Pair Programming - Mentoring Tips, Techniques, & Benefits
Below is an article originally written by Jess Stodola, Developer published on March 11, 2021. This article is about PowerToFly Partner Headway. Go to Headway's company page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
What is pair programming?
Pair programming as a general practice is in its infancy, but the concept has been around for some time. It started with John Von Neummann in the early 1900s. He asked others to review his code, and since then there have been a number of research papers and books written on how to do it effectively.
Pair programming is often a topic that makes people shudder. It places people in vulnerable states as someone else peers over their shoulder as they work.
If you loathe the thought of pair programming, I can relate. When I first started pair programming, it was frustrating and stressful. However, after pair programming regularly with over 10 people for a number of years it eventually grew on me. And, as a result, I've experienced the long-term benefits of this technique.
In this article, we'll cover the benefits of Pair Programming, the different styles used, techniques to mentor well, and some helpful tips to set everyone up for success.
The benefits of pair programming
Here are some specific benefits of engaging in pair programming.
Prevents knowledge silos
When every member of a team has that few things they are really good at, it creates knowledge silos. Life happens - so if someone is ill, takes a vacation, or leaves the team, it leaves the other developers on a team with a large knowledge gap.
It is also important to understand how other parts of a project work together, as it can give better insight into how what you are working on affects the bigger picture.
Builds better relationships
When you work singularly on projects, it can be easy to isolate yourself from the people you work with. Add in the ever-increasing option to work remotely, and it's easy to go days (even weeks) without really interacting with your team members. Pair programming gets you involved with other members of your team, helping to build better relationships with one another.
Expands your knowledge
"You don't know what you don't know." There is so much to know in this industry that it is nearly impossible to know everything. Even when you think you have something completely figured out, boom - a new update. Sure, you may be the mentor…but there is also the potential for you to learn something from the junior developer.
When you explain how to do something out loud, you in turn learn there are things even you didn't fully understand. Plus, the learner may not understand the first way you explain something. So having to communicate differently in order for someone else to understand requires you to really understand the topic well…and to re-examine your understanding of it if you're struggling to explain it.
Two are better than one
On that point, two minds are better than one. Two sets of eyes give more opportunities to keep an eye out for errors, bugs, missteps, and refactoring opportunities. It really is helpful to have a second perspective.
When someone is watching you code, you are less likely to take shortcuts, which - no surprise - produces better code.
Pair programming styles
So what are the different styles for pair programming?
- Both parties have comparable skills and knowledge backgrounds
- Common practice is to pass the keyboard or screen back and forth
- Mentor is the driver, takes on a more of a teaching role
- Learner takes the backseat, and observes the mentor
- Mentor is the navigator, giving guidance to the learner
- Learner takes the wheel, doing more of the execution
Barriers to mentoring
Remember playing with legos? (hey, maybe some of you still do)!
Whenever we built our ultimate masterpiece, it took a copious amount of time and we beamed with pride at our creation. If anyone wanted to touch it or change it… no way! You were possessive of it. And if someone wanted to give input halfway through, it could feel as though it wasn't yours completely.
We've all had a thing that we don't want to share with anyone else in the world - our most prized possession. That thing we waited forever to get or the thing we worked really hard to make.
Why don't we want to share?
- We don't want others to break it
- We don't want others to change it - no longer feels like ours work
- We don't want to feel ashamed of how much we care about something
What does this have to do with the developer world?
Well, code is treated by developers like their most treasured possession.
- If someone changes it, it doesn't feel like ours anymore
- If someone is looking on while we are creating, we feel vulnerable
- If someone starts picking it apart before we've had a chance to parse through the logic...emotions rise up. We start to feel sad, angry, and even overwhelmed and panicky.
See the similarity?
Our code is really not all that different to our lego creations.
So how do we move forward, and overcome this barrier? Let's take a look at some techniques we can incorporate into our mentoring journey.
Techniques to mentor well
Many times, people mean the best. No one sets out to intentionally offend someone, or cause tension. But there's a lot that a mentor can do unintentionally in a pair programming duo that can negatively affect the learner. By making a few adjustments, mentors can improve the success of the person they are mentoring.
