Junior Mentorship

Rahaul's Journey to Purolator

2020-01-10 Rahul IyerMentee Journeys

In Rahul’s own words…

It was way back in February when I made the big decision to switch from Mechanical Engineering to Data Science. To get started, I sought all kinds of advice from every media source available to me on the internet, even if just to feel like I wasn’t alone on this journey.

Justifying my decision and putting together a plan was my top priority. I distinctly recall a feeling of chaos. Looking back now, it was nothing beyond merely being uncertin in a new field. I had stumbled upon SharpestMinds and with 3 small projects under my belt – I raided their Slack groups looking for feedback and validation for my work.

It was then that Ajay reached out to me on Linkedin with a mentorship opportunity – a sheer stroke of luck that seemed like a free ticket on-top the Hot Tamale Train, all the way to that first job.

From the start, Ajay was well organized in terms of setting up weekly calls and laying out basic concepts in the form of short presentations over Google Hangouts.

The mentorship was structured in layers that could be tracked on a weekly basis and had homework deliverables that were scheduled and monitered using tools like Trello, Slack and Google Calendar. Each call was open ended with plenty of time allotted to free discussions for concept clarification, doubt solving, week-in-review and brainstorming with not just Ajay but also with a fellow mentee who was working on a project with me.

With topics for the week highlighted, a lot of the in-week work was hands-on with a special focus on investigative research to aid coding by trial and error and debugging. Our weekly homework was a great way of monitoring progress and Ajay did an amazing job in directing us towards the right answers and best practices without putting them out outright.

As he put it, the struggle and frustration of making your way to the solution regardless of the roadblocks in between are critical in making you a better programmer

… and I couldn’t agree more.

In terms of accessibility, we could always ask our questions in designated office hours or via slack – be it as a team or in person.

Moreover, we could always afford the option of requesting for pair coding sessions which Ajay was only too happy to conduct for us – again, as a team or even 1v1.

Another big aspect of mentoring someone would be the art of remaining patient and Ajay was great at it! It really made him super approachable and only made my questions better as the mentorship went along.

Note taking was always strongly encouraged, especially in the form of .md files – a sound practice that I still follow on the job, today. As great as the experience was, there is always room for improvement.

A week of cramming in between consecutive weekend calls was a bit stressful and the feeling of being lost was impossible to shake off. I believe that more time between 2 consecutive calls would go a long way in helping the next cohort of mentees digest and assimilate as much information as they can before moving onto newer topics.

Having said that, I do believe that I robbed myself of the full mentorship experience by deciding to take up a job offer in the middle of the mentorship which resulted in less time being available to me to work on the group project.

All in all, Ajay was incredibly gracious in agreeing to mentor me beyond the project time to not only allow me to complete the project at my own pace but also offer advice to enrich my current, on-the-job experience.

Despite my best efforts to think otherwise, I often find myself wondering whether I could have landed a bigger role had I completed the mentorship as planned – but it gives me great comfort nonetheless, knowing that I can always reach out to Ajay for help to eventually get to that level in the not-so-distant future.

I’m still on that train and I suggest you hop on too, ‘coz Ajay’s at the wheel! 😊