Going Virtual for Community Mentoring

Like so many, we moved our Community Mentoring Program online. We were braced for technical difficulties, for clunkiness, and people accidentally talking over each other – but to our surprise, it went smoothly.  

Perhaps it went smoothly because it was run by an experienced speaker and facilitator, Chris Gilbert. Or maybe we are gifted with a wonderful group of mentees; let’s put it down to a mix of both.  

This sessions topic: Unlocking missing requirements by asking the right questions.  

We looked at how to build software more efficiently by making sure that we’re always building the right thing. Sounds straight forward, but more often than not, projects go sideways because we aren’t asking the right questions. 

Chris talked mentees through the kind of requirements that we often aren’t told about unless we ask the right questions, and how to be mindful of your own assumptions (as well as those of stakeholders). He gave real-world examples and discussed how to properly understand a problem to ensure that a proposed solution is fit for purpose. He shared some great tips on how to play requirements back to stakeholders to ensure we’ve understood correctly. Chris also covered the benefits of open vs closed questions and dug into functional and non-functional requirements. 

Steve drives all our architectural challenges and at the beginning of each session we break into small groups. This session’s challenge was around a sales team wanting to manipulate prices with more flexibility as well as dealing with the integrations of an existing system. This challenge brought up topics from our previous sessions about what patterns mentees used in the past, and what changes they thought of previously that may now limit them.  

Each architectural challenge that Steve gives is a realistic scenario to expose elements of the topics we cover in the mentoring program. The real kicker is mentees coming up with an idea or solution to sell to their managers and peers. This is where the most rich and valuable learning is for everyone. 

What we learned from going virtual was that virtual sessions aren’t too different from in-person sessions. Yes, the initial catching up over food is missing, as is the ability to have one-on-one conversations on the side. But the core value of the mentoring session is there. And while we braced for technical difficulties and clunkiness, what we found were the same challenges we faced in our previous in-person sessions were the ones we faced in a virtual setting. This has taught us that maybe we will mix it up once the world resets😅 

More to share on our learns in the next blog.