Today’s episode is a little bit different. We’re talking to some of the participants of our first Mentor Match cohort: Medina Tochi Ajro, Madihah Akhtar, Muna Ali, Damilola Odumosu, and Sadiya Zackria. The three-month cohort recently finished, and you’ll hear their reflections on their mentoring experience.
Listen To Today’s Episode
Key Lessons from this Episode
- Mentoring is just being sisters to one another and sharing and saying, “Hey, I’ve been there. I understand what it’s like.” 16:00
- So much of mentoring is just listening to your mentee and pointing out the things that their not necessarily seeing. 20:00
- You don’t have to know all the answers to be a mentor 29:30
[00:00:00] Grace : today on Tech Sisters stories, we are having a very special episode to wrap up season one. We’re joined with so many members from our Tech Sisters community who participated in the mentor match program.
And we’re going to just have a chat and see how the mentoring went for everybody and how Tech Sisters is. You’ll get to hear a lot of different voices in our community. I talk every week about how special we are and how really fun it is in the slack. So you get to hear some of the really special and amazing women who make up Tech Sisters.
So one by one, do you want to introduce yourselves, say your name a little bit about who you are and maybe why you joined Tech Sisters?
[00:00:40] Madihah: As salaamu alikum. My name is Madiha. I’m a newly bootcamp graduated junior developer. I joined tech sisters to get some mentorship and also network with other, Muslim sisters in tech.
[00:00:52] Grace : Great. Thank you
[00:00:54] Medina: Ok so I’m. I am working on my bachelor’s I’m also working as a So I have joined Tech Sisters, I don’t remember when..
[00:01:08] Grace : think you joined last year, but you like very quickly became one of the most engaged people. MashAllah.
[00:01:22] Medina: but so yeah, so I have actually, I was looking for a community with Muslim, women in tech, and I didn’t even know that there was such a community.
So I’m really happy.
[00:01:42] Grace : So happy that you joined! Who’s next.
[00:01:48] Damilola: As salaamu alikum,
I’m from London, I’m 29. And I’m self-teaching. And it can get kind of, you know, lonely when you’re teaching yourself. So that’s why I’ll say I joined Tech Sisters It’s just to help me on my coding and Tech journey.
[00:02:06] Muna: My name is Muna and I studied architecture, interior architecture, and. I want to look into UI UX and I’d needed some guidance and got that and the community.
[00:02:19] Grace : , Okay. Sadiya, bring us home.
[00:02:22] Sadiya: Sure. Salaam-Alaikum everyone. I’m Sadiya Zackria. I’m a United States developer for 20 years now. may, I’m an a more experienced person in the group. And honestly I enjoy it. Cause I feel like as someone who’s studied information systems and has worked as a developer for 20 years now, as a Muslim.
It’s still really important to have a community where. You can relate on many levels and through many experiences, you know, as to how we’re learning, how we’re building a big component of our life. And it’s really nice to have a community cause for a lot of us, that is very, as Dami said, it’s very isolating.
You know, we, we may be the only Muslim person in our company or. In an industry and even in larger cities, it’s harder to have this network. So I think I’ve been in Tech Sisters at least since before last Ramadan.
[00:03:26] Grace : From from the beginning, you’re like one of the O G members.
[00:03:30] Sadiya: Yeah. So alhamdulillah. It’s so nice to see how many new people are coming in. We’re seeing product and UI UX, and mashAllah this is an amazing platform.
You have started for everyone.
[00:03:44] Grace : alhamdulillah and I really value what you’ve brought to Tech Sisters so much, like, so, so deeply beyond words, MashAllah, and it’s been really exciting seeing this community grow and the more people coming in and just the energy and the questions And the feedback, and it’s really exciting seeing it grow to be something that’s beyond me because I never wanted it to be something that grace does for everybody.
I always wanted it to be a community that we build for ourselves collectively. So seeing that really come to fruition more and more, it makes me really happy, excited, alhamdulillah yeah. And I like what you started to bring up about how this can be a very isolating experience. That is one of the cornerstones of Tech Sisters is sharing these stories and connecting with other Muslim women in tech.
Tech Sisters is such a very diverse group in our ages and our backgrounds. What we’re specializing in our, as minority previous careers, the family responsibilities work responsibilities. We all have different sets of skills, but we’re all really united by the shared identity of being a Muslim woman in the shared sense of purpose in wanting to contribute to this community and connect with each other.
[00:05:00] Sadiya: Because at the end of the day, we are all trying to go through this journey, our life, and we all have a shared faith that we have a afterlife. of what we do in this life will be judged and weighed. Right? And so each of us individually are trying to be socially conscious and responsible.
And we, we feel a sense of not only are we representing women we’re representing Muslims, and if we wear a hijab or we’re visible positions, that’s a lot of weight on our shoulders. So I think having a group is so important because. There’s so many times you may have questions and not even know who to go to.
Even something as simple as, many of us may be first-generation immigrants to different countries. . And so just having that first experience and not having anyone else to say, Hey, what was it like for you when you went to, , college or university? How did you enter the working world?
When many of our parents and mothers and aunts did not have this experience? our generations are changing so much that it’s, it’s a different world than the world we’re making, where, you know, the world we are building and supporting for our kids is so different too.
Right. Generations leading the next.