Have you ever noticed that you misspell words more often when someone is watching? Or trip over your words, or lose your place?
Be mindful that the person you are pairing with is nervous. It's going to take time before they are comfortable working with someone watching them. It can be especially nerve-racking if you've never paired before.
Think back to the very first time you did pair programming. It may have been challenging to work with someone peering over your shoulders - watching your every keystroke, commenting when you misspelled something or forgot necessary punctuation. If it wasn't fun for you, it's not fun for them.
Let them drive
As developers, we are makers of things - we are doers. And as doers, it is hard to take a back seat and take on the role of the teacher instead. Because in order to figure out a solution to a problem, we typically figure out by trying, failing, trying other things, and finally (hopefully) succeeding.
As a mentor, it can be difficult to convert your thought process into words. It seems logical to make yourself the driver, and figure out the problem so you can show the learner how to do it, right?
But when we do this, we take control of learning out of the learner's hands.
It slows the entire process down, for a few reasons:
- By introducing multiple screens, it can be hard to keep track of all the steps
- If you take over and start trying to explain, the learner may not get everything you are saying - everyone processes words at different speeds
- It's hard for the mentor to know if what they are teaching is actually being understood, because people do not feel comfortable speaking up when they don't understand something
Yes, it takes longer. Yes, they will take the wrong turns. And yes it requires a lot of patience. But…letting them make the mistakes, even though it's a bit like watching a train wreck happen, is exactly how they learn for the long haul.
Have you every wondered why sometimes it's so hard to speak up? To ask questions?
One explanation is that it's an automatic confession that we don't know something - we view asking for help as a sign of weakness. Everyone else seems to know how to do it, so why don't we? Or maybe we're afraid someone is going to think less of us for not knowing. In our industry, our knowledge is often seen as our status.
A simple approach to combatting this is by encouraging questions.
- "Do you have questions?"
- What questions do you have?
- Do you remember how to do…?
- Should we go spend more time going over the background for...?
These encourage dialogue and further learning, rather than putting someone on the spot to come up with a question, or to bury their insecurities by asking no questions at all.
A big step is to also lead by example. Don't being afraid to let others see you ask questions or research things when you don't know something.
Give good directions
As a mentor, there is a lot of internal logic happening - but it isn't always shared.
Do I go right?
Do I go left?
Do I turn around all together?
So when the mentor is driving, it can be difficult for someone who is not knowledgeable about the subject to follow along and understand all that is going on and why.
Think about getting driving directions - how difficult is it to follow someone's directions when you are unfamiliar with an area? Now imagine the person giving directions changes their mind halfway through, and says to take a different way instead. Talk about disorienting…odds are very high you are going to get lost.
Now change the scenario to an area you are comfortable in, like your neighborhood. If someone starts giving directions and then changes their mind halfway through, you can easily reconfigure the path.
Explain the why
Laying out the path from thought conception to completion is vital in teaching problem-solving. When that is hidden from the learner, they don't know how you got from Point A to Point B. For instance, when we sit down to figure out a problem, a lot of paths are considered, most of which are wrong. But we don't discuss these wrong paths, because…what is the point?
But being wrong is half of the learning process.
It's helpful to ask:
- What was it that initially made you think that path was a viable option?
- How did you determine that it was actually the wrong path?
It is difficult to go back and explain that thought process afterward. Because all of these steps and turns are important to solving problems, developers need to know why certain decisions weren't a good idea - so when it fails, they understand why.
Strengthen their confidence
Here's a scenario - the mentor and learner run into a code problem. But instead of working through it together, the mentor figures out the problem on his/her own then tell the learner what to do. How confident will the learner feel, being cut out of the whole process? Not to mention, it feels a bit like cheating - being given the answer, without doing the work.
No one wants to call something their own when someone else did it for them. And frankly, it feels pointless for the learner to duplicate the work that the mentor just did. You can build the learner's confidence by letting them problem-solve alongside you.
It's not always easy
Have you ever used these phrases when teaching something new?
"It's really quite simple."
"All you have to do is…"
"Just go here and do…"
"It's pretty easy."
