"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" - George Eliot
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and many people started losing their jobs, I wanted to help in any way I could. And mentoring other women trying to get into tech was one way.
I had just landed a new job after having been laid off, so my experience being a female interviewing for engineering roles was fresh.
By personally sharing this and my prior experiences, I provided these women hope while they navigated their job search, college, and new roles. My biggest realization mentoring this year was that I didn’t need to have it all figured out myself to start helping others.
I hope that by sharing the little ways I was able to help, it encourages someone to lend a helping hand. I truly believe mentoring is a small step forward towards gaining and retaining women in tech.
Why I Started Mentoring
I started mentoring in 2019, a couple of months after landing my first software engineering role, because I wanted to help others.
Getting into tech was a long journey for me and the people that helped me along the way were invaluable. I wanted to be that person for someone else.
I want to lift others up as I advance in my career. My long term goal is to build an organization that helps underrepresented women find a career they will love.
How to Start Mentoring
You don’t need years of experience to start helping someone. I started mentoring a few months after landing my first dev role.
I don’t always have the answers, but I can share my experiences, what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. It's never too early or late to start helping.
Here’s how I started mentoring and how others might to:
- I created a profile on CodingCoach.io
- A friend asked if I wanted to give career advice to someone in their network
- I answered thoughtful emails from students who had read my blog posts
- At work, I communicated with my boss that I was interested in mentoring
How I Supported My Mentees
“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained.” – Shawn Hitchcock
Support came in many ways. It was easy to empathize with them because I had just finished going through the job interview process and started a new role remotely.
I supported my mentees by:
- Giving them career advice from the perspective of a female minority in tech
- Sharing tech resources (like upcoming virtual conferences, events, books, and so on)
- Offering words of encouragement
- Doing résumé reviews for them
- Doing practice mock interviews to help them prepare for actual interviews
I continue to meet with most of them biweekly for 30 minutes during my lunch breaks.
The Need to Shift Negatives to Positives
Many of my mentees had negative thoughts and feelings which seemed pretty natural given the nature of this year.
I didn’t want to let the negativity overtake my mentorship experience so I shifted the negatives to positives:
How we shifted our perspectives
Here are some tips to help you turn negativity into positivity:
How Mentoring Has Been Valuable to Me
Mentoring has been valuable to me in so many ways. It has:
- Helped me understand what others who have a similar background are struggling with
- Kept me in the loop of how new engineers are being onboarded at other companies
- Reminded me where I’ve come from especially as a woman in tech
- Allowed me to give back to the tech community
- Helped me manage my time and energy
- Kept me humble
A Warm Welcome to These Resilient Women
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being. “ -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Finally, I want to share what my mentees were able to accomplish at the start of the pandemic. I hope they have been able to celebrate because we are raising a toast and are excited to have them join the world of tech.
These women were dealing with the extra uncertainty that the pandemic caused, and the constant chaos around us hasn't seemed promising.
Through their hard work and resilience they were able to land their first full time developer roles or continue their education through this tough job market and drastic life changes.
Stephanie Aurelio - (Frontend Developer) Recent Bootcamp grad
Stephanie graduated from the UCLA Extension bootcamp in March and started job searching during the pandemic.
New to the world of tech and its interview process, she asked me for some guidance on what to expect and how to possibly prepare.
She studied extremely hard, worked on side projects, and kept pushing through the interviews to land her first frontend developer role soon after graduating!
Kaya Chou - (Software Engineer) Recent Computer Science grad
Kaya graduated from undergrad this spring from Simmons University. She asked for my help to review her résumé and wanted to learn about my experience with job interviewing.
I remember one early Saturday morning when we reviewed her résumé and she was quick to update it. She even designed and built her own template and shared it with me! Kaya immediately landed her first full time software engineering role.
Maitri Shah - (Software Engineer) NerdWallet new college grad employee
Maitri started her first full time software engineer role at NerdWallet after graduating from UC Berkeley this spring. I had the pleasure of onboarding her in May.
She has been extremely adaptive, focused, and proactive. It's been exciting seeing her excel at work during her first couple of months at NerdWallet and she's already taking leadership in so many different ways.
Yesenia Galindo - Computer Science student
Yesenia recently transferred to California State University - Dominguez Hills from a community college. The transition this year of going virtual was challenging but she has been resilient and staying proactive in getting prepared for the job search once she graduates next spring.
She has been working on her personal website, keeping up with her résumé, and we have been doing mock interviews to get her familiar with the new grad interview process.
I am so grateful to have been able to mentor these women in 2020. And I just used the extra time I gained from not having to commute to work with them.
Next year my focus will be on:
- Learning from my mentees. How has mentorship helped them? What hasn’t been working?
- Exploring ways I can expand my mentorship to a larger audience
- Mentoring a new engineer at work
- Mentoring people from different backgrounds outside of work
Let’s Continue Leading the Way
As women in tech, we still have work to do to continue building the path for future generations. Even mentoring one person can make all the difference in the world.
We’re on our way to gender equality. To see Kamala Harris become the first woman and woman of color as vice president in 2020 is something to remember and fuel us.
Just as we all have something to learn, we all have something to teach.
Let’s be friends on Twitter. Happy Coding :)
“There is strength in numbers and the numbers representing women in tech are not currently in our favor—yet. Every unique challenge brings an opportunity to do something about it. Being a woman in tech is a badge of honor. Wear it proud, loud and continue to do the hard work to help lead the way for others." Even if you're uncomfortable inciting change at your own company, there are plenty of ways to make a difference.’ - Michelle Wingard