When I first started the Codesmith program, I learned that everyone is assigned a mentor for the first half of their program. Because the programs are staggered, this mentor is six weeks ahead of you in the program. I really like this design to the mentor program in Codesmith because it means that your mentor has gone through all the same assignments and lectures as you. Their experience is also very fresh in their minds. My mentor messaged me on Slack a few days before my cohort started. She asked how I was feeling about everything and offered to get on a Zoom call to discuss any issues I might have.
We got to see our mentors on a Zoom call on the very first morning of our cohort. It was encouraging to see my mentor and all the other seniors there. The seniors introduced themselves and us which technologies they would feel most comfortable. I remember feeling a sense of pride that everyone in my cohort seemed to think my mentor was extremely capable.
On the very next night, the seniors presented what they would be working on for the next four weeks – their production projects. The project ideas were very impressive and I remember thinking I had no clue what “React” or “Microservices” were. My cohort mates were in the same boat and we flooded the Zoom chat with comments like “Amazing”, “So cool” and “I know some of these words.”
Each Friday after lunch, we were given time to chat with our mentors over Zoom. The past five days had felt like a whirlwind to me and I was glad to have someone to talk to. In particular, the toughest unit of the first week seemed to be data structures. I spent a long time working through the Binary Search Tree challenges with my pair programming partner. I asked my mentor if she had any advice for how to get better at understanding data structures. She immediately sent a copy of her notes for Binary Search Trees and spent some time answering my questions.
During the second week of Codesmith, we were given our first big challenge – the hackathon. We were each given a pair programming partner and told to build a Chrome Extension. We had 24 hours to build our application from nothing and this was our first chance to show our creativity. I loved seeing all my cohort mates present their creations and cheering them on. The best part was that our seniors were there watching us all present and their energy was amazing. They gave so much positive feedback to every team’s Chrome Extension. We really appreciated the support considering many of us were running on 3-5 hours of sleep after coding the night before. I was so excited to see my mentor type “That’s my mentee!” My partner and I even managed to win 3rd prize in the hackathon – a virtual hug from one of the engineering fellows. The funniest part of that was since we were all in Zoom together, he told everyone else to “turn around because this hug is only for Katty and her partner”.
While I’m very excited about starting my career in software engineering, I’m also nervous about being in a male dominated work environment. To that end, I think it’s great that Codesmith tries to pair each female mentee with a female mentor. It’s encouraging to see someone similar to you succeed. I also felt more comfortable talking to my mentor about how I felt being a female engineer affected my experience. In addition, because Codesmith strives to create very diverse cohorts, I’ve had great opportunities to work with and learn from people who have different backgrounds. I think that as software engineering becomes more diverse, we will see even more people become interested in learning to code and that is a great thing.
After saying goodbye to my mentor and wishing her luck on her job search, I realize that I’m now where she was 6 weeks ago. I have my own mentee and several weeks of working on a production project to work on. I’m excited to help my mentee work through any issues she might have. Perhaps even more exciting than that is the chance to see our juniors present their very first projects.