The word "simple" is defined as something that is easily understood or done or composed of a single element. However, when we do something for the first time, rarely is it ever simple. It's easy to use this description in an attempt to make something less intimidating.
But when you've been told that something was easy - and it's actually not - that is even more intimidating and can make you feel like you're not capable. It also feeds into Imposter Syndrome that is prevalent in the developer industry.
Have you ever been given a task that you know very little about - and suddenly feel like you know nothing in comparison to those around you? Thinking things like:
- "I should know this...why don't I?"
- "What if someone finds out that I really don't know that much about this?"
Or have you received a compliment about work you've done and felt like you just didn't deserve it? As if there are others out there that are more deserving? Did you chalk it up to timing, luck, or maybe that you had secretly conned those around you?
Imposter Syndrome (aka Fraud Syndrome) is feeling like you:
- Are a fraud
- Don't deserve the success you've achieved
- Know so little in comparison to those around you
It's surprising the number of people who relate heavily with imposter syndrome - especially senior developers and engineers who don't feel like they deserve the recognition for the things that they have achieved.
Yes, our work is challenging. But be mindful not to downplay the complexity of it. It can go a long way in reducing the imposter syndrome that someone may be feeling.
Don't be afraid to tell them when something is challenging - to tell them that it took you years to understand something fully.
You did not learn everything in one day, one month, or even one year. It was a process to get to where you are now. It can be comforting to know others have struggled with the same concept and it can go a long way in relieving any stress or anxiety that they may be feeling.
When a learner is able to do the work from start to finish - how to get from Point A to Point B - they are given an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. When no steps or hidden logic paths are left out, they have everything they need to make an informed decision.
Think about how empowering it is to be able to finish something that you started, to learn from your mistakes, to see progress, to learn new tools, and to become more independent and confident in your skills. As the mentor, you can make that happen.
Tips for a successful pairing session
Send materials in advance
Send some helpful articles or tell them what to research before pairing up if you can. Having some base knowledge will make the learning process go much smoother - not to mention you will have less to explain, making the time together more effective.
Plus, providing materials in advance will make them feel more confident in having some knowledge of the new thing they are learning.
It is easy to burn out - for both parties. Mentoring takes an immense amount of patience, and learning takes a lot of brainpower.
It's helpful to aim for at least 1 break every hour, to keep everyone fresh and focused.
Let them make mistakes
While it is hard to sit there and stay quiet when you know why something is broken, making mistakes is pivotal to the learning process. Try to give them the opportunity to figure it out on their own.
If you need to, write it down so you can get it out of your system or refer to it later.
As the mentor, it's on you to take the lead on communication. Ask if they are struggling to understand something. If you sense confusion, try rewording what you are saying. Sometimes simplifying a concept or relating it to something they already know can help.
And realize that there are a lot of words that a junior developer has not heard or does not understand yet. Using overly complex terminology can make a concept that is already challenging to understand seem nearly impossible.
Keep it simple. There will be time for the industry jargon later.
Set realistic goals
While it's tempting to have big aspirations, try to get through smaller chunks of logic. This gives more time to explain why you are doing something and allows time for questions or extra practice.
Understand their learning style
Knowing how a person learns is important when teaching new skills. Many of us are likely a combination of these styles, but we all lean toward one as our dominant.
This group learns best when they able to reference images, videos, articles, etc. An example of this would be giving materials for them to review ahead of time.
This group learns best through listening to the information - think podcasts, lectures, and one-on-one conversations.
This group learns best through note-taking and going through the motions of a particular task. For them, these activities help the knowledge stick.
"You don't know what you don't know." Simple, yet true. As the mentor, you don't know if they don't understand something unless they tell you they don't know. Building the habit of encouraging questions at the outset will help provide a transparent environment.
Have them do their own research
At the end of the day, you can only teach them so much.
If they are going to be successful engineers, they have to be willing to go out and find the answers for themselves.
- Point them to Google, StackOverflow, or GitHub research papers and articles. If they struggle with finding their own, trying giving them links in the beginning. There is a treasure trove of information out there.
