Explore real stories of how pairing up our bootcampers with established engineers at Beamery has proven to be mutually beneficial.
At the beginning of October 2021, seven aspiring software engineers started on Beamery’s engineering bootcamp. Over the next four months, they were thrown into learning a variety of technical, people and problem solving skills to enable them to join the Beamery engineering team in early 2022.
From the first week of the program, each bootcamper was paired up with a Beamery mentor to provide technical assistance as well as a friendly ear to listen, help and ease the transition into being a full time Beamerino.
In this article, our Senior Engineering Director, Simon Coutts, sits down with two former bootcampers (Ed Halliwell and Grace Zaborski) and their mentors (Tom Gallacher and Lyndsey Scott) to look back on their experience of being mentees and mentors at Beamery.
Beamery is passionate about mentorship
Simon: Pairing people together to share knowledge and grow is a key part of Beamery’s value to ‘act with kindness’. We were keen to demonstrate to our bootcampers that we live our Beamery values and act on our virtues to ‘make growth a shared responsibility’ and ‘bring out the best in others’.
We wanted to ensure that the bootcampers felt supported so we paired each trainee with an existing Beamery engineer from the first week of the program. We asked the whole engineering team for volunteers and lots of people were keen to step forward — in fact, we had more mentor volunteers than we had bootcamper mentees!
This meant that, right from day one of the program, each bootcamper had a key contact and a friendly face at Beamery who they could go to for questions, advice, technical help or just to chat.
Simon: What did you think when you found out you would be paired up with a Beamery mentor?
Ed: I thought it was really positive for Beamery to pair us up with experienced engineers as our mentors. I knew that the faculty from Academy (who ran the bootcamp) would provide support during the course but this was generally in group or class settings where it’s not always easy to ask for help. Having a mentor meant that there would be someone who I could ask ‘silly’ questions, or someone I could ask about a technical topic and discuss it in depth.
Grace: For me being brand new to the company, having someone already at Beamery gave me the chance to ask about the company and familiarise myself with the teams and the people across the business before ‘officially’ starting in an engineering team.
Simon: What made you want to volunteer to be a mentor?
Tom: Having mentored before, and been a mentee myself in the past, I knew how important and beneficial this interaction can be. As a mentee, it helped me find my feet in a new company with new processes, and it gave me an opportunity to grow and challenge my own development. As a mentor, it offers similar challenges and growth potential. Crucially, I love mentoring as it can provide different perspectives on the day-to-day that can be lost as you progress in your career.
Lyndsey: I have really benefited from mentoring at Beamery, as well as outside of the company. The team I joined, when I finished my bootcamp (a couple of years ago), were so great and struck a great balance between being supportive and pushing me. It helped me develop my skills and confidence much more quickly. Outside of work, I had a mentor through Code First Girls and I became a mentor myself with them just before the Beamery bootcamp started.
Discussing things with someone who had gone through the same things as me in their role made me feel heard. And there were definitely situations I found myself in where I wouldn’t have been able to navigate through them as well as I had without a mentor’s guidance — I really wanted to pass that on.
Simon: How often did you meet during the program and now it’s over? What did you talk about?
Ed: Tom and I met up weekly during the Academy course between October and January. Mostly, we would catch up on the things we were working on in the bootcamp at the time and Tom would help me with some code examples and explanations to help round out the material. It was great to get a second (much more experienced!) pair of eyes on the code I was writing.
What I found most helpful was going in depth on something we were covering as part of the course, such as testing. Deciding how best to write tests can be a little subjective, so it was really helpful to be able to ask Tom to explain, with real world examples, how Beamery approaches testing. As well as drawing on his own experience, Tom also suggested useful reading to help fill in any other gaps.
The engineering team I moved into after the program is very supportive so I get plenty of technical help. Tom and I have kept our one to one meetings, though we now do them fortnightly instead of weekly and they’re often about areas of development — with Tom recommending reading material that would be helpful or a specific technical topic.
Tom: As Ed mentioned, we typically met up every week, and we would usually start chatting through anything that was the focus within the Bootcamp that week, diving a bit deeper or discussing how it translated into what Beamery was doing. We would also use the Bootcamp content or problems as a jumping off point to discuss wider best practices on that topic in the industry, calling out the constant balance that is played in order to ensure the engineering approach is reliable and pragmatic.
Beyond the technical discussions, we would also make time to chat through normal life stuff; a large aspect of the relationship of the mentor/mentee is exactly that — a relationship. It can’t be a chore and must be a safe, supportive place where everyone can grow and overcome problems. As a result of the relationship we built, we still catch up even though the program has now concluded.
