woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

The importance of mentoring: Lifting up junior developers

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Article by Pauliina Paynter, Software Developer at Reaktor

It’s no secret software development is fast becoming one of the most attractive and lucrative career paths in modern industry right now.

Having the chance to be creative and make a valuable impact to a business is a huge draw – but in recent times there’s a paradox surfacing which needs to be addressed.

The tech industry’s biggest catch 22 is that all companies are in desperate need of skilled and experienced developers to help them bring their products and vision to life, but they aren’t willing to train people from scratch. With the mighty corporate giants able to tempt engineers away with big rewards and salaries, the brain drain and subsequent skills gap is large. That being said – those firms in need of skills will still shy away from raw talent in the form of juniors in their recruitment search. This isn’t a wise move; we can’t forget that every developer has to start somewhere, and training them from the ground up through mentoring can bridge the skills gap over time. The key is to look for someone possessing core skills and character attributes which can signal someone has the right personality to potentially succeed at the job.

I started my career as a software developer five years ago, following a successful stint as a communications consultant. It was working with a tech company that piqued my interest in this field, and led me to attend the Australian bootcamp, General Assembly, to kickstart my new career.

Whichever way you choose to start your journey in software engineering, there are many different routes to train up. What’s key, however, is the need for mentoring so that all team members – juniors and seniors alike – can grow and thrive in the industry.

Why mentoring shouldn’t be overlooked

Mentoring is an incredibly important part of anyone’s professional career, yet it can be so easily overlooked. Having only been in this industry for 5 years, I can distinctly remember the panic at the beginning of my first job and working with senior developers helped quash my imposter syndrome. Of course, many people experience this and for me it’s important to remember how hard it is in the beginning and reach out to offer that support to those who are starting out too.

Having mentors gives junior employees a confidence boost. It creates environments that allow for free conversations and open communication – and ultimately, psychological safety so that everyone can voice their opinions freely, without fear of being judged. Starting a career in coding is a huge wake-up call, in terms of your confidence and resilience. You are constantly being knocked down and pushed back to the starting square. You’re not going to get the code right every single time, there will be bugs, and it will break. But having someone there to help you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and continue on helps tremendously. You need to be resilient as a coder, and mentoring provides that support.

How senior developers can lift up juniors

Having mentors-mentees benefits both parties greatly, especially when it comes to boosting less experienced members of the team and providing that extra layer of counsel. For junior employees, working with a more senior developer opens up many new doors. They instantly have an expert in the field showing them what they can improve upon, new ways of problem solving and different ways of thinking. It’s a wealth of knowledge right at their side, able to give fresh insights and advice whenever it’s needed.

By stretching junior developers with more difficult projects, paired with expert guidance from their senior peers, they will learn as much as possible in the shortest space of time and continue to grow. And the benefits are twofold – not only are the less experienced developers growing, but the mentor team learn how to explain complex topics in a simple, easy to digest way as well as having an extra pair of eyes to check work and create smoother processes.

I’m incredibly lucky to have had amazing mentors throughout my career so far and I wouldn’t be here without them. Companies need to continue to invest in providing mentorship programmes across teams so that developers continue to be inspired, challenged and nurtured. It’s important to invest in potential and put in place the right structures to allow our junior team mates to thrive in this exciting, fast-paced world of software development.

Pauliina PaynterAbout the author

Pauliina Paynter is a software developer at Reaktor and also a former communications professional. Her mission is to share her enthusiasm about coding and to encourage everyone to dive in to the world of programming despite their background or field.


In Her Shoes: Shivangi Das | Software Developer, DWP Digital

Shivangi DasI am a software developer at DWP Digital. I have a bachelor’s in computer science and achieved a masters in Machine Learning last year.

I started coding for a living in 2014 and have loved it since. Before DWP Digital, I have worked on a Wealth management app (where I developed an interest in investing) and video analytics using artificial intelligence. At my current position, I work on building and supporting applications used in DWP and by millions of people that need them.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My workday begins with checking my to-do list while eating breakfast and checking up on messages and mail before the stand-up meeting. I make to-dos at the end of the day to allow me to completely switch off thinking about work when I close my laptop. There’s lots of stretching and moving around involved before and during work, combined with snacks. I usually go for a walk or run right after work.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes! I do it quite often, always at the end of a project, towards the end of a year or half-year. I also find it helpful to discuss my development with managers and mentors. As an example, I have recently started thinking about whether I want to stay in a more developer-oriented position or look at managerial roles. When talking about it with my manager, they shared a lot of their personal experience and also directed me to useful resources.

