Berkeley Codebase
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Berkeley Codebase

The Mentored Program Experience

A Q&A with some of our previous mentored developers!

Introduce yourself!

Bianca: I’m Bianca and I’m a junior this year. I joined Codebase as a mentored developer during my freshman fall, and I’m super excited to be the PM (project manager) for the mentored program again this semester!

Jessica: Hey! I’m Jessica and am now a sophomore. I joined the mentored team last year and I am going to be a client developer this fall!

Julia: Hi all! I’m Julia, a junior this year as well. I joined Codebase as a mentored developer during my freshman spring semester and I will be VP of External for this semester!

Why did you join mentored?

Bianca: It’s funny, I actually came into college as an undeclared Business major because I was so intimidated by computer science (I came from a high school where no one really did many computer science-related things), but I knew that I did want to pursue a career in tech. From talking to people on Sproul, I thought that mentored would be a great way to break into the industry and make some friends freshman year. I’m happy to say mentored allowed me to do both!

Jessica: I wanted to have a chance to get CS experience outside of the classroom. I’ve always preferred learning by doing and was super excited at the idea of working on an actual project that would benefit a nonprofit organization. I also really enjoy working with other people and was looking forward to the chance to collaborate and grow with a team!

Julia: Honestly I really just wanted to explore CS more and find a community within Berkeley. Coming from Maryland, I didn’t know anything about Berkeley or CS and I also didn’t have any friends in my major. Although many clubs offered both aspects, I took a leap of faith and chose Codebase because they offered a mentored program. Needless to say, I definitely did not regret the decision :-)

What was the interview experience like?

Bianca: I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the sheer amount of clubs at Berkeley and their extensive recruitment processes were extremely daunting to me as a freshman, and this definitely played into my insecurities and fears as I went into the interview process for different clubs. However, what I expected for Codebase interviews and what I actually experienced were very different. My coffee chat with Codebase was my first, I was scared of being awkward and was really intimidated going into it. Despite this, the two exec members I talked to made me feel comfortable right away, and before I knew it, the coffee chat was over. We went over my previous experiences and other pretty standard introductory conversation topics, but I also remember laughing a lot and learning about their backgrounds too. My piece of advice for coffee chats is: as much as they want to learn about you, you also have an equal opportunity to learn about them and vibe out the club! Hopefully you’ll be spending a lot of time with the people in this club, so genuinely just try to enjoy the conversation with the members you are chatting with. It’ll make it a lot more fun :).

As for my technical interview, the only previous computer science knowledge I had was from AP Computer Science in high school, and I’m honestly not sure how credible my high school computer science was — how we learned to code from typing Java in a Word document is still a mystery to me. The technical interview for mentored is just to gauge how you learn and how you deal with problems, so don’t stress about how much coding knowledge you have (mentored is for you to learn after all!). Like my coffee chat, my technical interview wasn’t as intimidating as I’d initially made it out to be; I tend to talk to myself when I think through things, and it definitely helped when it came to my technical interview! I definitely had points where I got stuck, but talking through it made the problem seem a lot more approachable and let my interviewer know what my thought process was.

How much time did you spend on the project? What did a week on mentored look like?

Jessica: Most weeks I spent about 15 hours on the project. Really it wasn’t so much work as it was getting to have a great time while learning new stuff with cool people. While this might seem intimidating, mentored project is the gift that keeps giving — the more you put into it, the more you gain from the experience!

A typical week would start on Sunday with our team meeting, which would include a recap of the work we did the previous week. Then we would have a lesson that would introduce concepts we would need the next week and we would write some code to practice what we just learned. By the end of the meeting, we would know our teams (we were usually paired up to code) and what tasks were assigned to us.

The next few days would be to figure out conceptually what to do for the task. Figuring out what a task entails is one of the most important parts of the process since it’s where I would start to understand how to apply what we had learned and the pieces would all start coming together. This would be a couple hours a day of Googling, discussing, and reading documentation.

Later in the week we would do the bulk of actually writing/debugging the code. This also meant good laughs and most definitely a trip to Sweetheart Cafe at some point during the night. One PR (pull request, you’ll learn this in mentored so don’t worry if you don’t know what that means!) later and it’s Sunday again!

What was your experience at Codebase like outside of coding?

Julia: There are a lot of things I’ve done in Codebase that aren’t programming-related. For one, I’m currently VP of External for the club, so I have been actively finding ways of giving back to our CS community on campus by hosting events, writing these blogs, giving out resources, and more. During my time as mentored, I found out about UI/UX design and decided to pursue it as a career! I think part of what makes Codebase insanely fun to be in is the breadth of opportunities available and the flexibility we have to support our members in their interests and careers. Every member has a unique set of interests and are willing to help you out with whatever you need!

That being said, I truly love the people in this club. I have been in Codebase for three semesters now and everyone that has come through the club is a wonderful human being. When I was applying for the club, I was genuinely scared that I wouldn’t be enough or that I couldn’t compare to the people in the club. While these thoughts persisted when I joined mentored, as I got to know everyone in the club, I realized how kind and genuine everyone is. I will never forget club-wide potlucks, late night hikes to the Big C, spontaneous trips to SF, midnight snacking sessions, work sessions becoming club-wide hang outs, pulling all nighters with everyone, and so so much more.

The Spring 2020 mentored team at Yosemite!

What did you learn from mentored?

Bianca: How to take initiative. A lot of what keeps Codebase alive is members’ desire to give back and push forward new ideas, and I think that finding the confidence to do that is extremely valuable. Mentored gives you the autonomy to take on the tasks that you want in the project — if you see something broken that you want to fix or if you have an idea for improving a certain feature, you can take it into your own hands to work on it. As I grew in Codebase beyond mentored, taking initiative took shape in contributing to external visions, planning out new curriculum as a PM, and even brainstorming new social events for the club.

Jessica: I learned how long it takes to code. One of the things that caught me off guard at first was how long a task sounded like it was going to take versus the reality of bugs, errors and just the time it takes to figure out how to approach a task. Mentored taught me what reasonable coding goals look like and how to achieve those goals. I was also very excited to be able to see how our weekly tasks combined to make a finished product and understand that process better!

Julia: Learning how to operate in a team — it’s really not just being able to get along with people. You have to learn how to communicate honestly and clearly with your teammates. It’s okay to reach out for help! You have to learn how to operate independently. This means being able to research things that you don’t know and help yourself when you get stuck. You have to learn how to manage your responsibilities and create the time needed to complete your tasks. Juggling mentored, classes, and life forces you to learn how to manage your time and how to rely on others when needed. You also have to learn how to be flexible when working with teammates since not everyone has the same working style. These are all lessons that I have continually learned ever since I joined the club.

Interested in also learning about the client program? Check out this post by some of our client developers! To learn more about Codebase and apply, visit https://codebase.berkeley.edu/apply.

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