There are many roles a community plays in producing and supporting members in their growth. At Lighthouse Labs, we ask a lot of our students in a short period of time. They like the challenge and the intensity, but a curriculum model like ours is made possible by the right type of support to move them along. That’s why we have a large, diverse team of mentors who create problem-solving and learning opportunities for our students to accelerate their learning curve.
A mentor at Lighthouse is not a typical TA. Our mentors are teachers - they are the prime catalysts of learning in our curriculum, and a huge support with career soft skills and networking opportunities. Our mentors are a breath of fresh air when you’re banging your head against the computer, and a friendly familiar face when you’re about to start a scary job hunt. Our mentors are working industry professionals with up-to-date relevant skills. And while each of them are different in their own right, the diversity is needed and appreciated to help us cater to a broad spectrum of learners and personalities. Our mentors won’t do the work for our students - we’re here to expose students to a variety of methods and promote independence, not create dependencies. It’s the supported chance to train muscle memory and get one step closer to opening the developer’s problem-solving mind.
Being a developer is about being a problem-solver. Opening the problem-solver’s mind is not an easy task to do. It takes time, patience, and practice. Lots of practice. Our mentorship model creates opportunities for our students to move through a problem with some extra insight by their side. Having someone beside you fill in a grey area of knowledge or help recognize a missing piece of the puzzle will help you avoid going down a rabbit hole in the wrong direction for hours. Our mentors also offer validation of knowledge, and belief in students who need to be reminded they know more than they think.
Being a developer can be an emotional ride. The industry is evolving quickly and new technologies emerge rapidly. Professional developers will find themselves in a place of constant learning, and we strive to replicate this in our course. Naturally, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and question your own abilities when faced with a challenging learning curve, so it’s essential to have mentors who have developed strategies to stay confident while coding. Imposter Syndrome is real, and our mentors are a huge support moving students through their self-doubt. It’s not only about providing knowledge; it also involves providing support, empathy, and tools to navigate obstacles - including one’s own mind.
Mentorship benefits our students in many ways. It’s sometimes shocking how many students have a hard time asking for help. Many get overwhelmed and assume they must do everything on their own, but we encourage students to utilize every resource available. Filling in grey areas or knowledge gaps can seem daunting when you don’t have direction, but our mentorship model puts the student in the driver’s seat and teaches them how to navigate fuzzy concepts step by step. They leave our program not as master developers, but masters of continual learning. This is their strongest asset in any problem-solving career. When faced with an opportunity at a new job in a different tech stack, their ability to self-teach and ask for help when needed will be the key to their success. Our mentors empower students in the soft skills that are essential in today’s workforce.
Our students had a choice when they decided to become a developer: should they learn by themselves at home, or with the hands-on support of a team of developers and staff who have been moving students into the industry for more than 5 years? Our graduates chose the latter, recognizing the benefit of mentorship to speed up their learning curve and help them learn from collective experience that might have taken years to attain on their own.
What they don’t usually realize are the extra benefits of our community mentorship to launch their careers into the tech industry. Being surrounded by professional developers exposes students to a steady stream of professional socialization in the background of the learning process, so they leave our program understanding the norms and behaviours of a developing professional. They leave stronger networkers and technical interviewers. They have a trained work ethic from the endless days of coding over 12 weeks. They leave supported in their job hunt in a community that will mentor them for life. That’s right: they receive our mentorship for life. After graduation, students are able to return to the school or have an online chat with one of our instructors for mentorship in technical skills or coaching in soft skills. Mentorship is a life-long journey.
Everyone needs mentors in their life. Mentorship is the backbone, the support system, that makes humans good at being humans. Mentorship helps us feel like we're a part of a community. Mentorship helps us feel validated, and there is no stopping a workforce that feels validated. All companies should strive to have a mentorship model that supports their team in more ways than just training skills. Being a professional means so much more than just a skill. Sharing knowledge and support is the most beautiful human trait that will continue to strengthen understanding and communities for a better future of work.
Davey Feimer is Education Delivery Lead at Lighthouse Labs.