how and why to work with juniors

Hi all! I’m Rosalia, lead developer at Tinkoff. Three years ago I came to the company for an internship, I developed myself and from the middle level I began to develop others.

I’ll tell you about my path as a junior and a mentor, the problems I faced on both sides, and why you need to work with beginners.

Where do junes come from

Children start programming already at school. This is how many talented beginners appear. At the same time, strong developers are hunted here and there, competing in bonuses and perks. Why get involved with newbies? Here are a few reasons: – Strong developers are always in short supply, and it is difficult to lure them away. – There are many newcomers without experience, and employers may not try to hire many seniors, but learn how to work with newcomers.

— There are many paid and free development courses, and the number of students in IT specialties in universities is growing: in the 2022 academic year the number of budget places has doubled160,000, which means that there are already worthy newcomers on the market and will appear.

Benefits of working with newbies:

  • We get loyalty for years.

  • We grow immediately for ourselves, no need to retrain.

  • We instill our corporate culture.

  • Often yesterday’s juniors have a desire to develop others themselves.

Everything seems to be simple. The company wants to quickly get an experienced developer out of June. A beginner also wants to grow and develop, to receive rewards. The targets are looking in the same direction, which is great.

But in reality, things are a little more complicated. Not all interns are charged with growth and development, and companies have prejudices: “Young people are no longer the same” or “Suddenly we will recruit lazy people, and they will scatter, why waste strength?”

Therefore, many companies do not get involved in working with juniors. They are afraid to waste their energy and not get benefit. And from the point of view of a beginner, everything looks even more complicated and scary. Let’s try to analyze the stages of working with beginners and the problems that are associated with them.

How to select

In theory, everything is easy: we arrange a selection → choose the best who will soon graduate from the university so that they can work right away.

But remember ourselves at the beginning of the journey. What were your feelings when you first got a job?

It is often scary for many to try: the thought “who needs me without experience?” or not aware of the opportunities for newbies. It turns out that the company arranges a selection, but at the end of the day, expectations do not come true, because newcomers are afraid. You can become more attractive to newcomers by working with the audience before the selection and in the process.

Before the selection, we get into the field of view: job fairs and conferences for beginners, word of mouth, friends and acquaintances, announcements, hackathons, information on specialized sites and landing pages.

During the selection process, we do not try to squeeze the maximum out of a newcomer. At the interview, the candidate will be very worried, so it is better to conduct useful social services: tips in the process, good feedback.

Junes choose any opportunity that seems feasible to them. The guys are different – someone is worried that he knows nothing and will not be hired anywhere, and someone is looking for an internship with an unreasonably large salary. The main thing is not to appear too scary and not create a bad reputation.

For example, when I started my journey at a job fair at the university, I came across a very strange social security service, where they were rather harshly convinced that I did not understand the field. But I didn’t doubt it anyway, as a result, I still have a biased attitude towards this company. At the same time, after the social security service in the company where I eventually went, I had the feeling that I had already begun to study during the interview. For juniors, this is important.

As a mentor, I try to personally communicate with newcomers at specialized conferences and job fairs. We talk about opportunities for newcomers to our company and keep in touch with talented and motivated people.

The specifics of a beginner’s interview is that he cannot always choose the direction of development. Therefore, you need to understand why the person came to you. It often seems to the guys that they won’t be taken anywhere at all, so they are ready to take on the first opportunity that comes across. It is worth paying attention to whether this direction is interesting to a person and whether he has tried it before.

In my trainee stream, there was a person who was doing an internship in the field of Android development, but in the end changed his mind and went completely different. It’s a shame to spend two or three months of life and a mentor, and a mentee.

When we selected interns for the position of iOS developer, in addition to various technical questions, we asked one simple but important one: “Why did you choose iOS development.” Most of the responses were “Because I bought a MacBook.” Only one person gave a good reasoned answer.

Most likely, candidates have little or no experience at all, but they have adequate theoretical knowledge after the technical selection stage, so all attention is on motivation and software. It is also important how the contact is built: without good communication it will be difficult to transfer experience and knowledge.

Here is my set of questions for Jun’s interview:

  • How did you find out about the company?

  • Went, where did you call?

  • How did you choose the field?

  • What attracted him to the chosen programming language/framework/technology/platform?

