New perspectives and challenges through mentoring

General Manager of Datacom, Simon Ferrari, mentored Software Development graduate Hayley Mapley over six months.

Hayley Mapley and Simon Ferrari stand behind a purple wall smiling to the camera.
Master of Software Development graduate Hayley Mapley with mentor and General Manager at Datacom Simon Ferrari

Simon and Hayley each said they were immensely grateful for the opportunity and learned much from each other. They thought it was great to “see from different perspectives and make lasting connections with people who are at different points in their career.”

Our Mentorship Programme is a way for students and industry to directly connect, because we know a big part of success is about building meaningful relationships. We started our Mentorship Programme two years ago as an opportunity for students to apply their learnings outside the classroom and dive deeper with guidance from professionals.

Simon and Hayley remembered first meeting at the ‘Speed Dating’ Mentorship Breakfast, which was designed to pair mentors with mentees. It was a busy, fast-paced event with over a hundred people. But Simon said it was “well organised, like a military operation, with two or three students per table for eight minutes before swapping. We were even given a booklet with photos of the students and room to write notes.”

Hayley was really impressed with how Simon handled himself. She “felt like he was someone who could challenge me. He asked me some good quick-fire questions that made me think, and I thought I could learn a lot from him”, which was why she put him as her first choice.

After they were paired together, they met once a month for six months during the programme—mostly in cafes, but sometimes at Simon’s office. They continued to meet after the programme ended. Simon said their meetups “evolved over time from slightly formal at the beginning to just relaxed and getting to know each other” and that they talked about all sorts of topics—from what it was like in the industry, to advice on Hayley’s internship contract, to book recommendations.

One of the books Hayley borrowed from Simon was called ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink. This is about what motivates people in jobs. Pink talks about how intrinsic motivation is about having autonomy, mastery, and purpose. They both found it insightful and discussed its implications.

Hayley really liked how meeting up was a commitment that both parties had made. She would have normally felt awkward going up to speakers at the end of presentations, since she didn’t want to impose on their time. She said, “it was nice to have that time specifically carved out with Simon.”

“Hearing your perspective and experience has opened up my mind to what’s possible,” Hayley said, remembering a meetup with Simon in which he “drew a diagram on a whiteboard and told us about how your career was a journey, not a destination, so we shouldn’t try to have set goals but instead go with the flow.”

Simon remembered this and, laughing, said “I drew a sail boat going between three bubbles of passion, talent, and environment (like a Venn Diagram) with the centre being the sweet spot. If you find yourself drifting out in favour of one, or one is diminishing, try to correct by trimming your sails and tuning as you go. Instead of aiming for something, plotting a direct course at the end. Because defining where the right place to be is hard, especially in the ever-changing ICT industry.”

This is similar to the Japanese concept of ikigai—finding your purpose in life.

Simon said he got a lot out of mentoring too. He “bounced ideas off Hayley, because I valued her input on those thoughts and it helped me develop them further”. He also noted that it “made me reflect on what new entrants into the ICT industry don’t know and how I can best support my own new employees.”

“It made me realise that I was in the best position to be able to answer their questions and provide a smooth introduction into the industry.”

Simon said that throughout your career you make a lot of connections—“some are life-long connections that resonate with you, maybe people you aspire to be or just people you respect. But some students are coming into these programmes from different industries or countries, so they might be losing those prior connections. That is where this mentorship programme provides a lot of value, because, normally, you have to wait until you get into a workplace to start establishing your own connections. This gives you a head start!”

Hayley now works as a Developer at Catalyst IT, where she did her internship project as part of the programme. She works in their Koha team, where she codes, engages with clients, hosts and maintains implementations of their software, releases fixes and enhancements, configures servers, and more. “I’ve grown a lot. Getting a job at Catalyst has changed my priorities, and I’m particularly interested in open-source software.”

She remembered finding out about our Master of Software Development through her boyfriend, now fiancé, when they worked in retail together. Hayley had studied a degree in Linguistics and Teaching English and hadn’t thought of coding as something she could do. But she started teaching herself and enjoyed it. She and her boyfriend both signed up for our programme. “It was funny, because we worked, studied, and lived together.”

Simon would recommend mentoring to anyone. He says that “most people have time for a coffee an hour a month—just prioritise that and you might discover you’ll get more out of it than you put in.”