This article was originally published in ITID magazine
One year ago, we at N-iX launched a mentorship program. The idea behind it was to help our colleagues grow professionally. And this has brought great benefits both to the employees and the company.
For an experienced mentor, this is a chance to advance their leadership skills, and for a mentee, it is an opportunity to receive professional assistance when needed. Now, looking back at this initial goal, I can say that the program has evolved into something bigger.
In a large company, there is always someone who has successfully solved the problem you are struggling with. However, without knowing who to ask for help, it is of no use.
One day our Software Development Office (responsible for growing expertise in the company) received an inquiry from a colleague who was about to switch to a new position at N-iX. They asked if it was possible to find a mentor to get fully ready for this transition. And we said “yes”. That is how the first N-iX mentorship story began.
Understanding the benefits both for the company and our employees, we decided to organize this process of knowledge and experience sharing. We had a fairly simple task to bring together those who have a desire to learn something new with those who have successful experience in it.
We’ve been running this project for a year now. During this time, 57 experts have been mentors to other colleagues (some of them several times).
Our mentors are experienced professionals who are ready to share knowledge (a person is added to our mentors list or we search for the needed expert within N-iX upon request). All mentors receive guidance and pass a training from the Software Development Office. The training is focused on soft skills.
Mentees either ask for a mentor themselves or they are advised to try the mentorship program by their line manager or the HR Business Partner.
We are happy to see that mentorship at N-iX has proved to be great when it comes to switching to a new role within the company. For example, Anna, our Test Engineer and now also a Scrum Master, had an opportunity to develop in the direction of Project Management, and our mentorship program helped her make the first steps.
What is unique about our approach to mentorship is that anyone at N-iX can use it as an independent internal service. People can learn what they want and achieve their own professional goals, even if they are not connected with their project. One of the examples we have is Myroslava, our Test Engineer, who applied for mentorship to try her hand at automated testing. She felt quite confident on the project she was working on, but wanted to grow professionally and learn something new.
She tried automated testing before the mentorship program on a previous project. So she wanted to give it a try, even though she didn’t need it on her project. When Myroslava told her HR Business Partner that she felt stuck in her career, we offered her to try mentorship and found the right mentor for her.
Tetiana, a test automation engineer at N-iX with 12 years’ experience in QA, helped Myroslava follow her interest and succeed. For Tetiana, it was also a valuable experience because, as she said, it gave her the possibility to solve different challenges that she would never face within your project.
The most interesting thing happened at the end of this mentorship story. N-iX was looking for a QA engineer with some background in automated testing for Tetiana’s project. We interviewed a number of applicants and couldn’t find the one who would meet our requirements. Then, Tetiana realized that Myroslava was more tech-savvy than the majority of external applicants we interviewed. So, Tetiana recommended her mentee for the position. Myroslava had to pass 2 technical interviews and a final job interview with a client. And she rocked it. Myroslava rotated to a new project where she could use and further develop her new skills in test automation.
We often think about mentorship as informal coaching within the project when a senior professional helps a junior specialist grow certain skills. Usually, you have to learn something that will help you be more effective in your main job. However, we took a different approach to mentorship at N-iX. Our colleagues can learn what they are personally interested in and even work on their own projects.
One of the latest examples is the mentorship experience of our front-end developer Mykhailo. Besides programming, he is passionate about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and works as an instructor. He trains many groups and has always had problems with managing all that paperwork, maintaining routine accounting records, the attendance schedule, and so on.
Mykhailo started working on an app that would help people do all that stuff in a few clicks. He developed the first version of the app with a lot of fancy features and got stuck. At that point, he realized it would be great to have someone with more experience who could give some guidance.
Mykhailo`s mentor Volodymyr works in one of our offices in Lviv, whereas Mykhailo is in Kyiv. That is why they were meeting online. Right at the first meeting, they agreed on clear deadlines and a schedule of the meetings. They created a Trello board which helped them track the progress and had the calls every fortnight for several months.
As Volodymyr said, the mentor's role helped him improve his soft skills and become a better listener. Now, he can better understand his teammates.
Volodymyr has worked at N-iX for 5 years now, and he has mentored people informally on different projects. But it was his first experience in the role of a mentor for a person outside his project. And this is something really different because he had to prepare for each meeting and be ready to answer the questions he couldn't even expect.
We are delighted to see how our mentorship opens up new opportunities for those who seek them. Our people can not only get help with their work-related tasks but also work on their own projects and learn what they personally want. At the same time, more experienced professionals who have solid hard skills can improve their soft skills and learn while teaching others. The program benefits both employees and the company. We are not afraid that people will learn something new and decide to switch to a different role or move to a new qualification level. N-iX is a big, fast-growing company, and we have projects and opportunities for everyone.
Iryna Kosareva, Head of HR at N-iX