plus, doing this improves my own career by helping me develop soft skills that are required for a leadership role. As a mentor, I meet different kinds of people from diverse backgrounds with different expectations. And that helps me to improve my own mentorship skills rapidly.
Being a mentor on MentorCruise platform is a particularly good way to be a mentor, as you get compensated financially for your effort. Plus, the platform is really flexible in terms of setting your own price and choosing which ad-hoc sessions you want to do.
How did you get your career start?
I haven’t originally been planning to become a software engineer. And I never completed a computer science degree. Instead, I did a degree in Environmental Biology and masters degree in Environmental Informatics. I always liked computers, but when I was choosing a university course to enroll in, many people were entering computer science. So, in my naivety, I have then decided that I should do something completely different. However, when I have completed my university education and found a job that was directly related to my degree subjects, I found out that my subject area didn’t pay very well. In fact, I was getting paid roughly the same amount as a warehouse operator in my local area. And that was for a job that actually required a masters degree.
Luckily, the company I was working for had a software development team. I started to volunteer to take care of some simple bug fixes. Some people from that team have appreciated my effort and started mentoring me. Even though I’ve been mainly learning how to code on my own, the seasoned software engineers were helping me to understand the basics and to identify what sources to use for studying.
The rest is history. Since then, I have been able to build a successful career in software engineering and reach senior/lead level.
How do you usually set up mentorships?
When a mentee writes to me, I usually arrange the initial call as soon as possible. That will allow me to understand what the needs of the mentee are and how should I structure the program with them. After every call, I write down a brief summary of what was covered in the session and what the next steps are.
What happens next depends on specific requirements of the person. For example, I had a mentee who wanted to progress in his career. However, he was primarily maintaining legacy code in his job and didn’t have much opportunity to work with the most recent versions of the tools (languages, frameworks, etc.). So in this case, I came up with a project that involved building a software app of a type that allowed the mentee to work on those specific areas that he didn’t have an opportunity to work on in his main job. We’ve also set up a board on JIRA so he could gain experience of doing things that more senior developers were normally doing.
What’s been your favourite mentorship story so far?
So far, my favorite mentorship story involved a person who didn’t have any prior software development experience, but really wanted to become a software developer. He submitted a resignation to go and learn how to code, but his employer really didn’t want him to leave. So we’ve made an arrangement with the employer that allowed him to learn how to code and gradually integrate into the software development team of the company. The initial plan was that I would give him some pointers. And he would spend one day per week practicing his coding skills on resolving simple bugs and other low-priority items in his employer’s software.
Eventually, within a few months, his skills were good enough that he was officially given a job title of a junior software developer and became a full-time member of software development team. For some time after this, I kept giving him pointers to help him progress further in his career. And his colleagues have provided good feedback about his progress.
What are you getting out of being a mentor?
For me personally, there are three main benefits of being a mentor:
You develop your own skills, both the hard technical skills and the soft skills. Working with different kinds of people with different requirements and different experience level sharpens up your communication skills really quickly. And because you have to teach some hard technical skills, it forces you to learn those subjects in depth.
It’s good for building a personal brand. You become known as someone who is capable of mentoring people. And since I am also a published technical author, it gives me more credibility as such.
It’s good for meeting competent people and expanding your network.