Mentoring Experience from Software Quality Engineers

A recent software technology mentorship panel featuring industry experts with more than 100 years of shared experience offer up some practical advice about how to get ahead in the industry in this Q&A with the audience. Thank you to our mentoring instructors—Alka S Jarvis, Ajay K Mittal, Alp Tiritoglu,  Eric Dorf, and Hong Nguyen-Phuong—for sharing their wisdom. They are all instructors in the UCSC Silicon Valley Extension Software Engineering and Quality Certificate Program

Job Advancement & Mentorship

How we should be seeking a mentor? Where is the best place to look for one and how should I approach someone?

There are numerous great places to find a mentor. Start with your instructors. Find and attend subject-related events and get to know the experts. Engage in conversations with them and openly ask if you can contact them to ask questions in the future. Repeat this until you get a yes!

I’m always interested in frontline technology and doing quality work. Reality is chaotic out there. Business-oriented company cultures are corrupt, and hard work and quality are not valued in a high-pressure tight market.  How do you go about dealing with it?

This is an unfortunate reality. There are no easy answers. It requires not only procedural change but also a cultural change in the organization. The only easy solution is to seek a position in a company that values quality work with integrity. When you look for work and interviews, keep a mindset that you are looking for a good manager to work with. Interviews are two-way conversations: the interviewer assesses if they want to hire the interviewee, and the interviewee assesses if they want to work for the interviewer.

Once you have joined a team, get yourself a buddy in the team who has been around a long time to meet with you regularly and show you the ropes. Get to meet each person on the team one-on-one to get to know them as a person, and what they need and expect from you in the work. Find out who your stakeholders are, the people that your work depends on, and who is relying on your work and get to know them too.

Changes in priority or scope of work happens more than not. So make sure you stay aligned by scheduling regular times to touch base with people in the organization. This may be weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Letting people know what work you’ve done and what you plan to do helps things move along. This is the time to ask about any change in priority or focus. 

Jobseeking Tips for Professionals

So many companies are in a hiring freeze this year. Will there still be opportunities for the new grads? How can we prepare ourselves in this circumstance?

Do not let these types of assessments deter you from seeking and applying to all the jobs you can find. Companies routinely lay off and hire at the same time as they refocus resources, sometimes even within the same group.

As a 42-year-old having worked in medical devices, I have concerns about how a career switch will be perceived by a hiring manager. Which qualities make candidates successful in switching industries—both acquiring a new role and beyond being hired?

Many of us have switched careers repeatedly. We’ve gone from engineer to marketing, to business development, to project management, We have moved between industries as well. Here is how I assess these kinds of candidates:

  • Direction & Motivation: Is this the candidate committed to this career? Are they motivated to work hard at doing well and developing further?
  • Abilities & Competencies: Has the candidate successfully performed using relevant transferable skills?
  • Fit: Would I and other team members like to work with this candidate?
How do you ask for referrals from new LinkedIn connections?

Ask for introductions to speak to people for advice, information, and a referral. To widen your network, you can ask for three more introductions at the end of each meeting, so you never run out of resources. Here are a couple of sample icebreakers:

  • I’m interested in Company A, would you happen to know anyone who might know someone who works there?
  • I’m really interested in working in this particular field, do you have any pointers for that line of work.
  • I was just talking with someone from Company B about x, you may be interested in what they said…
How do I establish my personal brand before an interview, such as on LinkedIn? If so on LinkedIn, what are the most effective ways?

First, identify the attributes of your personal brand and determine how you may achieve possessing those attributes. You will find more than enough resources if you do a simple Google search, including how to create your LinkedIn profile.

On your resume, if you mention that you have good experience on projects, how important is your GPA?

While GPA is important when you’re applying for a master’s program or a research position at a university, it’s not important in a corporate job situation.

Build Your Skills

If a job asks for proficiency in a certain skill, should I apply with an intermediate level?

It’s best to find out the skill level required by emailing the hiring manager. If you don’t hear back, then you can assume they need an intermediate level.

Where would be a good place to start?

You can start anywhere that interests you the most but you might want to start with a general technical overview, which you will find in technical writing and UX design. It will give you a broader and deeper understanding of how software engineering can be of great value.

What is the best certificate to take if I want to develop software engineering fundamentals with a computer science degree?

I would suggest getting a cloud certificate such as AWS and Oracle Java.

I have an interest in more than one certificate at UCSC—UX, software engineering, and technical writing.

Start with Technical Writing and UX Design. With the knowledge you’ll gain, you will have a broader and deeper understanding of how software engineering can be of great value.

Do SMEs provide visa sponsorship or do only MNCs provide this benefit?

I’ve heard of SMEs and even startups that sponsor work visas. They would need to be of a certain size to be able to afford the process and cost (always involving an external lawyer).

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