Pauliina Paynter is an active member of Inklusiiv and the Level Up community for women who code and co-hosts the Koodikahvit podcast. She’s incredibly passionate about equality issues in IT and ensuring that everyone feels welcome in the software industry, irrespective of their background. Here is why she thinks mentoring in the tech industry is so important.
How did you become a developer?
I suppose I took the less traditional route as a developer in that I didn’t study computer science at the degree level. Instead, I got a Master’s in Communications from Bond University and started my career as a communications consultant for IndustryHack and Miltton – I then took the leap into software development. I initially took part in a coding bootcamp at General Assembly, so I am a big ambassador for these types of courses as a career-changing path.
Why is mentoring in the tech industry so important?
Mentorship is ultimately a win-win relationship. Juniors are exposed to higher-level concepts and processes, which can provoke interest in certain areas of the industry and encourage career progression. They also can ask questions freely and develop a firm understanding of what a career as a developer can look like in a more senior position.
There are also significant benefits for the mentor. Explaining and simplifying a complex matter can provide clarity, allow for a second pair of eyes on a problem and make the process smoother.
How can individuals and companies help junior developers become senior?
Ensuring the smooth development of a junior developer into a senior one has a lot to do with trusting their raw abilities and allowing them to be challenged so that they can progress. It’s important that junior developers be pushed out of their comfort zone as this is the best way to improve. This is particularly important in the coding industry as there is a tendency to get stuck in similar, repetitive tasks that don’t allow for progression and skill development.
Notably, having an effective mentor for those in junior roles can go a long way. It comes down to creating an environment where people aren’t afraid to ask questions, however minor. Fostering an environment as such encourages juniors to improve through being inquisitive, which then encourages a better understanding of, and engagement with the role.
How can experienced developers support marginalised groups and help them start their careers?
The most important way to support marginalised groups is to put mechanisms in place to instil them with the confidence to kickstart their career and progress in an industry. We often see those in marginalised groups have trouble trusting their technical skills due to this lack of confidence and feeling as though they have to work harder to prove their skills are of an adequate level.
The best way to approach this problem is by having mentorship, peer groups and other styles of support systems. This way, a company can foster an open environment where junior team members feel empowered to speak their minds and ask any burgeoning questions.
That’s not to say that having these support systems in place prevents any difficulties – coding is hard, and you won’t always get it right on the first go. But ensuring everyone feels supported during these times is the best way to circumvent anyone not feeling confident in their ability or potential. It’s great to see more and more bootcamps emerging, such as Code First Girls, to support women in this way as they empower young women and open up opportunities they might not have previously considered.
How can developers stand out?
Having what it takes to be a ‘brilliant developer’ can depend on a few variables – it really comes down to your goal. For example, if you’re looking to be a generalist, such as a full-stack developer, you need to be competent in multiple coding languages and able to jump back and forth between them.
Beyond that, a key skill that’s often sidelined when we imagine a successful developer is communication. The ability to communicate with teammates working on the same code as you is critical to the success of a project and ensuring a seamless and collaborative effort. As a coder, you might struggle to find or even retain work if you cannot communicate effectively with members of your team.