How to grow a juna

Looking for a mentor. A good mentor plays an important role in the growth process of a jun. To find it or become one, I will share what motivates me to share knowledge:

  • Self-development. If you want to understand something, explain it! An excellent opportunity to delve deeper into issues. Digging together in what seemed obvious.

  • Challenge. Joining a new team, or perhaps even your first job, is stressful. A new company, project and team with its own laws and rules, and even not very confident in technology. The task of the mentor is to make this process fun, not torture.

  • Development for the community, team and company. On the one hand, it brings moral satisfaction from the fact that you are doing something good. On the other hand, it is practically an investment in the future. Today you help a newbie to deal with the project, tomorrow he will be useful, and the day after tomorrow he will begin to mentor newcomers.

  • Communication. It may not be enough – especially given the distance.

We make a good mentor. The problem may be that the mentor is not doing their job well. In the last paragraph, I talked about what motivates mentors. Now about why this is important.

A mentor can be cool as a specialist, can be well versed in the subject area, but without motivation. As a result, tasks are for show and there is no time for detailed explanations.

For me, as a former trainee, a mentor is cool when he is open to communication and ready to devote time. My mentor after the internship was just like that, and even the fact that he is from another city did not prevent him from giving me enough time.

What makes a mentor cool:

  • Support ability. Often the learning process is a pain. I had dismoral from the fact that I do not understand something or something does not want to work. It is important to help the ward not only with knowledge, but also morally.

  • Emotional intelligence to feel whether the mentee understands or is embarrassed to say no.

  • Balance and readiness for a huge stream of questions of varying complexity.

  • Ability to give feedback. This is important for development.

  • Hard Skills. The main thing is that the mentor feels confident. And even if he does not know the answer right now, he must know who to contact or how to solve the problem.

  • Don’t demotivate. The demotivating mentor writes the comments “Redo” or “This is not accepted”, but does not explain how to do it right.

Set up onboarding. It all starts with good adaptation. Our team is assisted by the onboarding process, including an introductory task that affects the maximum number of technologies, people and processes that we encounter on combat missions. The task is unified, and everyone can review it. Collecting feedback at the end of the process, we change it, polishing it for new guys.

It will be great to have basic documentation so that it is easier for a beginner to join the project and less likely to disturb the mentor.

We give interesting tasks. It is ideal to immediately give combat missions and guide a beginner through the entire cycle of work: from communication with customers or analysts to the output to production.

But a mentor may be afraid to give sales tasks right away. It may seem that then all redo yourself. Just don’t forget about good decomposition and quality code reviews.

Remember the company culture. A mentor should not only talk about technical things, but also convey the culture and values ​​​​of the company – this is important for beginners. Tell me about how:

  • It is customary to set and achieve goals.

  • Communicate in a team.

  • Grow and develop and what are the opportunities in the company for this.

  • Feel free to ask questions.

We think about the end of the internship before it starts. You need to understand why you are hiring an intern, who you want to grow out of him. After the internship, gather the newcomer, mentor, leader and discuss the results.

When I stopped being a rookie, little by little, offers from recruiters began to come in, and there were more and more of them. Including those with whom I communicated at the very beginning of my journey, when I was looking for an internship.

In addition to an interesting project and good conditions, I was motivated to stay by understanding the criteria for success and the opportunity to grow further. Understanding the path. We have a program called “The Way of the Jun”, which involves a review every six months with a salary review.

Show the newbie projects where he can develop. You can tell about your development path or other success stories in your company. Find out what motivates, talk, ask questions. Spend 1-on-1.

Mini-guide for working with juniors

  • Don’t be afraid. Newbies are worried. It is important to talk about opportunities for interns and juniors in your company and conduct selections that are beneficial for the development of the candidate.

  • Help for a beginner to understand whether he has chosen the right direction. Often, newcomers themselves are not sure where they came from. At the interview, pay attention to the motivation and validity of the choice of direction.

  • Prepare your forces for mentoring. It will take time and emotional strength, but it also brings a lot of good in return.

  • Pick up the right tasks. They should be varied in order to pump a beginner from different angles. Do not throw off the whole routine on the jun.

  • Maintain loyalty and do not forget about the culture of the company. In the midst of hard work on the development of hard skills, pay attention to soft things.

Working with johns is great. For me, it was another cure for burnout, a way to contribute to the development of the community, and also gave me the opportunity to make new friends and friends.

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