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Dr. Rok Strniša – Meet the Mentor

I’m a passionate entrepreneur with a background in computer science and 15+ years of experience across different areas of the tech industry, from bootstrapping startups to leading roles in a large international company. In my spare time, I love exploring the far corners of the world, listening to audiobooks, and staying active with kitesurfing and sailing.
Rok Strniša

Founder, Entrepreneur, Software Architect, Cambridge PhD

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

Having mentored graduate students while at the university and exchanging valuable insights with colleagues later on, I know the high value of good advice. It can mean the difference between wasting time and working effectively, being stressed and focused, and between failure and success.

Mentoring also offers excellent learning opportunities for the mentor. On this topic, I agree with Prof. Feynman: “If you want to master something, teach it.” In addition to learning, working with mentees in different industries and roles exposes me to new ideas, technologies, and methods that I might not encounter otherwise.

How did you get your career start?

After finishing my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, I decided to enter the industry and joined an R&D department that was closely linked to the university. It was a great first step for me because I could still do research, but we were making a customer-facing product.

Two years later, I was ready for the next step and moved to the core team of a leading UK hedge fund, where I learned a lot about reliability and optimization trade-offs.

I then decided to join an exciting startup, which became one of the best-funded and fastest-growing UK tech unicorns. We worked on virtual worlds for entertainment and defense. During my seven years there, my role often changed according to what the company needed most at the time. This allowed me to become familiar with many aspects of running a fast-growing venture.

What do mentees usually come to you for?

Mentees usually come to me for guidance on tech leadership, starting a business, or performing well at interviews.

For those in leadership positions, I focus on pragmatic and sustainable solutions to important problems, trying to get the mentee to become an effective and impactful leader. I help entrepreneurs see and avoid the many pitfalls in the startup world, improving their chances of success. For those applying to new roles, I explain what the hiring company likely expects and help them prepare for both technical and behavioral interviews.

I take the time to understand each mentee’s specific learning styles, goals, and challenges, ensuring that my guidance applies directly to their situation.

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

For privacy purposes, let’s refer to him as John. Before becoming one of my mentees, John was assigned the leadership of the software department in a technology company despite having limited experience in both software and leadership. He regularly faced one of the many classic problems for this role, such as the department being micro-managed by the CTO, agreeing to delivery dates based on optimistic or non-existent estimates, and continually increasing maintenance costs.

Over time, we made substantial progress in many areas by applying the industry’s best practices and the various approaches I know from my experience to be effective. It has been a pleasure to see how John has been able to independently handle increasingly complex situations and how his department and the company have improved as a result.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

Each mentorship presents its own challenges, and I find it intellectually stimulating to solve complex problems together with mentees in a way that both leads to effective solutions and helps them learn how to tackle similar problems on their own in the future.

What makes the mentorship experience special for me is seeing my mentees grow. Watching them use the strategies we discussed, improve their approach, and achieve better and better results is deeply rewarding.

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