- Encourage them to mess around with the code, to make changes. Let them know, as long as they are on their own branch in development, they can't break anything.
- Encourage them to look at the Source code to see how it works.
And if you have special tricks you do to learn something new, share that with them - you never know if it may work for them too.
Pair programming tools
Here are some good screen sharing applications for pairing remotely or between desks:
No lagging issues, and you can use multiple screens for camera image, screen sharing, and chat.
Offers chat/video conference, and can be integrated with Google apps like Calendar or Drive.
This platform is all about integration, streamlining meetings and creating fewer emails for all.
In this tool, both people have the ability to control the screen at the same time.
Become better together
Pair programming isn't just about the coding - it's also about building relationships with your team members and learning how to work together. If we can empower our team members by making them more successful, we help build a stronger, more cohesive team.
More pair programming resources
What makes one pair programming session better than another? Check out these discoveries and observations.
Working remote is the norm now, but mentoring from a distance can still have a big impact.
A lot of the techniques covered here can be applied and implemented during future retros.
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
💎 Looking to boost your career growth? Tune in to catch 3 top tips to develop a growth mindset at work!
📼 Press PLAY to hear tips from Haley Wolf, Manager of the Sales Development team at Lattice. These 3 tips that she's learned throughout her own career, as well as her experience with colleagues, will help you develop a growth mindset at work.
📼 Tip #1: Request Feedback - The first of the 3 tips to develop a growth mindset at work is to request feedback from your manager and coworkers whenever you feel there is room for growth or improvement. This might be after a presentation or project, or even before that next step in your career. By requesting this feedback, you can learn what gaps need to be addressed to keep growing.
📼 Tip #2: Overcommunicate Curiosity - The second of the 3 tips to develop a growth mindset at work consists of continually asking questions. Whenever you feel you're in a pivotal moment in your career, seek advice from colleagues about their experience and even how they've overcome obstacles. Think about what you want to learn. All of this will help you grow and get career-boosting advice.
Don't Miss The Last Tip To Develop A Growth Mindset At Work
📼 Tip #3 may sound strange, but it's absolutely true: Fail Fast. What does Haley mean by that? Approach each new beginning with a fearless mindset—which will help lead to a growth mindset. When you're jumping into a new presentation or trying a new skill for the first time, think about this: probably everyone in the room has had to do this for the first time at some point! So failing fast is when we can grow the most.
📨 Are you interested in joining Lattice? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Haley
Haley Wolf has been working at Lattice for 4 and a half years. When asked what her favorite part about working at Lattice is, she says: It's cliche to say, "the people," but I think it'd be wrong not to because our core values at Lattice are centered around our people! I believe that's what makes a difference here, too. And that's always stayed constant as Lattice has grown. But I think there are two elements to that. One is when the people that we're surrounded with and the people that we work with are so brilliant, so inspiring, so dedicated, with a pool of knowledge that is so diverse — that makes such a difference. But the second is the leadership team. Our exec team has done an amazing job of building that foundation that's collaborative, safe, and meaningful. I trust the decisions they make because they share everything very openly and transparently.
More About Lattice
Lattice is a people management platform that empowers leaders to build engaged, high-performing teams that inspire winning cultures. With Lattice, it's easy to launch 360 performance review cycles and engagement surveys, keep track of OKR/goals, gather real-time feedback, and encourage manager 1-on-1 meetings.
Most people have one home town. Syamla Bandla has 13.
With a father serving in the Indian army, Syamla got used to adapting to a new environment every time his role changed and her family moved to a new city.
That flexibility served her well as she moved from fintech to insurance to startups and eventually into a role as Facebook's Director of Production Engineering—and as she managed a massive team through the pandemic-induced shift to all-remote work.
We sat down with Syamla, who had already shared part of her career story with PowerToFly, to ask her how she's grown and developed her own career, and how our readers can do the same in their own roles, especially now that remote/hybrid work is here to stay.
Step One: Adopt a Growth Mindset
Syamla's career really began to take off when she took on her first leadership role. The startup she had been working for was acquired by Dell, and she was tasked with integrating it into Dell's SaaS portfolio and taking four different products to market.
