Harriet Ryder — Meet the Mentor

Published Feb. 4, 2019

MentorCruise wouldn’t be anything without our amazing mentors. In the ‘Meet the Mentors’ series we talk to the people behind MentorCruise about their experiences and passions. Today, we are talking to Harriet Ryder, a software engineer with a big passion for education.

Harriet Ryder — Meet the Mentor

*Harriet is one of our mentors on MentorCruise. Visit her profile now and get mentored by her: *Harriet’s Profile**.

Hey Harriet! Before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m a full stack software engineer with a passion for education. I also love reading, running, yoga, learning foreign languages and crochet. I live in Manchester, UK, where I work at a startup called Formisimo. We do form analytics, so basically, if you’ve ever been frustrated by a checkout process or application form we provide lots of data to help people improve that experience. I love working in tech, getting to solve problems every day and build exciting features with a nice team of people.

I didn’t always work in tech — I actually have 2 English Literature degrees, and was previously working in libraries and education. Hence my continued passion for helping other people learn and get into this industry.

Over the years, you have worked on several different exciting projects and have collected a lot of experience. How did you get started? How did you get your first job?

I got started teaching myself, because I wanted to create a website for my Mum’s knitting work. But one thing led to another and I realised how much I enjoyed teaching myself these skills and bringing a project to life with code. So pretty soon I decided to look for a way to actually get a job programming, since it had very quickly became a huge hobby of mine and was taking up all my time.

I ended up going to a bootcamp, since I needed some entryway into the tech world and I had big gaps in my knowledge that I needed to fill. It was a great decision, and with my previous experience in education I ended up staying on at the bootcamp to help teach other students.

Two years later, I decided it was time to do software development full time so I found a job through the network of companies that worked with the bootcamp. I was lucky in this respect, as I was able to peruse a long list of opportunities and apply to places that stood out.

What would you say is your biggest success so far?

Definitely making this career change happen. I am now earning more than twice what I ever earned in previous public sector roles, and have great career prospects ahead of me. Even better, I love getting up in the morning to go to work, which I know is a huge privilege. I feel extremely lucky though — I was in the right place at the right time to get a place on Northcoders (the bootcamp I attended), I was lucky that my Grandparents gave me their old car so that I could actually commute to the bootcamp, and it was pure chance that I even decided to take on the challenge of making my Mum a website in the first place… I have worked hard to teach myself skills but I can’t take credit for everything.

You already are an experienced mentor! Why did you decide to start mentoring others?

I never really stopped mentoring! When I was studying software development, I was a bit ahead of some of the other people on the course since I’d already been teaching myself for a while, so it was natural for me to help other people out. After that, it became my job to mentor and teach others. Since leaving teaching, I’ve continued to mentor at community events such as CodeBar and CodeFirst:Girls. I really like the 1-on-1 aspect of mentoring, so working with MentorCruise allows me to do that.

I guess I’m just so used to being in a pedagogical role that it feels weird if I’m not sharing knowledge and giving something back!

What is your perfect mentee like?

Oooh, that’s a hard one. I guess the perfect mentee understands the size of the task they are undertaking, if they’re learning to code in order to secure a developer job, and is willing to put the work in and confront difficult problems on the road to getting there! People looking for shortcuts are going to be disappointed. Even a bootcamp, which initially looks like a “quick” course, in reality might be expecting 1000 hours from you over its duration, with all the prep work you need to do, and the actual job hunting afterwards.

Apart from that, not much — I think it’s perfectly possible to make headway no matter what your budget, time constraint or learning style is. It’s all about being realistic with expectations, but some level of consistency is required.

What advice can you give to young people entering the industry?

Often beginners are overwhelmed by the amount of languages and technologies are out there, but it’s important to realise that you don’t need to know everything when you’re starting out, and sometimes you have to close your eyes to about 90% of the stuff you could study and focus hard on a small slice, instead. This can be difficult because it might feel like you’re not making a dent on the huge pile of things you need to learn, but this is where a good mentor can come in really useful to keep you motivated and focused. By focusing on one language at the beginning, and learning it well, you’ve got an excellent base from which to begin picking up other languages and technologies later on. Everything gets 10x easier once you’ve got one language under your belt.

I’d also recommend to get involved with a community as early on as you can! No matter how long you’ve been learning, there are great communities out there, from meet-ups such as FreeCodeCamp and CodeUp, to language-specific meet-ups in most cities. There are also online communities such as Dev.to and chats on Twitter and Facebook, such as Code Newbies and Women in Tech Chat. Connecting to other people in the same boat as you is so important and you will be surprised how many opportunities you’ll be made aware of by engaging with these groups.

*Harriet is one of our mentors on MentorCruise. Visit her profile now and get mentored by her: *Harriet’s Profile**.