What do you love about working for DWP Digital?

I joined DWP Digital recently and was impressed by the anonymous hiring process. This is evidenced by the diversity of my colleagues I get the opportunity to work with. DWP Digital is also doing a wonderful job of involving everyone in the conversation. I love getting to use the latest technologies, working with amazing and helpful colleagues and of course, the scale of impact is very humbling.

Plus, I get great appreciation for every piece of work.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Being an introvert and sometimes being the only woman at the table has been a challenge in previous jobs. I had to learn to speak louder, learn to say, “I was speaking”, stop apologising for everything and put forth my ideas with conviction. I also had some amazing mentors that were very supportive.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Yes! I have so many mentors to thank for encouraging me to try new technologies, take up new opportunities and open gates for more. My masters last year was sponsored by the British Council India. I started my journey into AI because one of my mentors appreciated my side projects in AI. One of my coaches from my time in a month-long Developer Academy encouraged me to become more confident when speaking publicly.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

I do believe in the power of networking however as an introvert, casual networking does not work for me. I forge relationships with people I meet and like at tech events like women in tech, women developers academy, tech communities like TechLadies, Women in Digital (DWP) or am introduced to through other people.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

Start before you think you’re ready because you’ll never be ready, and you don’t have to be. Learning on the job is a skill we already have and is all that is required in the beginning.

What does the future hold for you?

Currently, I’m enjoying my work a lot and working towards financial freedom in the next ten years. This means being very involved with my money- having a budget, investing, saving for emergencies, making clear goals for every half year. It is a little scary but also extremely satisfying.


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Vacancy Spotlight: Software Engineer (Full Stack) | Elliptic

Elliptic logo

At Elliptic, we believe cryptocurrency will play a huge role in the future of value transfer, and we care deeply about helping to build this future.

In order for cryptocurrency to flourish, it’s important to prevent criminal abuse of the technology. Elliptic is the global leader in detecting, preventing, and pursuing criminal activity in cryptocurrencies. Our clients include the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges, financial institutions and government agencies.

Our unique platform gives us an unparalleled understanding of cryptocurrency capital flows, using a combination of network science and machine learning to aggregate and interpret vast quantities of transaction data. We provide anti-money laundering (AML) compliance software and investigative services to the leading participants in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Customers rely on us to analyse more than $150bn of their transactions every month, and include cryptocurrency businesses, major financial institutions, and federal government agencies.

The company has offices in London, UK, New York City, Singapore and Tokyo. We are backed by SBI Group, Albion VC, Octopus Ventures, SignalFire, Paladin Capital, Santander InnoVentures, and Digital Currency Group.

Software Engineers at Elliptic:

  • Take pleasure from clean code and see writing tests as core to software engineering
  • Are an integral part of the product discovery process and work closely with product managers, designers, and Elliptic’s customer base
  • Use data to make decisions about what to build and how to iterate
  • Measure their successes with usage data rather than release milestones
  • Are not afraid to fail, experiment often and learn quickly
  • Are keen to learn new technologies and challenge existing tools, methodologies, processes
  • Ship code to production every day

In a typical week you will:

  • Work in a fast, lean, Kanban environment with minimal process overheads
  • Be involved in product discovery, helping to figure out what your customers need
  • Build those things and ship them to production
  • Review the code of your peers, and test that it works
  • Participate in various “chapter” debates about new ideas and interesting tech
  • Support your software on production

Requirements:

  • 5+ years of experience in Software Engineering
  • You enjoy working across the entire stack, from infrastructure to css
  • You have built production scale applications with Node.js, Typescript and React
  • You take responsibility for the quality of your output and are opinionated about testing

Benefits:

  • Competitive salary
  • Share options
  • Private health insurance & wellness incentive programmes
  • Strong focus on personal development with $1,000 per annum personal training budget & LinkedIn Learning subscription
  • Collaborative, flexible and friendly environment with options for remote working
  • Social events which include monthly team lunch on us, quarterly full day events and an annual company 3 day event
  • Being part of a business with a purpose, working with a passionate team of mission-driven people who’ll stretch and challenge you

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