Oh, and she was a bit busy having her first child right at the same time.
"The learning curve was very steep!" remembers Syamla. "When I look back, I am really proud of myself for what I accomplished."
She credits one thing with her ability to juggle work and motherhood: her deep belief in a growth mindset.
"When we say 'superwoman, supermom, superhuman,' it's a myth," she says. "Everybody has the same 24 hours. It was a muscle I had to build in both roles–in motherhood and in work–about focusing on the journey."
Here's how Syamla defines a growth mindset: "Believing that talents are not innate and that everything can be developed with sheer dedication and hard work and focus—an absolute obsession and love for learning."
In practice, applying a growth mindset looks like not being afraid to fail. Whether that is Syamla stepping into a leadership role while balancing new motherhood or one of her direct reports taking on hiring responsibilities for the first time, Syamla says that it's all about believing that you can get through something.
"When you think about it, it's not the outcome that you're chasing—but the joy of the process itself," she explains.
And while volunteering for new initiatives or putting your hat in the ring for a promotion may have been easier when we were all in the office and you could grab a senior manager in the hallway, it's certainly easy to broadcast your willingness to take on more learning opportunities, says Syamla.
Step Two: Be Vulnerable
Syamla's current job includes managing all of Facebook's revenue-generating platforms, including Ads and Marketplace. "This role is very, very dear to my heart, and I love doing it at this scale," she says. It's a big remit, and in order to manage well, she needs to keep her team connected.
Her strongest tools for doing that are trust, authenticity, and radical inclusion.
"Listening is super important, whether it's with customers, peers, or managers. Listening with empathy means you're getting the big picture, not just the short-term," she says.
Here are her specific tips:
- Put your phone aside while you're on video calls. It shows your team that they have your full attention, says Syamla.
- Share personal updates when they feel appropriate. For instance, when Syamla's father-in-law got COVID, she ended up sharing that to the broader Facebook community, prompting dozens of people to reach out to her and share their own experiences.
- Show that you understand other people's situations. From being conscious about scheduling calls at times that work for coworkers in other parts of the world to checking in on teammates who are going through life changes, leading with empathy can go a long way, says Syamla.
Step Three: Build a Network of Advocates
"I used to believe my work would speak for itself," Syamla says. She found out that wasn't quite the case. "As a leader and a woman of color, I needed to find my voice, but also to make sure that my allies and sponsors were able to speak on my behalf, so I didn't have the burden of self-promoting all the time."
Syamla thinks that remote work actually provides more opportunities on this front. Not only can you drop humble-brag updates in company chats she says, but you can also more easily branch outside of your own company to connect with industry peers, which is key for upward mobility and recruiting opportunities.
"It's a blessing in disguise, to have so many virtual events," she says. "Being a working mom, I used to refuse events, because they required long travel away from my family. But the top tech conferences are online and they're really quality."
Same goes for learning opportunities. With platforms, including our internal learning resources at Facebook, says Syamla, it's easier than ever to make time for learning, and to share your progress with your managers so that they can see how committed you are to self-improvement.
She also suggests making use of social networks to connect with peers of similar backgrounds. "You will be surprised how many people actually respond back and they want to connect and talk about experiences when they come from similar domains," she says.
Step Four: Don't Forget to Prioritize Yourself
It's easy to let work bleed into your real life when work happens in the same place that you see your family and friends, says Syamla. Career development is important, but not at the cost of your own mental health and enjoyment of life.
"It's hard to draw that line, especially as a working parent," she says. "The key is to pace it out and draw really hard boundaries." For example, Syamla makes sure to take occasional Fridays off where she fully disconnects from work. And on family vacations, she makes sure to take at least an afternoon for "guilt-free mommy time."
"It's important to put on your oxygen mask first, because you can give a lot more when you are in your strongest mental state and physical state," she explains. "After I've taken that time, I'm a better person, a better mom, and a better leader."
Personally, Syamla likes to spend her downtime hiking, diamond painting with her daughter, and creating vegan versions of family-favorite recipes like thandai. She's slowly morphed into a morning person, too, going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until she was able to get up at 5:15 a.m., which gives her much-needed quiet time to walk, do yoga, and get into the right headspace to start her day.
