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Martin Stadler – Meet the Mentor

Most of my career I've been a frontend engineer. Recently I went through all kinds of roles, from team lead and product management to startup CTO. Right now I'm doing all kinds of consulting and coaching gigs, in the area of frontend engineering, software architecture, agile development, product strategy, career development. In my free time I like to be outside, do sports, and make music.
Martin Stadler

Lead Software Engineer and Consultant

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I have been mentoring and coaching for many years, as a volunteer for community initiatives like OpenTechSchool or RailsGirls and also as part of my job. It is my way to give something back to society and making the tech industry more accessible. I have a lot of experience that can be valuable to others and I love empowering people.

Using MentorCruise turned out to be a great way to connect with new mentees that are outside of my network and to generally find good matches for maximum impact. As I'm currently independent, the opportunity to get paid for my time allows me to do more of what I enjoy and it also increases the commitment from both sides. And I really appreciate that.

How did you get your career start?

I enjoyed the web development classes at uni, built some pet projects and got a side job at the university department to maintain the website. With that basic skillset I was looking for an internship but ended up freelancing for a startup as a PHP developer. When they asked me if I wanted an internship or a job I figured the difference would be mostly getting paid. That's how I got into freelancing, negotiating about work packages and rates and that might have been the most valuable learning for my whole career.

When I started, the distinction between backend and frontend was a very new thing, in the company we were all just PHP developers. As a very junior engineer, I was looking for having an impact and I found lots of issues with the HTML/CSS that were actually impacting the users, and later started adding interactivity with JavaScript as well. Noone else really cared about these things so I became the frontend developer. This experience and clear profile helped me finding new jobs and growing my career.

I tried to get some support from colleages and at user groups but mostly learned by myself the hard way. Maybe I was shy? Might be one reason I enjoy passing on my experience to others now.

What do mentees usually come to you for?

Most mentees are trying to get to the next career level: bootcamp to junior, junior to senior, backend to full-stack. It makes sense, because the most tangible skills I have on my profile are React/TypeScript and a lot of job experience, including interviewing and hiring people. With those, I usually do kind of an interview and identify growth areas. We make a list of things to learn and practice and I share my experience, what worked for me. Then, in the regular calls, I check their progress by stepping into the role of a hiring manager, a line manager responsible for promotions or whoever they'd have to convince to reach their goal. This can be through code reviews or fake interviews or whatever works. I also like to see mentees work on their own projects to learn and then we discuss those.

Recently I'm having more and more mentees that own a small company are startup founders, or lead a team. I have worked in many different types of companies and projects, including a venture builder, where we built not only products but whole companies within 6 months or so. It's an honor for me and a lot of fun to help these mentees with my experience to make their teams better or figure out the right software architecture for them or how to speed up product development.

What's been your favourite mentorship success story so far?

In general I'm really happy if I give a mentee some constructive feedback, explain something or ask them to focus on something specific and in the next call they just deliver like it's nothing new. It's not always that straight-forward but sometimes a little push in a direction, some encouragement, can be enough to unlock a skill that was just waiting to be used.

One of my mentees, a frontend developer preparing to get his first job, appeared to be very unstructured and his work seemed kinda sloppy. I felt this would be a major challenge in interview processes but I didn't want to overwhelm him. So every other week, in addition to his main task, I ask him to focus on something new in this regard. We started with avoiding spelling mistakes in code comments and text messages, then improving naming of files and variables and so on. Each time he improved what we discussed immensly just in a week, so that I didn't have to mention ever again. Recently, I mentioned that I find his explanations about what he worked on since the last call hard to follow and shared some ideas how to prepare and go from general to detail. Since then I get a structured written summary prior to the calls and overall his whole way of working has improved a lot. I'm confident he's ready for interviews very soon!

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

First of all, it makes me feel good to see that I'm having a positive impact on other peoples' lives. Getting direct feedback on what worked and what didn't is very powerful. This experience is helping me a lot in leadership positions. I believe, if you're leading a team, it's important to understand each individual member and learn how to keep them motivated and help them grow.

The challenges are often similar but everyone is different, with a unique personality and story. I find it exciting to explore these unique perspectives and help my mentees to find their own way and learn from it.

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