Have you ever felt lost or struggled to decide which topic to focus on when learning a new programming language, framework, or about a specific job market? Well, if you have, you're not alone. If you also had a difficult time finding people, especially women, who have similar interests or are going through similar career challenges. you might want to stay and get to know a bit more about my experience at Women Who Code London and how it's been nothing short of a life-changer for me.
My First Attempt to Be a Mentee
Last year, I applied to become a mentee with Women Who Code London, hoping to find guidance in iOS development. To my disappointment, there were no mentors in this domain for that particular cycle at the time.
Despite not having a chance to join the program, I still wanted to be part of the community. An opportunity presented itself when I stumbled upon an announcement of a meeting for new volunteers seeking to contribute their skills and time. Without hesitation, I decided to participate, and after this meeting, I had the pleasure of getting to know Eleonora Belova, who would soon become my guide, task assigner, and a great inspiration for me in this community. Among so many of their projects, coincidentally, I started helping to improve the mentorship program, assisting with catch-ups, and handling various organizational aspects. It was a great time helping them with each task and being actively engaged in collaborating with fellow members.
Time flew by, and a couple of months passed when an exciting opportunity arose — the opening of submissions for the new cycle of the mentorship program. This time, to my surprise, there were mentors available for iOS development, so I applied for them. Meanwhile, as a listener, I took the initiative to participate in the mentors' panel discussions. This allowed me to connect with these experienced professionals, gaining insights into their approaches and philosophies. The opportunity to network with mentors was invaluable, as it helped me understand their perspective on mentoring a bit more and be a little more prepared for my upcoming sessions as a mentee.
Finally — a Mentor!
The moment I received that acceptance email informing me that I had been chosen for mentoring sessions with my now mentor, Ana Nogal, it filled me with excitement! Little did I know that this opportunity would align perfectly with a pivotal moment in my life as I prepared for a significant move to a new country — coincidentally (or not) Ana was currently living in.
Ana, my mentor (spoiler alert!), has become the best mentor I could have asked for. Besides her having a great professional background, she also has lived in three different countries and knows how to speak three languages. I mean, it is not every day that we get to know people with this incredible experience, right? The moment I learned of her background, I couldn't help but be so glad thinking of how many ideas we could exchange since I'm an immigrant myself and the fact that she could share with me a lot about the current job market in Barcelona.
Well, now let's get to work! In the first session, we agreed to be a get-to-know one where we would also set the goals, as WWCode recommends. We talked a bit about our professional paths and, most importantly, where I would like to get in the next few months. What are the specific areas I would like to focus on, and which are the weak aspects I need help with to strengthen? In my case, I was eager to understand how the unit test works! Up until then, I had seen plenty of content about it but never felt confident enough to follow through with any tutorial. The point was I didn't know even where to start!
Ana took on the role and explained to me very patiently some of the key concepts we needed to grasp before diving into practical coding. We planned some weeks forward as well, having in mind that I would need to read and give myself some time to digest these concepts and discuss with her; then, we could start practicing with some exercises and, at the end, work on a more complex project involving unit tests.
Our sessions occurred weekly. We started by doing some exercises of [Kata] (https://codingdojo.org/kata/), some as simple as the Fibonacci Sequence, Leap Year, and FizzBuzz, then getting into a little more complicated ones such as Roman Numerals and Tic Tac Toe projects. This last one, it's worth mentioning that we developed a whole project with TDD (Test Driven Design) and used an extendable UI to allow users to get the game a bit more complex. We also took some time to dedicate our sessions to discussing improvements that I could make on my page on Linkedin and in my portfolio on GitHub. You can see a sneak peek of it [here](https://github.com/marinaaguiar)!
Some of the aspects happened just as planned, while others took unexpected turns! As life happens, there were some weeks that I needed more attention to a topic that was not clicking right away, so we needed to slow down and repeat some exercises or concepts to fix that in my mind. Other times, I had bursts of productivity where I could show progress in more than one project at the same time for us to analyze a specific feature and compare the cases in different contexts. And other times… well, life happens… There were sessions where I only needed some time to decompress. Sessions transformed into moments of introspection and motivation.
Looking at my progress, I can say I'm really proud of us! Yes, it's about us! Because we are learning and doing this together. Each decision of where to focus on is usually discussed and taken by me at the end. Still, it is great to have someone who can dedicate their time to listen to you and help you with a “few” lines of code or big professionals’ life struggles. In practical terms, I can see how far I came from struggling with the basics of unit testing and not knowing anything about SwiftUI (another topic we investigated during the sessions) to create a whole structure around how to make a project completely testable using SwiftUI. Of course, there still is a lot to learn… well, there always is; however, we do need to recognize each step!
My journey with Women Who Code London has been a transformative experience, from initially seeking mentorship to becoming an active volunteer and ultimately being a mentee in the program. The support, guidance, and sense of belonging I've found here have been instrumental in my personal and professional growth. I am profoundly thankful for this incredible opportunity, extending my gratitude to all the dedicated volunteers who made it all possible.
Last but not least, a special thanks to Ana, who has generously dedicated her time and expertise to guide me on this! I really hope we keep learning with each other.