Prioritization needs to happen at work, too, and can sometimes be easier in remote or hybrid workplaces. For example, Syamla is now taking executive coaching sessions, which she says she wouldn't have had time for had she needed to travel to them. "I get good ROI because it's a lunch session, and I don't have to block half an hour before and after to get there," she says.
She's also seen higher participation in Facebook's Coaching Circles—small support groups where participants can learn new skills, network, and help others solve problems in an engaging and confidential environment—now that they've moved online.
Looking to the future
As someone who is personally and professionally passionate about inclusion, Syamla is keeping an eye on what the future of remote and hybrid career development looks like.
"A lot of leaders will be tested on building inclusive environments when some people opt to work full-time remote and some people are coming into the office. I think we have to be super intentional and even more laser-focused on getting the inclusion part right," she says.
Anne Do was recently visiting her cousin in San Francisco, California, for less than 48 hours. In that time, she made two cakes and a dozen French macarons.
"I told my family, 'You won't be seeing me for a while!' and packed up what I could for their freezer," says Anne, smiling.
The web analytics team lead for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, is accustomed to accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time.
With less than two years under her belt as a full-time employee at the Agency, Anne has already taken on the role of a team lead, became the co-lead of the NGA's Asian Pacific American Council (APAC), and collaborated closely with multiple components to successfully executed a five-person live broadcast panel event for this May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPHM).
We sat down with Anne to find out how she makes this all happen — and, importantly, how APAC has worked to support its members during a year of unprecedented racially-motivated attacks.
Driven to Serve
Anne says that public service is in her blood. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American whose father and grandfather both served in the military, Anne knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps by giving back. She earned her undergraduate degree in Information Technology (IT) – Network Administration and master's in Information Systems Technology Management, subsequently working as a systems, database and cloud engineer for various government organizations.
After working technical integration logistics management for the State Department, she was hired as a contractor at NGA while pursuing her graduate degree at GWU. After a few years in, she realized that one of her customers could modernize how they delivered map specifications to industry, military and international partners by moving from a local database to the cloud.
She wrote a proposal, including her own research and cost calculations, and it was approved. For three years, while managing her daily work responsibilities, she was also successful in learning achieving data and cloud migration accreditations. It was then that Anne realized she wanted to work as a NGA employee in a data science capacity.
"I have done the network aspect. I did the system and data engineering. I really enjoy dealing with methods of transforming data into a strategic asset, and seeing it come to fruition, so I figured, let's see what opportunity NGA has in the data field. I put my name into the hat without really thinking that I would get it," says Anne.
She did get it. And two months later, she was provided with an opportunity to serve as the web analytics lead.
Determined to Lead
When Anne started as a NGA employee, she ran into a challenging situation.
"I realized I needed to balance being organizational, tech savvy with being savvy at office dynamics", she explained. "I needed to extend myself beyond tackling specific goals and be the kind of leader, who could successful manage demanding situations."
That need for community and support drove Anne to join APAC, a Special Emphasis Program (SEP), NGA's employee resource group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
At her first meeting, she met the APAC's co-lead who was serving food for everyone. She was shocked—and impressed—to see such gracious leadership.
Shortly after joining the council, that co-lead position became available. Anne took charge and raised her hand to become the new co-lead.
That was in February 2020. A month later, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and anti-Asian sentiment began to rise in the US.
"I have two elderly parents who take daily walks, and I had to wonder if I needed my parents to curtail their normal routine," says Anne.
Other members of APAC shared their concerns with the council: they found themselves looking over their shoulders in their neighborhoods and grocery stores, wondering if a violent attacker was near, and they struggled to focus on work amid news coverage of increasing violence. They wondered what kind of support NGA could provide them.
Anne and her co-lead focused on a three-part response strategy: listening, providing resources, and advocating. Here's what it looked like:
- Listening: "I had to learn to ask people I work with, 'How are you today? versus How things are going? I emphasize the 'you' part because that gives them a chance to open up and discuss how they're feeling," she says. APAC started sending emails, partnering with other agencies' AAPI leads to provide a platform that served as open forums for anyone who wanted to share their thoughts, fears, or reflections.
