Professional mentorship is reaching the height of popularity on the world’s stage. It’s no different in Lithuania – professionals and top leaders of various industries are turning to voluntary mentorship more and more frequently. By sharing their personal experiences and working directly with young professionals mentors help them achieve their career goals, which often result in changing their career paths altogether. We will hear how mentorship empowers changes from Jurgita Visakaviciute, a project manager-turned-programmer and her mentor Jonas Minelga, the head of the front-end team at “Danske Bank” Lithuania.
I mostly lacked self-confidence
Technologies interested Jurgita even in school, however, after completing her industrial engineering studies she did not feel in the right place – her first job did not have much to do with technology. Later on she became a project manager and spent most of her time working with projects for environmental protection. After 10 years Jurgita decided to try her luck in the IT industry.
“I did not have enough resolve to enter the technology sector – changing everything from the ground up is a challenge. I even considered whether it was too late for me to start such a career. I had many stereotypes lurking in my mind, which, thankfully, were all put to rest by a colleague of mine who herself retrained to work in the IT sector.” – recalls Jurgita.
Following her colleague’s advice, she joined a vocational school to study programming. Jurgita speaks fondly about her new beginning – “I enjoyed it so much that I spent 12 hours, 7 days a week studying the subject. That was the catalyst for my one year long journey to becoming an IT specialist.”
While continuing her studies and considering finding employment in the IT field Jurgita was attracted to the “Women Go Tech” programme, where she met her current mentor – an expert of 10 years in the field of programming, Jonas Minelga, a specialist at “Danske Bank”. When remembering the beginning, Jonas insists that what Jurgita lacked the most was simply self-confidence.
„Her programming skills were great and she was very eager. That being said, she did not even include her new skills on her CV, because of this lack of belief in her abilities. I decided to try and introduce her to as much of the IT world as I possibly can. To tell her how job interviews look, what’s a day in the life of a programmer feel like. Together with this I wanted to give her the determination for change. During our regular meetings I tried to share my knowledge and find answers to questions that she had, and guide her in the right direction.” – Jonas describes his role in Jurgita’s professional life.
Freedom and mentorship go hand in hand
Although J. Minelga as a mentor has guided several young programmers toward career heights, he does not claim to have a recipe for successful mentorship. According to him it’s important to follow only one rule: help the person understand, what they truly want. This was the method he used with Jurgita as well.
Jonas says – „When a person knows their path, my role is to tell them about all the possible opportunities. To reveal potential challenges, help make decisions and gain confidence in oneself. I am a kind of guide, giving everyone the freedom to chose, and making their own decisions. If I was the one telling them where to go and what to do, the mentee would run out of motivation and the final results would be miserable.”
Such approach benefits the young professionals. Jurgita insists that this is mutually beneficial as it creates a solid point of support in a brand new environment.
Jurgita shares that „In the technology sector, which was completely new to me, I needed someone who could tell me what to expect, who would help me create a plan for finding a job, getting ready for an interview. The mentor was very supportive – he encouraged me to go out and try doing things. He even convince me to add my programming skills to my CV, which I always hesitated doing. Such an approach was successful, as it’s really important to have someone to encourage you when facing challenging situations.”
J. Minelga agrees with this opinion. In his words, the experience that the mentor has allows to view particular professions in-depth, to understand everything that goes in and around it.
He highlights that „Jurgita knew what she wants and she was a great programmer. There are, however, many people who dream of a particular industry, but then when they try it they realise that it does not fit them. Thus, a mentor shouldn’t just be a supporter of motivation and confidence – they should also be able to suggest alternatives, advise which way to go. Perhaps if programming is not suitable, there is another profession in IT that one could turn to. When you are a part of the industry for many years you understand what interests someone. I believe that if someone finds an industry they enjoy, they can become a great expert.”
They finally became colleagues
Today Jurgita is already in the role of a programmer. Truth be told, it was her mentor who encouraged Jurgita to participate in the application process. At first he mentioned his plans to introduce her to the application process for the role, and then soon invited her to participate in a real one.
„I was too biased to be able to evaluate Jurgita, so I invited my colleagues to the interview. They evaluated both her technical skills and personal qualities. She completed the necessary tests and went through the usual application process for the position – and was successful at it. And since then we’ve been colleagues in the programming department at “Danske Bank”. From her mentor I became her team lead. Most importantly, however, we continue the path to improvement and development together.” Jonas smiles.
Jurgita is also happy about the encountered mentorship experience:
„My determination to just drop everything and go into the IT sector was well-measured. I knew how much time and effort it will take to reach my goals. But the mentor I encountered on the path to the role truly helped me develop self-confidence. I had quit my old job and was busy studying, but was not sure where this effort would take me. Without a timely intervention by the mentor’s encouragement, I don’t know if I would have gotten to where I am. I am happy that this mentorship continues in my day-to-day work.”