As I make my way through the beginnings of my tech career, I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s mentorship that has made the biggest difference in developing my skills as a web developer.
In 2017, I attended New York Code + Design Academy (NYCDA), a web development bootcamp that had a Philadelphia campus. After I completed the bootcamp, I found myself having a hard time looking for a job.
While I found my experience at the bootcamp very valuable, I ran into a reality check: I am a nontraditional learner. I went to college at The University of the Arts from 2004 to 2007 and didn’t graduate due to personal reasons. Because of this, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree — and that puts me in a situation not favorable for hiring. I don’t bother to apply to places if a bachelor’s degree is mentioned because I know that my application will be looked over.
In February of 2019 at Technical.ly’s NET/WORK jobs fair, I was encouraged by Senior Front-End Engineer Ivana Veliskova to apply for the front-end internship at Guru. I got the email to take the coding test. I installed the test on my computer and I froze. I had a hard time getting through the coding test and I went back to all of those rejection emails and knew I was going to get another one because I didn’t know how many of the test’s answers. I didn’t turn it in and still got a rejection letter.
Ivana told me to reply to the rejection letter to ask the person to meet for coffee. I took her advice and it was the best thing I could have done for myself.
In March of that year, I started meeting biweekly with Ryan Yurkanin, a lead software engineer at Guru. It first started out with us reviewing interview questions for the first month. Then in the second month, I started building apps in ReactJS.
The first app I built with him is a to-do list. Ryan would type in the code, would delete it, and I would type in what he typed in with his assistance. After the second session with the app, I took the code home and figured out how to style it. By the third session, I renamed the to-do list to a bucket list using the same functionalities as a to-do list.
I decided to present my experience and app at Reactadelphia back in June. While I was at the meetup — which I highly recommend attending, by the way, as they are a very supportive group of people — one question that stood out to me from the audience was, “What advice would you give to people who are looking for a mentor?”
The first piece of advice I gave to the group was don’t be discouraged if the person you want mentoring you decline your request. Ryan was not the first person I reached out to as a mentor; I had previously reached out to my teacher at NYCDA. They, unfortunately, retired from teaching and mentoring due to a new job opportunity.
I also gave the group advice to keep reaching out to people. You never know where you will find your mentor. It could be at a meetup or a job interview that didn’t go well. And I encouraged people of all levels to get a mentor.
What I left out was something I learned from my time at Panorama Toastmasters, a local chapter of an international public speaking and leadership professional organization: Mentoring relationships are finite. I don’t expect my time as Ryan’s mentee to last forever just like I don’t expect my time mentoring beginners at Toastmasters to last forever. I do expect the value that I got from Ryan teaching me ReactJS and teaching me how to interview, something he didn’t have to do, to impact me throughout my career.-30-
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