This is the first of a series of #DevStory blog posts that chronicle the personal and professional development of Trellists. The premise is simple – as a form of peer mentoring, it’s a showcase of the diverse paths we have taken to becoming colleagues and lessons we’ve learned along the way. We hope that these posts provide hope, support, encouragement, and advice to others through the sharing of our own experiences.
My little brother graduated from high school earlier this year. As we talked about the end of high school and his future plans, I reflected on my own journey and where I am today. Steve Jobs, among his notable quotes, famously said it best:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Looking forward from where my brother is today, I could not have predicted where I have ended up. However, looking backward, I can connect some of the dots that led me here.
Musician to Maker
Like many thirteen year olds, my friends and I had dreams of stardom. In our case, we wanted to start the next great band. I received a guitar for my birthday and we (attempted) to make music.
Aside from writing songs, we wanted to promote our band and play shows. In order to do this, we figured we needed to record a CD, sell merchandise, create a website, and take advantage of nascent social media platforms - namely MySpace. We didn’t have the money to hire anyone, so we took it upon ourselves to learn.
One of the first things I attempted to create – album artwork
I was the most technically interested of the band (thanks to the pages of PC Magazine at my local library), so I took it upon myself to take the lead on learning how to do graphic and web design.
Early website that I created, complete with on hover styling of the menu. I remember cutting out the letters by hand, taping them together, and scanning the images.
I didn’t realize it then, but this would be the beginning of what has turned into an amazing and fulfilling career. I consider myself exceptionally fortunate, but the privilege to be able to start a band with my friends, the support of my parents, and the availability of a good local library, started it all.
It Takes a Village
With a small portfolio of work I had done for my band and other area musicians, a family friend who worked as an IT manager at a local company caught wind of my interest in computers. Two weeks before my sixteenth birthday, he offered me my first job - IT help desk intern, palletizing hardware and peripherals for e-waste disposal. I was ecstatic.
A few months later, I graduated to taking support calls, helping employees troubleshoot their computers. I continued to work at that company through college, moving up the layers as a network admin, system administrator, and finally writing some software.
That first summer job has stuck with me. I learned, amongst many things, how to work in an office,
how to use a business telephone system, collaborate with colleagues, have empathy for the user, and customer service skills.
People saw potential in me before I saw it, mentored me, provided me with opportunity, and ultimately guided me towards business and computer science majors as an undergrad. People took a chance and invested in me, impacting my life trajectory greatly.
As a first generation immigrant kid who mostly grew up in rural America, the fact I have the privilege to work on Trello at Atlassian is incredible to me. I can thank many people for that, but I am especially thankful for my mentors.
Be a Mentor
I believe that mentoring is the most impactful kind of personal development. I’ve talked offhand with others about how I see mentoring as a spectrum of “lowercase m” and “capital M” mentoring. Capital M mentoring is the one that most are probably familiar with, a one on one relationship that consists of a mentee and mentor. Examples of this type of mentoring include new hire peer mentor on-boarding and the ongoing relationship that people have with their manager.
Lowercase m mentoring is peer based and less formal. I consider myself lucky to work with such talented, conscientious, and highly qualified teammates. These kinds of mentoring interactions are ideally happening daily - knowledge sharing through internal blog posts, code reviews, Q&A, debugging, general team conversations, and other forms of shared learning.
The point is, do it - in whatever form. I’m still working on it and I am not an expert, but as I’ve shared in one account of mentorship’s impact on me, it can have a profound effect. I hope others are inspired to write their own #DevStory or mentor in other ways and share what it is they have learned and how they got here.