OfferZen’s Project Thrive was a mentoring programme developed for software developers across Africa and Europe that reached nearly 600 people in 3 years. The principle was simple: We connected senior software engineers to juniors on their team so they could support them over the course of 12 weeks and address things that go beyond traditional onboarding or training.
The feedback on the impact of this program was very clear: Tech leaders told us how the structure of the program helped them develop their own leadership skills and improve their communication skills. Junior devs shared how they learnt to ask for help and to handle conflict at work better.
“I made a connection through Project Thrive that I can utilize forever. My mentor went through everything I am going through now, and so I could learn a lot from him. With my mentor’s help, I was also able to navigate difficulties at work and improve my skills to achieve the goals that I had set out to achieve at the beginning of the mentoring journey.” Vutivi Shivambu, Project Thrive mentee
In this way, we:
- Guided leaders who are responsible for a junior’s growth but aren’t sure exactly how.
- Helped companies who want to measure the impact of their mentoring efforts but don’t have the capacity to run a full program.
- Provided soft-skills training for junior developers, who get a way to practise the lessons that can’t be taught like showing up with low ego, giving and receiving feedback and understanding fundamental processes that lead to a team’s success.
Setting up with Project Thrive mentoring
Here’s how we could delivered that same program within tech teams in two weeks or less.
1. Agree on business objectives
We chatted with IT and Talent Management Leaders to align our program with the specific goals for their business. These goals could form part of a change management process where new behaviours or ways of working need to be practised. The goals may also align with new junior hires or additional support for graduates coming into the organisation. These goals are then agreed to and signed off with internal stakeholders.
From then, we get to work!
2. Communicate with tech leaders and junior employees
As part of our mentor program set-up, we welcomed individuals into the program and began our program orientation to prepare the mentees and mentors for the program, before facilitating a joint session where each mentoring pair began their learning journey by committing to a mentoring agreement.
3. Weekly monitoring and feedback
We kept track of mentoring sessions happening and milestones met by the pairs, which is useful for reporting and in-time assistance that may be required. Where necessary, we provided resources and guidance to enable the partnership with the tools for success.
With the “enough” structure of our program, we were able to provide detailed quantitative and qualitative reports on the progression of the mentoring program, the engagement of mentoring pairs and adoption of guidance and best practices as it is being adopted within a team. These reports were presented as updates during the 12-week program, and cumulatively as a report of the program overall after the 12 weeks.
5. Connect mentors and mentees with our peer-learning community
We’ve found from our research with our mentoring groups that getting started in tech can feel like a lonely process. Our weekly peer-learning community jams provided an opportunity for juniors to meet and connect with others to share tips and tricks and even learn from seniors in tech who they wouldn’t have otherwise met.
Tumi is the Head of OfferZen Foundation. She entered the SA tech scene by joining the startup, OfferZen. At the end of 2018, she spearheaded OfferZen Foundation with the explicit mission of helping people from underserved communities thrive in their tech careers.
Foundation’s latest initiative, Project Thrive, saw over 150 people enter the tech mentoring programme within the first 6 months. Tumi hopes this will help senior developers build empathy for, and empower, junior and intermediate developers through one-on-one mentoring.
In her spare time, Tumi can be found volunteering as a lead workshop facilitator and preparing speakers for TEDxCapeTown, exploring Cape Town for new spots to eat or enjoying a contemplative stroll through Newlands Forest.