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Developers’ Take: Collaboration and Mentorship is Crucial in Software Development

Written By Tanaz Ahmed | July 5, 2019

This is the final installment of a 3-part series where we interviewed Gen Z developers around the world about their views on their job opportunities, workplaces, developer communities, and more. 

You can read the first installment of the series to learn about developer culture in London and New York City. To find out what it’s like to be a developer in India or Brazil, check out part 2 of this series. 

Many see developers as solitary individuals who like to code on their own. HackerRank’s interview with two Gen Z developers (those born in 1997 onward) this week breaks down that stereotype. Our interviewees, Tunmise and Ashlee, discuss the importance of collaboration in software development as well as the significance of having mentors in the industry. 

In fact, studies have found that to produce high quality and innovative software, you need to have collaborative developers who work well together in teams. Having access to a diverse set of perspectives and skill sets allows developers to receive constructive feedback and ultimately, create better code. Furthermore, developers who work on collaborative teams say they learn more skills and are more satisfied at work. It’s also been found that mentorship is crucial for career development in the tech industry. 

Tunmise who is based in Nigeria, also discussed how his country is fostering innovation in the tech industry. Meanwhile, Ashlee shares her perspective about what it’s been like spending a year away from her home in California and working around the globe. 

Find out more about what they had to say below:

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Tunmise is a self-taught developer based in Lagos, Nigeria who currently works as a backend developer at a startup. 

Jump ahead:

HackerRank: What got you interested in coding and how did you learn how to code?

Tunmise: It's my passion. I had and still have a very strong passion for transforming my ideas into reality, coding seems to be the best way of achieving that. I attended all sorts of tech meetups, but none of them were actual classes where people me taught how to code. I am mostly a self-taught developer.

HackerRank: What do you think developers need in order to be successful in their jobs?

Tunmise: Software developers need a lot to be successful in their jobs. However, I believe the two most important thing is continuous learning and quality experience. A developer needs to learn continuously because no matter how much one has learned, it’s still a drop in the ocean of knowledge. To ensure you are still relevant in this tech industry, you need to keep learning.

As important as learning is, it’s not enough for developers to own or prove their skills. As far as software development is concerned, I consider learning without doing or practicing a joke. It’s very important for software developers to always practice (with actual work, personal projects, open source projects, etc) to gain experience. Experience comes with time, however, quality experience comes with time spent well. 

Quality experience involves doing work that enforces one's growth, continuous feedback loop which is best achieved in a highly collaborative team, timely reflection on one's growth and deficiencies.

HackerRank: What attracted you to your current employer?

Tunmise: A lot of things attracted me to my current and first employer. I believe the most important one of them is that I embodied their core values: excellence, passion, integrity, collaboration. During recruitment, I was able to demonstrate that I can effectively collaborate with others to create passion driven and excellent work outputs which had to be defended with utmost sincerity.

HackerRank: What are some things that you think the tech industry in Nigeria is doing well and what are some areas of improvement?

Tunmise: The technology industry in Nigeria has done a great job creating awareness about the technological opportunities available for anyone (men or women) interested in going into the industry. They’ve also clearly demonstrated their investment in technological solutions (from full-blown technology solutions to concept level ideated solution). For example, there are numerous hackathons that are held at different locations across the country. People gather to hack ideas and they win awesome prizes that might help them actualize their ideas and push it to the market. 

I believe the educational system in Nigeria is not really providing tech-inclined students the skills they need to become successful technologists. The curriculum used in most of the institutions is very old. I think the tech industry can do a lot on this by effectively collaborating with all sorts of educational institutions, helping improve curriculums and providing study resources. I also believe the tech industry can do better on this by properly compensating the value add and skills of technologists.

At the end of the day, if I could be a developer anywhere in the world, I’d choose Nigeria. If I can’t use my skills to create, invent, or adapt technological solutions in a place like Nigeria, I don’t think I’d be able to do it well in any other place.  

[Find out where other Gen Z developers from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are interested in working.] 

Illustration of headshot of a smiling woman wearing an off-shoulder sweater

Ashlee is based in California and is currently taking a gap year to work around the world in cities like Tel Aviv and London before pursuing her undergraduate degree in computer science.

Jump ahead:

HackerRank: What got you interested in coding and how did you learn how to code?

Ashlee: I’ve always been interested in math and science so I decided to try my high school’s advanced placement computer science class during my junior year. I thought I’d enjoy it but I didn’t think I’d end up loving it as much as I do. 

Going into the class, I was afraid because there’s this stereotype that developers just sit behind computers all day by themselves and have no social life and I definitely didn’t want that. I ended up having an amazing teacher who debunked all of those stereotypes. I loved that all of these people were working together to solve one problem. I realized that computer science is actually much more collaborative than other subjects. 

Over my gap year, I’ve come to realize how much I miss my computer science classes so I decided to start coding again using sites like Code Academy and HackerRank. Also when I was working in Tel Aviv, I found a free Python class. It was a really cool side of coding that I don’t think a lot of people see because this class brought together a diverse group of people who were all drinking beer, eating pizza, and learning a new skill together. 

HackerRank: What convinced you to pursue a degree in computer science? 

Ashlee: The summer after my junior year, I was invited to shadow a university team participating in a hackathon. At the hackathon, there was one student who completely took me under his wing. He was a great mentor who took the time to explain to me what he was coding and why. To see the collaboration in the team, how kind, and how compassionate they were, really solidified my interest in computer science.  

Also, coding lets you actually see your hard work in the real world rather than being something like a theoretical math equation, which is very powerful for me. You can sit down and have nothing on your computer and then a couple of hours later, you can have built something that actually works.  

HackerRank: What kind of organization would be your ideal employer? 

Ashlee: Having now interned, it’s clear to me how important the company culture is because you spend most of your day at work and interacting with coworkers. It’s also very important to me to work for a company where I can make a meaningful change in the world, can grow, and have great mentors. 

HackerRank: If you could work in any place in the world, where would you go? 

Ashlee: While I don’t think I’d leave the US permanently, I’m very interested in working outside of the country for a few years. I’d most likely move to Tel Aviv since I really enjoyed my time there. It’s often considered the startup capital of the world and it’s a city that is invested in innovation so there are a lot of opportunities there. Tel Aviv’s culture and the social life people have there is also wonderful. 

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