A Trained Extrovert

Importance of a mentor in your life

If you had known me back in 2012–2016, around the time when I completed Engineering, you would have met an introverted girl who loves programming. The idea of being in a room full of people haunted me.

Though it looked like I was attached to a bunch of girls, I barely connected with the conversations they had. Only I knew how suffocated I felt to go up there and give that presentation for English communication or my final year project. Over a period of time, I started questioning my social skills and started tagging myself as an Introvert.

Fast forward to 2018, I am a part of most tech communities in Chennai. I have given over 15 talks, 8 workshops, and run 2 communities. I rejected all the work from home options for higher pay just to work with a huge team.

What do you think is the reason behind such a transformation? Can someone really change from an introvert to an extrovert? Did a guardian angel dropby and cast its magic spell on me?

Yes, I was found by my mentor.

It is one such hand-trembling, a stage-frightening presentation that made Dorai Thodla find me and offer me a job. His constant mentoring had transformed me from an introverted college girl to an extroverted woman in tech.

Though it all looks like magic to me, I hope writing this blog would help me derive a process out the transformation and use it to help other “introverted” girls. The rest of the blog is a collection of major events under broad categories.

Giving Talks and Workshops

Dorai always thinks public speaking is a valuable skill that everyone should acquire. He believed the best way to learn something is by teaching someone. Around the time when we were cracking chatbot technologies, he made me, a fresher, present things I learnt during the research to a room full of professionals. This made me realize there are no hierarchies in the world too. There are just things. Things you know and things you don’t know.

The Feedback Habit

Dorai is a master of giving feedback. He knows how to provide customized feedback to a person. He never points out when you do something wrong. Instead, he would ask how do you feel about it and try to find out the instances that made you unhappy. Be it a talk or a presentation, we would spend few minutes reflecting on it.

This constant exercise of reflecting soon became a habit. Once I acquired it, he tweaked the question to, “what would you do differently?” Now this helped me to not only reflect but also improve.

Even today we do this aftermath after every build2learn* session.

The Confidence boost

As a fresher, I was not confident about what I did. A narcissistic fellow developer was feeding my imposter syndrome. But Dorai will always appreciate good work. He will let you make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. He helps you move on. By constantly making mistakes and learning from it you build a confidence to crack anything in life.

Valuing Opinion

Though I entered his team as a fresher, I had a say in whatever they do right from day 1. This made me feel inclusive and not to fear about voicing my opinions. Any fresher who enters our team will have something called “No hierarchy meeting”. It is in this meeting where we clearly state that there are no hierarchies in the team and why it is important to voice their opinions. No meeting has ever ended without asking for people’s opinions in the meeting and of course, there is a causal aftermath after every major meeting.

Letting you make big decisions

As I mentioned earlier in the blog a bigger part of making mistakes is around big decisions. Controlling things you never thought you would give a world-class attachment to things you do.

You don’t learn things from people. You learn their thought process.

That’s how I evolved from being a programmer to running a 3 member team and build a product right from scratch.

Writing things down

I was a developer who was focused only on writing code and nothing else. His suggestions on documenting, spec-ing out before coding, creating a task list, and writing user stories improved my writing skills. I started blogging because of him. He made me come to the realization that how important is to voice your opinion and why blogging is the best way to do it.

Is it all a Pro?

Sometimes I tell him that he failed to train me for an imperfect world. “Now that I have worked with the best I think its hard for anyone to match it”. He would smile and say “Same to you”. That’s what makes him the best boss, manager, mentor, teacher, well wisher, above all a friend who always got my back.