Introduction by Jennifer Nuessen:
When Jordan reached out to me to write the introduction to this post, I was initially going to talk about how vital and beneficial mentoring is to a company and its team members; however, I’ve already talked about that in another article. Instead, I want to share my story and how being on both sides of mentoring at SpinSys has shaped not only my career but everyone I’ve helped to mentor.
In early 2010, I was looking for a new job. I was barely out of college with my Management Information Systems degree, with just over a year of experience. I interviewed for a company that had a quality assurance position open. I thought I had failed that interview because I had forgotten everything I had ever learned about SQL in the stress of the interview. If memory serves me well, Ramesh Ramaraj asked me the fateful SQL question, and my only response was, “It’s been a bit since I’ve done SQL scripts, but I assure you, I can learn whatever you need.” I thought this would be the end of that, and my job hunt would continue.
Lucky for me, I made a good enough impression on my interviewers that I started in early April. I was in a small group of new employees, there were just three of us, but we went through the mentoring training program. We quickly became proficient in the SpinSys products and could fill our time waiting on clearances and CAC applications with practical learning. Not only did we have a fantastic mentor trainer, but we also had mentoring support from our managers and tech leads.
I rapidly gained new skills, not only in testing but also in training, configuration, stakeholder presentation, and process development. When the opportunity arose, I moved from testing to customer training development for our projects to Organizational Training Lead to Scrum Master to Process and Performance Engineer. I couldn’t have done any of it without my mentors, Ramesh Ramaraj, Chakib Jaber, and Rob Hiatt. Without their support, guidance, advice, and honesty, my career here would have been very different, and I wouldn’t have had encouragement to take advantage of new opportunities.
Mostly though, I’ve learned from them is how to BE a mentor and support new team members. I also learned how to be patient, when to be gentle, when to push my mentees beyond their comfort zones, how to help them have the confidence to speak up when needed, and most importantly I taught them to lead.
What follows are just a few stories from new team members that have been part of the mentoring program at SpinSys. Our responsibility is to develop our new team members and grow them into future leaders. Senior team members, I’m calling on you to add to these success stories, help shape our next generation.
Reported by: Daniel Pickert
I have had a few different mentors throughout my 2+ years here at SpinSys. There’s no shortage of people to learn from who consistently make themselves available and willing to lend a helping hand. Every mentor I have worked with has been patient, understanding, and kind when teaching me the ropes of their skillset. I’ve learned from them in various ways — from looking over their shoulders watching them program complex applications to having lengthy phone conversations where they would give detailed explanations as to how things work and listen and address any questions I had. The generosity and willingness to help from everyone I have worked with at SpinSys has always struck a chord and made a lasting impression on me.
The entry-level training program was extremely helpful. As an up-and-coming developer that was fairly new to the industry, the program was essential for me in learning not only what it means to be a Software Engineer, but also the different roles that make up an application development team, such as Business Analyst, Quality Assurance Analyst, Designer, and Project Manager. Because of the rigorous program, I became more well-rounded and understood various roles’ perspectives and duties. Understanding concepts like process flow diagrams, database models and their relationships, managing risks, writing test cases, and coming up with a testing approach was invaluable to me and my growth as a Software Engineer.
Reported by: Denaire Bronson
I had the opportunity to participate in the SpinSys mentoring program as a mentee. Starting a new job can be daunting, but the mentoring program helped me transition into my new company and role with ease. Jennifer Nuessen took the time to meet with me regularly – walking me through PACE processes, explaining the team’s dynamics I would be working with, and sharing her best practices and lessons learned from the job. The overall experience has helped instil in me an extra layer of confidence needed to tackle any task thrown at me, thus far.
Reported by: Terry Kemp
With a top-notch mentor program, that took me from zero to 100 within a few days of being onboarded. Sitting down with actual company leadership, to ask questions, get briefings, and learn explanations of the upcoming mentor project.
We were to create an application that manages medical coders for a company and allows the medical coders to submit questions to the database to answer those questions. We didn’t know this was an active application that we were to be building on the side in a dev environment, and if ours were good enough, it would be used on the current project.
The mentor project was a great experience because I got to take my base knowledge of programming and expand upon it more, but it allowed me to solve new issues and new problems.
Reported by: Jordan Nolte
The SpinSys mentor program has helped me grow in several important ways. Coming from a hospitality background, the tech world was a completely new world with a different atmosphere. I needed guidance and someone to teach me the industry’s ins and outs. My mentor, Jennifer Nuessen, helped me grow and progress from the Office Operations Coordinator at SpinSys to the Training Coordinator. The mentor program at SpinSys made my transition much easier, because I had someone to look up to and guide me. I always felt as if someone had my back to accompany me on my path to success.
With Jen’s knowledge of over ten years at the company, she was able to teach me from her wealth of company knowledge. She taught me how to build relationships with colleagues, identify their training needs, and point them in the right direction to develop their skills. She pushed me to do better, even when I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to challenge myself. She placed me in different scenarios to learn what to do in each situation. Jen taught me how to be more productive in my role, but she also taught me life lessons that I will carry with me forever. I am so thankful for the mentor program, as I could increase my knowledge, build skills for my career, and set long-term goals for myself.