- Providing resources: Anne and the APAC & SEP team communicated the NGA resources available to employees, including counseling, monthly meetings, speakers, reminders about mental health and sick days, and access to the AAPI network in the greater Intelligence Community, for anyone who needed help. "It was about enabling them to feel that their voices were being heard and showing there are efforts put in place to help prevent any uneasiness with what was happening outside of the workforce," she says.
- Advocating: On a personal and professional level, Anne believes in advocacy. "The more you open yourself up and have these hard conversations, the more you can educate people on the AAPI experience and move past the model minority myth..." she says.
As important as Anne knows her work with APAC to be, she acknowledges that it's not easy to heal from the threat of violence and experiences of everyday racism. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to my pre-pandemic comfort level," she says.
Finding Inspiration to Keep Going
Anne didn't meet her APAC co-lead in person until this May, well over a year after becoming an advisor to the council. They were working together virtually up until broadcasting rehearsal for the AAPHM observance event.
"It hits a little closer to home for a lot of us," she says of this year's celebrations. Anne signed up to be the logistics manager for the event, and found herself designing a speaking panel that was the agency's first all-Asian-American-descent panel. The event's keynote speaker was Huan Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy.
"We couldn't have asked for a better keynote," Anne says. "He addressed the community about the events that had happened, saying, 'It's real. What can we do to make sure that not equality but actual equity gets taken care of?' and 'It doesn't matter what your heritage is — you're American first.'"
The event was the highlight of Anne's tenure at NGA, she says, and she knows she's not the only one who felt the power of coming together as a community.
"A coworker who has been in federal service for over 30 years told me that was one of the most honest, genuine addresses that she ever had experienced in her career," says Anne.
Anne wants to pay that feeling forward, and has one last piece of advice for anyone considering stepping up and becoming a leader in their own organization: "Be more willing to take part in the change that you believe in, even if it scares the heck out of you. I definitely never expected to be where I am now, but I'm so glad that I raised my hand."
Approved for public release, 21-823
💎 What does a recruiting process with "diversity at work" in mind look like?
📼 Press PLAY to hear some insights from a recruiter at Procore into what it's like to work at a company that encourages diversity. Cynthia Griffin, Senior Talent Operations Specialist at Procore, shares some tips and tricks to stand out in the recruitment process at Procore.
📼 Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are at the forefront of Procore's recruitment efforts. They work to mitigate unconscious bias, address microaggressions, and implement training on leading inclusively during challenging times. Plus, they hold community round tables and listening sessions to amplify the voices of underrepresented employees and nurture the ecosystem of employee resource groups.
📼 Diversity at work is one of the main focuses of Procore's recruiting process. Don't miss Cynthia's valuable tips on how to prepare for your interview with Procore. During your panel interviews, the company has a set of standard behavioral questions and stages that will cover both technical and leadership skills. This will help them identify the qualities that will make you successful at the job. As Cynthia says, "take us on your journey". Think about your past experience, whether it's professional or personal. The recruiting team really wants to understand the journey that you've been on and where you might like to take your career in the future.
The Importance of Encouraging Diversity at Work
Optimism and ownership helped define Procore from their beginning stages. Their values are ingrained in daily operations, from how they run meetings to the ways the team communicates with each other. "It's at the core of who we are, how we lead, how we grow, and how we continue to hire".
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Get to Know Cynthia
Cynthia is an experienced recruiter with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Skilled in Coaching, Sales, and Applicant tracking systems, she's a strong human resources professional who graduated from Ventura College.
More About Procore
Procore Technologies is building the software that builds the world. We provide cloud-based construction management software that helps clients more efficiently build skyscrapers, hospitals, retail centers, airports, housing complexes, and more. At Procore, we have worked hard to create and maintain a culture where you can own your work and are encouraged and given resources to try new ideas. Check us out on Glassdoor to see what others are saying about working at Procore. Our headquarters is located on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria, CA, with growing offices worldwide.