25-Nov-2013 by Allison McMillan

Read Time: Approx. 3 minutes

Encouraging new Software Developers- Day 3, Session 1

For this session, I went to Kinsey’s session on becoming a software engineer. Kinsey is a newer developer and did a great job on her talk!! The talk was closely related to my lightning talk and discusses apprentice programs and what has really helped her become a software engineer along the way. Among other things, she talked about how Thoughtbot’s apprentice program really helped her learn and grow and discussed ways other companies can think about apprentice programs.

TL;DR: More interesting thoughts on mentorship and qualities of an effective mentor and my personal opinion on the proliferation of bootcamps.

Kinsey spoke of outreach and how the RailsBridge program truly changed her life. For me, my first introduction to coding was through Rails Girls so I agree that outreach and new programs coming into existence are important in order to expose people to what they can achieve. She also spoke about mentorship and the importance of that (which I obviously believe in). She noted some important aspects of an effective mentor are someone who can explain complex concepts simply, someone with an awareness of both themselves and the mentee, and finally, someone who has patience.

Finally, she spoke about her progression and the tools she and Thoughtbot used to help her grow. These included weekly retrospectives, pairing, and empathy. This talk was a great talk. I think the room was mostly filled with people who do want to mentor and want to help support newer developers which was great and the room was pretty filled, showing the level of dedication in the ruby community to support each other and help newer people just getting into the industry.

One side note that I’m compelled to mention related to new apprentice and bootcamp programs opening is the recognition that not everyone can do one of these programs. I think these programs are fantastic and I’ve met great people who have been a part of these programs. One challenge I’ve seen, however, is the expectation that if you haven’t done a bootcamp or apprentice program then you’re a riskier candidate for a job. Recently, when I talk about learning to code on my own, everyone asks me about participating in a bootcamp program, especially given how many are opening these days. These programs, while increasing some of the diversity concerns in the technology community, are still out of reach for many. A bootcamp’s tuition and living expense, as well as the requirement to move someplace for a few months can be out of reach for many. Oftentimes being part of an apprentice program requires those same sacrifices especially since often you are expected to stay in the same area after a bootcamp or apprentice program. There are merits to learning in a bootcamp-style environment however I hope those of us who have taken a different path but put in the same amount of time and dedication will still be considered as strong candidates for the same companies recruiting new hires out of these institutions.

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