Reported by: David Popwell
Without the mentorship program I would have felt overwhelmed as a new hire since some of the tasks were new to me. Catherine Forsyth is a great mentor that clarified what I would need to be successful and guided me in the right direction. She did not serve me information on a silver platter; she did more by teaching me how to find and use resources that I would be able to use throughout my career. Her mentorship reassured me that if I ever have a question whether new hire or senior I will be able to reach out to her for insight. I know I made the right choice joining SpinSys because they truly value each employee’s success.
Reported by Misty Francom:
Once upon a time I was hired to be a Business Analyst. I told them I had no experience with this sort of thing. They wanted the intangibles I offered, and I told them I would try my best. I was promised training, patience and endless support. What I got was scattered training that was terribly inconsistent and levels of overwhelming stress that were decreed normal. I loved working with various people in the group and loved the skills that I gained, but I was nearly broken trying to work in such an environment. I concluded being a BA was for someone else.
The opportunity to come to Spinsys was extended to me, and I was very excited to continue my journey. BA mentoring was offered so I tried to stay open-minded. I was very hesitant about doing anything specifically BA related. I know I’m a better QA and Tier 1 person from what I learned previously, but I was still holding on to my belief that I was not built to be a BA.
The first day of BA mentoring I was ready. I had my handy dandy notebook and a pen for writing down all the things. The things never came… The first class felt like it was barely a blink. We were shown some documents and told to go and do. What we needed to do was unclear. I didn’t even know what questions to ask because I couldn’t comprehend how to formulate them. I felt adrift again in learning how to be a BA. I felt like my brain just would never get it.
I talked to my boss about the class. She was devastated. This was not the sort of thing she was hoping for and she definitely did not want this sort of feeling to continue. My boss swallowed down all the negative I had to give and turned for help from all of those she knew could help to figure out how to make this training into something worthwhile. And help they did.
The training class took a turn that I never saw coming. The class members began to engage. Time was spent with each of us to help formulate our questions and address our concerns. We often went over time allotted because of questions and stories we wanted to share. Everyone in the class had excellent input and assignments were completed. What we received in return encouraged us to engage and keep learning, keep wanting to be in the class.
The BA mentoring we went through had a lot of evolution that happened. I enjoyed seeing how the mentors were able to adapt to what the class needed and how they worked to make it a better environment for us all. It was still a little bit of chaos with assignments and what we were learning. BUT… in the end, I felt heard. I felt important. I felt like maybe I could be a BA if I wanted. But the question remained, do I want to?
I am going to continue my journey with mentoring to be a BA. The project I’m on needs one and I think I can help fill that void. Without the mentoring class and support I felt during the class I probably wouldn’t have spoken up or continued to pursue this avenue. I would have stayed quiet in my comfortable corner. Which isn’t always a terrible thing. Knowing your limits and strengths is a good thing. Do I think being a BA is my end goal….? Probably not. I like to learn all the things. Do I think continuing to learn to be a BA will be a good thing for me? Absolutely.
Reported by Daniel Kittrell:
At the beginning of this Business Analyst (BA) mentoring process, I was rather nervous about it all. It felt a bit like a flashback to my first few weeks at SpinSys, a bit overwhelming. I had heard the term “drinking through a firehose” many times in reference to a new job, a new career, but never personally experienced it, until I started at SpinSys. The BA class felt similar in the beginning. Our group needed training, but it felt a bit dry with a lot of information. After some feedback from others in the class, it evolved into something more digestible.
I was lucky to have already started the mentoring process with Jen for training, as I continue to develop training with the Trailblazer team. I knew this was going to be an evolving experience that tends to flex and mold to the needs of the individual or group being mentored. I saw this happen again with BA class. The sessions became more interactive with others in our group, getting to know them and their different experiences that had shaped their professional lives coming into this role. I found this to be just as important as the content being taught.
Ultimately, this mentoring experience has helped me determine that the BA role isn’t the best for me long term. This time as a BA will help me continue to develop and the skills acquired in this time will still be valuable to me. I am feeling the pull more so towards a Scrum Master role and perhaps in the future a Project Manager. I find myself incredibly grateful to work for a company that listens to its employees. Although I have not been a professional as long as others in this field, it seems the opportunity to be mentored in this way, in real time, doesn’t seem very common. Other companies should follow this example!
Reported by Salma Martinez:
The Business Analyst mentoring program helped to open my mind to the possibility of expanding my current role into the area of business analysis. The team showed me how this role leverages some of the same skills I already possess as a software tester, which was reassuring. Having the team share their BA job experiences was definitely a plus, and gave me some insight as to the day to day responsibilities.
I enjoyed the role playing as well, as it gave me the opportunity to get familiar with the challenges a stakeholder can present and offered guidance and suggestions on how to navigate them into making a decision.
The mentoring sessions were helpful and set a good foundation. I think some additional formal training would be a beneficial next step.
After 11 years of the mentor program and company growth, we’re excited to introduce Spincademy, the newest mentoring version!
We are still open to those interested in assisting with it as SMEs, roleplaying during our practice stakeholder meetings, and mentoring assistants. With the new Spincademy, trainers and mentors will be working together to instruct students in the various aspects of their project roles using real-life project scenarios and exercises. We are so excited to see what Spincademy has in store for SpinSys!