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Mladen Ruzicic – Meet the Mentor

👋 Hello, my name is Mladen. I am a software engineer based in Switzerland, and I have more than ten years of experience in software engineering.
Mladen Ruzicic

Senior Frontend Developer, ZF, Ex-Shopify

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

It’s been a couple of years since I started being a part of either a recruiting and onboarding process in companies where I worked or mentoring colleagues on my team. It became something I enjoy doing - meeting new people, understanding their goals, and helping them to reach these goals. I stumbled upon MentorCruise by accident and immediately realized that my set of skills could bring benefit to all parties involved: mentees, the platform, and myself. As a self-taught developer myself, I understand the importance of a good mentor. I remember the value I received early in my career from my leads, and I want to try to provide the same to those who do not have it in their surroundings.

How did you get your career start?

I am a self-taught developer who started building websites in 2005. I was freelancing for quite some time until I realized that I needed to become a part of a bigger team, surround myself with mentors, and grow. I was very fortunate to meet such people (shoutout to Tamara, Milena, and dr Scekic) who helped me grow as a software engineer. They have constantly challenged me and provided me with valuable feedback frequently. As I became aware that not everyone will have an opportunity to work with amazing mentors, I decided to give back to the community and try to help by sharing my experience and mentoring.

What has the role of mentorship been in your own professional life?

“While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing.”Uncle Iroh in Avatar

Mentorship played one of the most critical roles in my career development. In this fast-paced industry, finding someone like-minded to discuss what you’re dealing with is not always easy. Mentor is there to help you balance your time efficiently, ensure you’re continuously learning and mastering relevant skills, and make the best career decisions.

From my first tech job until today, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by some great humans who were there for me whenever I needed someone to talk to. These turned out to be some special long-term relationships.

How do you usually set up mentorships?
During the first (trial) week, I tend to ask many questions and answer: 

  • their goals 
  • is it a project or a technology
  • a specific goal, career growth, career change, or something else 
  • their current set of skills 
  • how much time they can invest into working with me and on their goals

After this, it can go in several directions: 

  • learning through working on a project, covering areas in which the mentee has interests in 
  • pair programming and code reviews 
  • interview preparation and simulation 
  • career growth talk

Most of the time, it’s a mix. For example, working on a project will quickly reveal knowledge gaps where we would invest more time if needed, and if a new job or promotion is a goal, we’ll work on preparing for 1:1s with leads or preparing for interviews.

What are the things you often help mentees with?

It’s always about the next step. Sometimes it’s about changing jobs or moving up the ladder, and I’m there for them to help with where and how to make the next step. I advise them on how to position themselves in the work environment better to build stronger relationships. Occasionally mentees struggle to form an objective broader picture about themselves and appreciate having someone outside of the company help them do it.

On the other side, sometimes we only discuss technical topics, like understanding new technologies, debating good practices in specific fields, or doing pair programming sessions. In this case, sometimes they want “homework”, which I tend to split into two parts: they have to invest a portion of time into theory and almost in parallel work on a project to apply new learnings.

What’s been your favourite mentorship story so far?

I had several outstanding and very unique experiences. One of my recent stories is with a mentee who was stuck in a role with lousy pay and no good mentor. I needed to boost his confidence, talk about what’s available in the market, and prepare him for the interviews. Within around six months, he changed jobs twice and managed to 3X his income and land in a place he loves both his team and the product. Sometimes mentees are unsure if what they face at work is present in every company or if it’s a case only at their place. So I’m trying to bring them a new perspective from my diverse experience, which is sometimes sufficient.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

What I do at MentorCruise complements my primary job, and I enjoy doing it. In addition, it helped me understand what it means to be a good listener and the importance of sharing knowledge and experience. It wasn’t before I got several fantastic reviews that I fully understood the value some mentees gained from me. That motivated me to invest even more in what I do here. Besides that, I had to learn and improve my knowledge in depth in specific topics to have the confidence to discuss them with others.


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