How ShopRunner’s mentorship program is pushing its employees to think beyond their fields - Technical.ly Philly

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Nov. 14, 2019 7:26 am

How ShopRunner’s mentorship program is pushing its employees to think beyond their fields

Growth and development practices have buy-in at all levels at this ecommerce network's Conshohocken outpost.
Mentorship and collaboration at ShopRunner.

Mentorship and collaboration at ShopRunner.

(Courtesy photo)

One thing that bonds us all at the start of our careers is that none of us fully know what we’re doing.

Building career confidence and competence takes years of on-the-job experience, and, if we’re lucky, great mentorship.

In the case of Heather Mishon, an engineering manager at ShopRunner, it was figuring out which direction to take her nascent career that had her stumped.

“When I started at ShopRunner, I was a senior JavaScript engineer,” she said. “I was still completely unsure of what I wanted to do in my career. All I knew was that I loved helping people and solving technical problems.”

Around that time, ShopRunner — an ecommerce company that provides free two-day shipping and returns to its members — was in the midst of putting together a mentorship program for the 40 employees at its Conshohocken office (headquarters are in Chicago).

The program was developed in response to employee demand. ShopRunner employees at all levels had expressed interest in being paired with a mentor to help them evolve their skill sets.

For Mishon, the program played a key role in the evolution of her career.

“I was paired with a mentor who challenged me a lot, in a good way,” she said. “When a management position opened up on my team, I was encouraged to put my name in the hat. That was a big career decision for me. I was nervous. But my mentor and my manager gave me confidence.”

Just as her mentor intuited, Mishon got the job.

The ShopRunner team has taken an iterative approach to building out its mentorship program. Starting with just a few mentors and mentees, the creators gathered feedback, made some adjustments and put together another small group to learn from.

Now in its second official cohort since it launched nine months ago, the program requires that mentors and mentees meet at least two times — or two hours minimum — per month. What they have no requirements around is who can mentor whom.

“We have an HR recruiter who is mentoring some engineering managers,” said Nick Guldin, a senior talent partner. “Why? Because her skills are in public speaking, and properly assessing and interviewing job candidates. These are soft skills that many developers want to build. It adds a new dynamic to the program.”

“I like that the program is open that way,” said Mishon. “It helped me, personally, to have a mentor who wasn’t on my team because I was looking for an outside opinion on the problems I was trying to solve; someone who could evaluate my instincts.”

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Mentorship isn’t the only thing ShopRunner does to invest in its employees’ growth. It also provides tuition reimbursement up to $1,500 and sets aside professional development budgets for each employee to use at their discretion, whether to take a course or for admission to a conference.

Throughout the year, ShopRunner also hosts a series of brown bag lunch presentations. Anyone who has become a subject matter expert on relevant concepts or learned a new technology can present and share their knowledge with the rest of the team.

When it comes to hiring practices, ShopRunner puts an emphasis on promoting from within. But with a big hiring push in the works, the company plans to hire 25 new employees by Jan. 1.

“There’s nothing we take pride in more than watching people escalate their careers inside the company,” said Guldin. “When we have great internal talent, we want to build that out. But we’re always looking for great new candidates, especially as we grow. Ultimately, we like to hire people who want to learn.”

Check out career opportunities at ShopRunner -30-
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