Last Thursday night, I attended the first Meet a Mentor meetup in Sydney as a mentor, which was organised by my friend Georgina from Lookahead Search. The idea of the night was for anyone who was interested in the tech industry to meet people who work in the industry and ask them questions. Each table of students will have two mentors. Attendees will get 12 minutes to ask the mentors at the table any questions. When the time is up, the mentors will move onto a different table. Kind of like speed dating! I really liked the idea and was really excited when I was asked to be a part of it.
The night was held at Metropolitan Hotel. We had 6 tables of attendees and 10 mentors from all kinds of backgrounds (developer, designer, UX, product manager). Most of the attendees were students from Uni/TAFE/intensive courses. Some were people who want to make a change into the tech industry. Lots were discussed that night but I’ll outline the main things I’ve shared with the attendees:
###Networking I’m sure a lot of people have said this already but networking is so important. It’s not really just about knowing people who can help you get that next role in your career. It’s also just meeting like minded people and have people you can turn to when you stumble a problem you can’t solved, because Stackoverflow cannot always be the place you turn to. Networking has definitely helped me. I don’t go out every week to network, but I have been to a few meetups and conferences and through that I met some really cool and interesting people whom I’ve become friends with and they’ve become people I can turn to when I need advice.
###Be nice and genuine The tech industry is small. Everyone knows everyone, and people will remember it if you are a bit of an asshole. So don’t do something you don’t want others to do to you. Don’t go gossiping behind people’s back because it’ll really come back and bite you. Instead, be kind to others around you. And be helpful and genuine when people ask for your help. Even better, be proactive and show your willingness to lend a helping hand even if you’re not asked to do so.
###Put yourself out there People won’t know what you know if you don’t put it out there. So put your work up on Github, FTP it somewhere if need be, do little experiments on Codepen… just have your work online somewhere. Having a blog to write about what you’ve learnt and discovered is another awesome way to show what you know. It’s easy to think, “Oh someone has already written about this so what’s the point of me writing about the same thing”. I used to think that but that has changed. I think writing about your own experience is always worthwhile, and in that there’s probably something that someone else will be able to learn from. I’ve read so many blogposts about creating style guide but I still enjoy reading them. Everyone does something a little different and I can always pick out some new ideas from them, or use them as a way to verify my own ideas.
###Don’t be afraid to ask for help A lot of people I have met are very generous and kind people. They have voluntarily given up their time to help me when I need advice about work, career and sometimes just for a good whinge. So identify those who genuinely want to help you, and when you find them, don’t be afraid to ask them for help directly.
###Be passionate No matter at what stage of your career, I really think showing a passion will make you stand out from the crowd. Show people what you’re interested in, your drive and willingness to learn. I’ve done a few interviews at companies I’ve worked at, and candidates who are passionate are quite infectious. We always ended up having great discussions and it stopped being the same old interview. Skills can be built up, but a lot harder for passion to develop if you don’t already have it.
Talking to the attendees on the night really brought back memories to how I started in tech and the journey I took. I wish there was something like Meet A Mentor when I started. I hope that by sharing my experience, I’m able to help and encourage people who are just starting out, and make that first step a little less scary and daunting for them.
Thank you again to Georgina and Lookahead Search for organising the night. And to the attendees and people who are just starting out, keep at it, keep learning and stay passionate.