Mentorship can be integral to succeeding in any career. Especially in the fairly new and fast-paced tech industries, having a more experienced person show you the ropes, and provide you with insights and advice, can make all the difference. Here at Lighthouse Labs, we’re well aware of the incredible value of having industry mentors. We structure our programs around these relationships, giving our students access to a range of mentors with different professional experiences.
For the month of January, our Career Accelerator initiative has adopted the theme of Mentorship Month. We want to bring people’s attention towards these important relationships, and to provide a venue for industry professionals to reflect on their own mentors and express gratitude. Throughout the month, we’ve been speaking with incredible mentors and industry leaders to learn about their career trajectories and what mentorship has meant to them.
We spoke with Andrew Berry, one of our excellent data bootcamp mentors, about his professional life, experiences with mentorship, and how he approaches advising his students.
From Information Systems to Python Programming
Graduating from high school, Andrew applied directly into business school. He wasn’t too sure about what he really wanted to study, but he opted for business because he felt it aligned most with his personality. Through university, he describes himself as jumping between different majors, eventually ending up in information systems studying how data is transmitted within and used by organizations. “I was really intrigued by tech and how it’s dominating the world,” Andrew explains. “I didn’t have the technical skills of a developer, but I thought this could be a foray into tech from the business side of things.”
After university Andrew spent some time working at a fashion startup, where he was exposed to digital marketing and advertisements. He still wasn’t sure if he was in the right role, or where he truly wanted to go in life. He was starting to realize, though, that working in data was interesting to him. “I was really intrigued by data, but I barely knew Python or any coding,” says Andrew. To remedy that situation Andrew enrolled in a three-month long data bootcamp, where he learned the fundamentals of Python and data analytics.
A Passion for Education and Mentoring
While attending bootcamp, Andrew became intrigued by how the instructors delivered the educational experience. After graduation, he returned to get hired as a teaching assistant. “That really exposed me to how things were run on the other end,” Andrew explains. “I was able to experience the bootcamp both as a student and as an instructor, and understand how the product was delivered.”
The COVID-19 pandemic upset Andrew’s career trajectory for a short while. While out of a job and applying for data analysis positions, he applied to a mentorship role at Lighthouse Labs. He soon became involved with Lighthouse on multiple levels, as a mentor for the data bootcamp, an instructor for a corporate client, and a contributor to other short-term data projects. But his learning journey didn’t stop after transitioning from bootcamp to his career.
“Any bootcamp graduate needs to continue learning,” Andrew explains. “Bootcamp is so condensed, you need to take time to consolidate the knowledge and review some of the concepts.” Post-graduation he spent time at data science meetups, and contributed energy to networking within different communities. He also put a lot of effort into his portfolio, creating a variety of different versions of the capstone project he created during the bootcamp.
Between Mentoring and Being Mentored
Andrew’s done a lot to improve his own education, but that doesn’t mean he’s been totally alone. Throughout his data journey, he’s had a range of mentors from all different walks of life. “The mentors I’ve had have been a mix of direct superiors at work, older people with more experience, and peers in my age group,” Andrew says. He speaks to how one of his biggest data mentors was his bootcamp instructor, who later became his direct boss. “He was an incredibly smart and phenomenal individual who was so knowledgeable and passionate about his field and about education,” says Andrew. “His mentorship really shaped my thinking on data science and data analytics, and how to best deliver it to someone as an educational product.”
Through education, experience, and communicating with other mentors, Andrew’s developed his unique mentorship style. “I try not to hand-hold my mentees too much,” Andrew admits. “Mostly, I try to give my students a framework on how to tackle problems.” He explains how with data, novices can feel overwhelmed by the complexity of problems or projects. To help them get through these hurdles, he tries to mentor students in breaking things down into smaller steps to make problems more approachable. “The other thing I try to instill in my students is to always understand the reasoning behind coding choices,” Andrew explains. “You need to understand the why behind every action. If you can justify your rationale in a way that makes sense, it makes you a better data scientist.”
Sharing Insights and Advice Through Other Mediums
Andrew’s coaching goes beyond the (virtual) classroom. He also hosts or co-hosts two different podcasts related to self-development. One, entitled The Little Big Ideas Show, is used as a platform from which to share less-conventional life improvement tips. “I launched this podcast with my friend and co-host Violaine Jacques,” Andrew explains. “We use it to talk about life, spirituality, and self-development.”
Andrew hosts another practical-oriented podcast called The Pandemic Job Hunt. “I was thinking about how the pandemic made job hunting so much more difficult, especially because of the huge jump in the unemployment rate,” says Andrew. As a response, he launched this second podcast to provide tips to job-seekers during this difficult time. Through it, he interviews a range of people from different backgrounds to get their insights on looking for a job.
Ready to build a successful career in tech with the support of our mentors?