Grace: During the program, Lyndsey and I had a recurring weekly meeting. Most of the time was spent working through technical problems together but we also discussed other challenges I faced, like exploring my areas of interest, learning about Beamery, feeling more confident as an engineer and exploring ‘Lyndsey-approved’ networks and resources. Now, we still meet ad-hoc whenever I have questions or need support.
Lyndsey: Bootcamps can be intense at times so it was really important to me to make just a general safe space in sessions that Grace could come to and speak about whatever was on her mind — be it a technical problem, career stuff or just a general chance to chat or vent.
We spent most of our time on technical problems or the course content each week. Now the program is over, I am really happy we still get to have ad-hoc sessions where we can still go through anything together or have a catch up and coffee.
Simon: What would you say is the best thing about having a mentor?
Grace: Having a mentor has helped me feel really well supported throughout my journey. Having a fellow ex-bootcamper as a mentor especially helped me feel I can always reach out when I needed support.
Ed: I agree, having a mentor definitely made me feel supported, and having someone I felt I could go to for help was really important. Tom’s wealth of experience as well as his patience in explaining things meant I got (and still get) loads from our meetings together.
Simon: What would you say has been your biggest learning from being a mentor?
Lyndsey: I think realising that everyone will experience a situation differently and to always make sure that they feel seen and heard. Also, striking the balance between “I want to tell you the answer” and “I know you have the ability to find the answer yourself”.
Tom: Remembering that as a mentor you have more to offer than just the factual knowledge you have on certain topics. Being able to share your experiences and learnings from your own path and career can be just as — sometimes more — valuable. And for any potential future mentors, especially if you have imposter syndrome that is common in our industry, being a mentor is a great way to push through that barrier to help yourself build confidence in your experiences whilst also helping out mentees grow — and hopefully avoid this — in the future.
Simon: What’s next? Will you volunteer to be a mentor in future?
Grace: Absolutely! Starting on a journey to become a software engineer can be very daunting. I would love to pass on everything I have learned on my journey so far to any future mentees. Software engineers come from all backgrounds so I’d also be excited to gain new perspectives and solve new challenges with my future mentees.
Ed: Absolutely. After the positive experience I had, I think it’s really important to try and make sure that future bootcampers (and all employees at Beamery) feel supported at the company.
Tom: Of course. I find the process very interesting and rewarding, as everyone has different perspectives and thus encounters different challenges. As well as being able to help someone grow and overcome these challenges, it offers a wide range of opportunities to learn and grow as a mentor as well.
Lyndsey: Of course! I really loved being part of the bootcamp again and I second what Tom says — I definitely learnt a lot from Grace as her mentor.
Simon: What advice would you have for people looking to become a mentor?
Tom: Everyone has something of value to pass on: we can learn something from any experience that we’ve all had in this industry. And the fact that everyone has a different journey is something alone that can be reassuring for mentees to hear.
Lyndsey: Don’t worry about not being experienced or qualified enough! I think a lot of people put off mentoring because they feel like they need to know everything. There is almost always good advice or support you can provide to people, so just be honest and be yourself. If you want to get involved, organisations like The Access Project, Codebar, Coding Black Females, Black Valley and Black Codher (and many others) are always looking for mentors.
Simon: What advice would you have for future mentees?
Grace: Always reach out when you’re feeling overwhelmed — your needs don’t have to be technical. A lot of our meetings didn’t involve clear problems or solutions; sometimes it felt more like peer-coaching and it was just helpful to be each other’s sounding boards.
Ed: When going into a mentor meeting, it’s worth thinking about areas of interest you could ask about or areas of growth you think you could work on to make sure you get the most from each session and make the best use of your time together.
The Beamery bootcamp is back in 2023 with a new intake of budding engineers — find out more and sign up for this year’s program.
Mentorship, just like other career growth opportunities, such as projects, rotations and learning, are essential to the development of employees. At Beamery, we believe in supporting the development of all our staff, and mentorship is a key component of that goal — but it’s not something only available to our engineering bootcampers. We recently used our own tool, Beamery Grow, to match mentors and mentees in the wider engineering department and saw fantastic interest and engagement across the organisation.
Beamery Grow helps employees easily find and connect with mentors across the company, and it will be able to intelligently recommend mentors to mentees based on their interests and career needs. It also helps employees find all types of development and internal mobility opportunities within a company. We’re excited about the opportunities that Beamery Grow will bring for our people and, by democratising access to mentors for all employees, we are staying true to Beamery’s value to make growth a shared responsibility.
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