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Learning Through Mentorship

Written by: Hernan Obera, Lead Mobile Engineer, Mobile Android at

Being a part of the mobile app team, it rings true to give power back to the customer through our app. I have the privilege of improving the customizability of customers’ subscription plans to their fancy. Our team is responsible for developing the native mobile app that our customers love (Google Play, App store).

This year, I have the privilege of not just shaping customers’ experience but also shaping young minds through our graduate program for Singaporean talent, Circles Academy.

Circles Academy is Circles.Life’s first graduate development programme that aims to accelerate the development of local tech talents, supported by IMDA’s Tech Skills Accelerator initiative.

The program is a highly selective course to groom our recent graduates into competent and versatile engineers by gaining skills and experience valued across the global tech industry.

Through this one year programme structured to provide the graduates with the proper training to work well within the organisation, trainees go through boot camp along with mentorship and on the job training using online learning and coaching. We will expose the hires to our Circles-X tech stack, system and architecture to help with the development of their projects.

One of the projects we have in Circles Academy is our non-telco features in our mobile app. In the past year, my team has added many features and products to our mobile app to improve customer experience. Aside from telco services, we have also added non-telco features like Discover movies, Sistic events and the Daily poll. And as we strive to provide the best app experience, we’re looking into new ways to make our mobile app more personalised.

One of the critical points in this programme is mentorship. I had a great experience at the start of my career with the guidance and advice of my mentors. I am excited to pay it forward and groom the next generation of Circles talent. It has been a month since the kickoff of the first batch of Circles Academy, through my limited experience in mentoring a trainee, I have noted some highs and lows of what I think will make a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

As a mentor:

  • Understand the mentee and learn their strengths. Establish trust and understand what drives them. If you see that their interest in creating good UX, then involve them in your team’s design discussions.
  • Be open and direct in providing an objective perspective. Share your honest input to help the mentees improve their performance. Candour will also be much more effective if you make your feedback at the moment.
  • Give advice and feedback frequently that will keep the mentee engaged. Here at Circles, we conduct 1-on-1 meetups fortnightly with those directly reporting to us. It is essential to have a framework which will build trust and confidence in your employee. In my 1-on-1 the structure I generally employ is the rose, thorn, and bud approach, where I ask about what is doing well for them (rose), what challenges they have (thorn) and what they think can still be improved (bud).
  • Improve communication and people skills. Focus and be an active listener and not worry about what to say next; this will help in providing meaningful advice. Remember that the trust and relationship you are building with them is more important than the words you use.
  • Provide focus by reminding them of the goal. Discuss the mentee’s personal and career goals early on and use this to guide them. Setting up a meeting frequently will also help to track their progress and adjust it if they’re getting sidetracked.
  • Encourage the mentee to build relationships with other team members to learn from them. It is good to set up many ways for them to interact through like team lunches and technical meetings. Facetime should help them be comfortable with each other and can result in knowledge sharing.

For those who have just started their careers, some advice I note are:

  • It is crucial always to reach out; this is the best time to understand the foundations of what you’re trying to learn.
  • Ask questions, do not be afraid to raise hard questions and to agree on a solution.
  • Take the initiative to provide solutions to your problems.
  • Be open to accept feedback; see this as an opportunity for growth.
  • Be engaged and eager to learn.

As a Circles Academy mentor, I am excited for my mentee to experience a hyper-growth company while getting hands-on learning experience using the latest technologies. I hope that this will be a rewarding experience for them when they see how their ideas and projects make an impact on our customers.

For those interested in joining our next round of the Circles Academy programme, here is some advice I could give:

  • Invest in yourself — Understand your weakness and be better at it. If you think you need to improve your presentation skills, you can rehearse and record yourself and see how you can make it concise. Keep an eye out for workshops and conferences; these can be learning opportunities that you can utilise to see what else you can do to be better.
  • Be prepared — Practice is an improvement, and improvement only leads to perfection. Ask the recruiter to know what kind of interviews you’ll be taking in the next rounds and prepare for that. Review your CS fundamentals and make sure to have a solid understanding of algorithms and data structures and practise solving problems using these.
  • Set and achieve your goals — Improve your planning and execution. Create a weekly plan on how you will improve yourself to reach your goal, make sure to follow through and track your progress. This method will also work in helping you get things done.



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