Sixes Mentoring

We’ve seen meetups and workshops aplenty in the tech community, but a formal community mentoring program? That’s something we haven’t seen much of before. We think it’s important to support and to engage deeply, so we’re going to learn how to run a formal community mentoring program.

The idea:

  • Hold free private workshops to a handful of developers in the community who want to advance their skills in the .NET and Azure space
  • Hone in on technical and non-technical skills that are required for developers to move into leadership positions
  • Facilitate sessions with experts in small presentations, discussions and workshop style training
  • Create close to real-world experiences by building out an architectural challenge
  • Staying in touch, mentoring and ongoing support over Slack

But first let’s dig into mentee demographics

We capped mentees at a total of 10 participants for impactful connections. Our mentee’s professional backgrounds are a small cross-section of .NET companies in the Brisbane market, including two graduates. And we’re happy to share we have a 50:50 gender ratio.

How we started the program

We kicked off with a Meet & Greet session. This session was important for many reasons 1) For everyone to meet face to face and 2) To agree expectations. Mentoring programs can fall over if expectations aren’t set and aligned early on.

The content of the workshops?

We surveyed our mentees and had them complete a coding puzzle to understand their goals and discover strengths and gaps. We found recurring themes in the group and built our training workshops around them.

The two sessions we’ve run so far have been:

First session: Pick a stack any stack

How to select, evaluate and get to know the technologies to help you solve the problem at hand with James Webster.  

This session encouraged mentees to think deeply about how to pick technology for the various elements of the software they are building. James started with a discussion about software architecture; its definition, who practices it, and how intentionally thinking about software architecture supports the development of systems with better features and fewer bugs.

We discussed how software architecture leads us to think about constraints, qualities, trade-offs, and risks and how technology selection is influenced by all of these. James shared ideas from Dan McKinley’s essay ‘Choose Boring Technology’ and how this can help us balance the desire to work with new shiny tech, versus delivering a working system, with maybe not so shiny things.

This session is also where we introduce our architectural challenge. The idea being for mentees to think about solutions and propose them in the next session in small group discussions. Mentors interact in small groups as different roles, they could be a colleague you’re trying to win over, or a CTO you’re having a technical negotiation with. We’re endeavoring to create as close to real-world experiences for developers to practice with. This session was led by our CTO of Cloud Ctrl, Steven Townsend.

Second session: Patterns for success

Code separation and other SOLID pieces to solve the happy software puzzle with Shaw Innes.

We started this session by breaking into small groups to discuss the architectural choices mentees had made in the challenge. The session digs into explaining why patterns are important to software developers.

Shaw talked about common design patterns used by developers and shared a visual explanation of the SOLID principles. Mentors facilitated interactive small group discussions around other design patterns. Shaw challenged mentees to think about how they could use patterns in other aspects of their jobs such as CI/CD, Team Structure, and infrastructure automation.

Steve Townsend posed a new feature and prompted mentees to start thinking about gathering requirements for this to build on their architectural challenge.

So far:

We’ve had some great feedback and it’s been rewarding for us getting this program off the ground. We’ve built a lot of content and had some great two-way learning. In our next session we’re interested to see how moving the group mentoring to a virtual connection (due to COVID-19) influences the experience. When we reach the halfway mark we’re keen to share what has worked, as well as the things that haven’t worked so well.

If you’re keen to join us as a mentee, find our ‘Mentoring’ web page to stay in the loop for future cohorts. Hopefully, working together we can add some great value to the tech community.

About us: We’re a group of people who love building great software. We’re thoughtful about the projects we take on and like working with people who want to do good, and do better. We think software works best when developers can see the big picture and are trusted to work autonomously. We’re here to guide your team on best practices building software and put your future roadmaps within reach. We are the Pivots of SixPivot.