In honor of National Mentoring Month—and the beginning of another trip around the Sun—Senior Software Engineer Michael Micheletti reflects on how we at L4 mentor one another and those in our community.
One of the things I like most about working at L4 is that people here find ways to continue learning and grow into new roles. Many of these opportunities for growth are informal. They may take the form of tackling new tasks within an existing project, collaborating with others in a L4ge (pronounced “L Forge”, these internal projects are created and developed by L4 employees just for fun) side project, or mentoring fellow employees. L4 employees also volunteer in our community to provide similar learning opportunities to others.
These learning, mentoring, and volunteering opportunities allow us to use our technical skills to positively influence real people. Opportunities like these help junior-level employees advance, and encourage young people in the community to become excited about creating apps and websites. All of us here have been helped and encouraged in expanding our own skills and interests, and we hope to reach others in similar ways.
January is National Mentoring Month, so now’s a great time to take a look at some of the ways we at L4 have supported learning and growth at our own company and in our community.
Career Development at L4
Mark Prescott began working at L4 as a production designer. He created media assets needed by developers, drew illustrations, and handled redlines. But Mark possessed more extensive design skills and wanted take on other challenges. He was encouraged to do so by Chris Brummel, our Creative Director, and began doing more in-depth interface work on other projects and observing other UX designers. His quick and clear responses to client and developer requests helped us meet challenging delivery schedules, and our client was pleased with the results. Mark has since increased his involvement with client engagements. He understands the needs of digital product users and communicates them with our design team. When I spoke with Mark, he told me, “L4 is small, but it’s a good place for learning and growth.”
Nathan Harris is an experienced software engineer who has worked on a variety of projects, including game development and media systems. An internal L4ge project gave him an opportunity to learn the Swift language used for iOS app development. Nathan had started on the project doing backend work, but, he says, “I wanted to contribute to the iOS client because I’ve wanted to learn iOS development and it seemed like a good project to get some experience.” The L4ge project gave Nathan a chance to make a deep dive into iOS app development for a production-quality application. Shortly after, he was brought on to a new client’s mobile app project in which he’s writing iOS code that interfaces with external hardware over Bluetooth. The project has tight deadlines and is “trial by fire and all,” but Nathan is deepening his knowledge of the iOS framework and enjoying the work.
L4 also encourages employees to create opportunities for learning and growth in our community. A number of people are involved in volunteer teaching and mentoring efforts. One of these is Kellen, who, even as he is learning, mentors two electrical engineering (EE) students at the University of Washington. Kellen has an EE background, and coaches the students as they modify laboratory equipment.
Several L4 employees are also involved in a local Crash Course program, in which they provide web development workshops to young people in the community. Cassidy Williams, an experienced software engineer and conference presenter, developed the course. Williams works alongside colleagues Amy Nygaard, Sarah Mathews, Kellen Cheng, Greyson Richie, Jae Brown, and Matt Lalley to provide an introduction to HTML and CSS to people who have never coded before. Others, both at L4 and in our community, donated laptops for use in class.
The students become very excited at being able to create their own websites. Williams recalls that “[one] session was so successful that we had to do another for the students’ parents.” The group has presented the course a number of times in Seattle-area community centers and plans to continue their work. They now invite parents and other adults to attend their own sessions.
One of the busiest people at L4 is Tricia Cervenan, a senior product manager who volunteers her time to work with App Camp for Girls. This is a week-long summer camp in which 8th and 9th grade girls build an app in a week, beginning with design, moving on to coding, and then pitching their projects. The camps, held in various cities throughout the country, require 300 to 400 hours of volunteer time each year to organize. Tricia has been one of the organizers of Seattle’s App Camp for the last three years. “The Camp builds confidence in female, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth so they don’t feel out of place when they take programming courses in high school,” Tricia explains. High school is a formative time in the lives of young women, in which they may be sensitive to how their peers perceive their participation in technical courses. With the experience, confidence, and encouragement they find at App Camp, says Tricia, “they feel empowered to walk into those [classrooms].”
The participants in this year’s Camp took a field trip to the L4 offices, where they met women working in a number of different roles. “All of the campers wanted to come and work at L4 one day,” Tricia recalls. Tricia also mentors product managers in the community, helping them establish a support system.
When I spoke with Tricia, she mentioned how supportive L4 had been of her volunteer efforts. “We have an unlimited PTO policy at L4, so I know I’ll be able to work at the camp every year. Some of the other volunteers have to make tough decisions about whether to volunteer at Camp or take their families on vacation.”
Giving Back Comes Back Around
When I started researching this article, I was surprised to learn how many people in our small company were involved in community work, were learning new technologies, or were mentoring others. And I was pleased at how L4 Digital supports and encourages them. The work of our volunteers also enriches our lives at L4. Several of the Crash Course instructors, for example, have become more confident presenters. Other employees have turned volunteer projects into career advancements, and Tricia’s product management mentoring work is evolving into a new training offering with a set of webcasts.
I hope these examples encourage you to learn something, to ask someone you respect for their help as a mentor, or to volunteer your knowledge and gifts with your coworkers and your community. We look forward to seeing you out there doing the good work.
Feature image courtesy of Ian Schneider for Unsplash.