Reflecting on Mentorship

[ learning  ]

Someone asked me today who my mentors have been, and it was an unexpected opportunity to reflect on who’s helped shape my career. Thinking back, I knew immediately that it wasn’t mentorship in a specific technology or career path that made a difference, but more generally in a way of working.

Getting Started

At my first job in tech, I was fortunate to be part of a team with some really great people (including one who continues to hold the title of Best Human. We all agreed, nobody will change our minds). They were sharp technologists, but that wasn’t what left an impression.

They were eager collaborators - always ready to share knowledge or learn from someone else. They made it okay to ask questions. They supported people as individuals, and in turn we all supported our teammates and team to succeed. They listened to me, even as a brand-new QA engineer. I had the freedom to try new things, and they trusted me to take ownership over quality and testing initiatives. And they chose, always, to build the right things the right way, even if it meant more work.

My experience with that team helped inform the way I like to work today. I love finding the pain points and figuring out how to iterate and improve. I enjoy doing the work that supports people and teams to do their best work. I’ve taken on projects beyond my role and been successful, simply because nobody ever told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t. I believe in supporting people as people first, and that doing so is what leads to success for teams and companies.

So to my first team, thank you - for your support when I was a wee newbie, for your mentorship, and for showing me early what’s important about the work we do. TMNT always ❤️

Present Day

I came back to this question of who my mentors are during a bout of insomnia last night. And I realized that while the mentors I had in the beginning of my career were on a close-knit team together, many the people who have influenced me later in my career actually don’t even know me.

I originally joined Twitter as a way to network locally when I was enrolled in a coding bootcamp back in 2015. In the years since, I’ve realized the benefits of joining this worldwide platform and the way it’s enabled me to from people outside my immediate sphere. I’ve connected, talked with, and learned from some people who have been really foundational and inspiring in quality and testing.

But the people who have impacted me the most don’t just talk about testing. They talk about our industry as a whole - how it is, how it could be, and how we can do the work to make it better. They think out loud and learn in public. They have different experiences and perspectives and areas of expertise, but the common thread is that they prioritize the human side of tech - both the people building tech and the people impacted by it.

Learning from this group isn’t just about adopting their ideas without consideration. It’s about opportunities to examine new ideas and bring in experiences that are different than my own. It’s about expanding my worldview. It’s about asking questions and reflecting. Why is this important? How does it fit into my existing assumptions? How can it change me? How can I dig deeper around the subject and move foreward with it?

These mentors aren’t all managers, but they’re a large part of why I became interested in a manager’s career path. I hope to be the manager I want to see in the world. I’ve realized that while I like the hands-on work of being a QA engineer, what I really enjoy is doing the work a level or two above that. The kind of work that enables other people to do their hands-on work with less churn and stress. I want to be the kind of person who helps the company and people around me to understand the human side of tech, and to prioritize those needs.

To the people who don’t know that they’re my mentors - thank you for asking the questions and having the conversations that have showed me the importance of prioritizing people, working with compassion, and doing my part to create meaningful change.

I’m listing them here so that other folks can hopefully find the same benefits that I have in learning how to be a better human in tech. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a core group of folks who have consistently impacted me over the years.

  • Ash Coleman
  • Ashley Hunsberger
  • Tatiana Mac
  • Marco Rogers
  • Karla Monterroso
  • Aubrey Blanche
  • Lina Zubyte
  • Mekka Okereke
  • Aniyia Williams
  • Danielle Leong
  • Erica Baker
  • Leslie Miley
  • Lara Hogan
  • Nicole Sanchez
  • Brian Liles
  • Duretti Hirpa
  • Kristy Tillman
  • Cate Huston
  • Mina Markham
  • Jez Humble
  • Meri Williams
  • Jason Wong
Written on November 20, 2020