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.
Knowledge is power!
Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.