Upgrade or lose: why do IT specialists hire mentors?
Tutors are needed not only for children, but also for adults. This discovery formed the basis of our Solvery startup. In January 2020, we made the first website on Tilda and started testing hypotheses. Then we were interested in the answer to the main question: does the idea work? It turned out that it works. By the end of the summer, we were consistently running about 100 hours of classes a month through the service and attracted “angel” investments to launch marketing.
Who does our service help? In short, for someone who wants to take the next step in their career. At this point, a person needs someone experienced to tell him exactly how to make this step. We decided to focus on the information technology sector, and our experiments showed that there are at least four categories of employees who need the help of experienced colleagues:
1. Beginners who are looking for a job in IT. As a rule, after university, they completed professional courses and realized that this is not enough to get a job in a good company. They want to finish their studies, acquire the necessary skills to successfully pass the interview. This group is dominated by yesterday’s students aged 23–25 years;
2. People from other professions (for example, physicists, engineers, financiers) who want to move to IT. As a rule, they take parallel courses in development, are engaged in self-education, make the first IT projects and need feedback on these projects. They need practical skills and the help of an experienced specialist in preparing for the interview. This segment is dominated by older people — about 28 years old;
3. IT specialists of the junior and middle level — developers, designers, testers. They often come for help in solving a complex problem — in a small company with a staff of about 50 people, there may simply not be an experienced specialist who can help. Here the request is formulated: “Help me solve the problem.” Age — about 30 years;
4. Team leaders who have already worked their way up from developer to team leader. To move to a higher managerial position, they need to improve their managerial skills and increase their soft skills. The age is usually 30–35 years.
Recently, a fifth category has been added to these four categories: corporate customers who want to improve the skills of their employees. We do not want to do large-scale courses for corporate customers, but sometimes we expand the 1:1 format to small groups of two or three students on request. The first two categories account for approximately 55% of our customers. The remaining ones — about 45%. In all groups, men confidently predominate: their share in the flow is about 85%.
Mentor comes out of the crisis
Mentors in the project — 250 people, this number changes daily, because depending on the plans, the mentor can hide his own page on the service’s website, for example, for the period of vacation.
As a rule, the mentor is ahead of the student by a couple of grades (steps) in the corporate hierarchy and is only slightly older than his ward — among the mentors there are guys 24–25 years old who have managed to make a career, acquire skills in the profession and are ready to share them.
Areas where experience is shared: Design, Product Management, Development Operations, Data Science, Testing and Development, including Back End, Front End, and Mobile app development. The mentor may refuse the student, but this does not happen often. Refusals, as a rule, are associated with the fact that not all mentors are ready to engage with beginners.
Mentors themselves determine the cost of their hour, but the fee is not the main motive that leads the specialist to the project. Developers and representatives of other IT professions after several years of successful careers fall into a motivational crisis — when the range of tasks is repeated from month to month, the question arises in the mind: “Why do I need all this?”.
Opening your own business can be a way out of the motivational crisis, but not everyone is ready for such a step. Teaching can give an “emotional boost”, bring new meanings to the work of a specialist: helping others to master the profession, he begins to look at his work in a new way, realizes his own usefulness.
The mentor makes a training plan depending on what the student needs. We are a mentor search service, not an online school, so we do not directly affect the educational result. But we try to support mentors with the help of guidelines and internal events with the analysis of educational cases. We believe that the listener and his mentor will agree on what they will learn when they meet at Zoom.
If a mentor asks us how to build classes correctly, how to approach a student, how to submit material, we will certainly help him, since the founders of our company have experience in EdTech. So far, we can see that there are not very many such requests.
Not all mentors are experienced teachers. At the same time, the students are not confused. Students understand that mentors take their first steps as mentors. Feedback analysis shows that 95% of students solve their problems using our website.
We found a niche
Oddly enough, before the appearance of our service, there were practically no sites that allow a novice specialist to find a mentor from the industry to speed up their professional development. Sometimes there were separate offers of advice on ad sites, and there were also a certain number of professional questions on the other services. But these sites are more associated with other requests.
Also there are Codementor and Mentorcruise services operating in the C2C segment. In Canada, there are B2B services Togetherplatform and Mentorly. They help to organize a system of mentoring within companies.
In the end, the volume of our business will depend on the accuracy of positioning: we would not like to “slip” into outsourcing, outstaffing, or HR, although there are such proposals: “Do the work for us” or “Pick us a such and such specialist”. We would like to stay in EdTech and mentoring.