[00:06:25] Grace : That’s it. Yeah. Word well said, mashAllah. We’re really creating this new space that our parents don’t know how to navigate. And we’re trying to just have that space for our kids to walk into that they can build for themselves in a way that makes sense for their generation. Were you going to say something Medina?
[00:06:43] Medina: It has really, you know, because I was not a college degree. And then I had a younger sister seven just yesterday. We were discussing with my sisters how it has been easier for them to navigate you know, to start college, and then continue with that. Whereas for me it was really, really hard, you know? Cause I, I didn’t even have cousin I mean in my area.
So we have engineering, usually they have for the social sciences. Yeah. So it was a bit hard, you know, being the first engineer in my family, and then. Yeah, and just yesterday my sister was saying that I would go to school. And then there were things that I, but she couldn’t understand and she would say to herself
I I didn’t have that even the community, the Tech Sisters So it was, you know, I, I found about it much later. So I had been needing such a community for some, the beginning of when I, I wanted a career and study computer sciences. I have been really excited for. Being the part of Tech Sisters, yeah, I also wanted to mention that I, I am a software developer now also thanks to the mentorship program to Grace of course Sadiya I’m being as my mentor, so it has been really, really great the whole program. So am I.
[00:08:39] Grace : Well, that’s a great transition into mashallah. Yeah. So the purpose of this call is talking about the mentoring program. This was the very first time that we ran it. It was something that. It was really clear from our membership surveys that it was something, a lot of people when needed they were coming in and more experienced.
People wanted a way to share their skills and the people who were new to the field needed a mentor. And they really identifying that. So to build the program. What did I do? I, I took some time out to research and really try to look at best practices a humongous notion board, super complicated notion.
And and yeah, just, I wanted to really focus on empowering each pair to find a way to mentor. In a way that makes sense for them. And we have a couple of pairs. We have my group and Sadiya and Medina are a pair and Muna is one half of a pair mashallah. So yeah. does it make sense for each pair to kind of go and talk about how the mentoring was for them and their experiences of it and Medina you’ve already started?
So you should continu
[00:09:45] Medina: Okay. Okay. Sadiya has been a really great mentor. She was all the time organizing. So our meeting and, you know, she would always just say, okay, so can you do this day or that day? So keeping me on track . Part of the reason why I asked for mentoring and why I applied for a month and was because I wanted to get the job in part, because. I have some time off but while I was studying and then I had my phone and then I was working just as a, as an instructor and programming with teaching kids programming. But so it was just quite time job or even not a part-time job. So after my son was, I can say more than a year. So I started to look for a job, but I was missing some things.
I was missing my self-confidence. So I was missing, you know, I had some break from the industry because of. I was actually just, I did an internship for a year earlier on, and then I started with this instructor job. And then I had to pause while I had my son. And it was a bit hard to do. I don’t know, what’s the word, but to get into tech again Um, through the mentorship program especially sadiya has really helped me and to just keeping me focused keeping me accountable also, you know, cause sometimes they just get lost into, I don’t know, making the infinite list of jobs, you will be applying to, but she never.
And then yeah, so also so sadiya helped me with techniques on how to manage my time as she would tell me things she does for herself and also other one she read. She also helped me with just my CV finalize it and to just see what could be changed and helped make it feel better. She also helped me with my motivational efforts. Earlier it was really hard for me to write. And then after some time I had started writing from time to time, but she really helped me with the motivational letter. And then she helped me with applying for jobs. So she, she would, I said, she would help keeping me accountable. We would define on how many jobs will I apply per day, and then I would try to do that.
then she was also the best uh emotional support. She really. She was there when, for example, I needed to send an email and I wasn’t sure should I send this or should I, is this the right? The I should everything. And I have been put on and she would tell me, okay, you need to change that.
Or you need to maybe just rephrase them or things like that. The job that I got, so they invited me for an interview. Then she told me that I should really focus on this one if I wanted, and so I did. And then she helped me, you know, because I was so stressed.
So I was really stressed that I had to work on a work sample. And so I wasn’t sure, I thought that that shouldn’t have been perfect. And everything, but explained to me that actually communication is key. You know, if I just know how to communicate and if I try to communicate correctly even if the work sample isn’t finished, you know, the whole thing isn’t finished or if there are some big or anything, just if I communicate everything then it will be fine.
Yeah. So I got that job.
[00:13:58] Grace : alhamdulillah! alhamdulillah
[00:14:00] Medina: really bless you Sadiya and Grace .
[00:14:02] Grace : Ameen, but you did the work though, Medina,
[00:14:06] Medina: Yeah, but you know, sometimes you don’t know how to do the work. Someone has to guide you, you know, sometimes you can do a lot of work, but it won’t be needed or you, you know, you have to be guided sometime this mentorship program was right at the right time. At least for me. It was just.
[00:14:30] Grace : Yeah. mashAllah Sadiya a five-star review. you
[00:14:44] Sadiya: But, you know what it was, this is the sister in Tech Sisters, this is sisterhood, right? That’s the hadith of the prophet sallahu alayhi wa that, you know, you don’t have Imaan if you don’t love for your brother, what you love for yourself. In this journey. I think all of us will have experiences.
we, you had posed a question the other day, grace, about failures and what do you learn from them? Because we all have failures inshAllah. We all learn from them. And then the nice thing is when you share and you make yourself a little vulnerable and you say, Hey, this was something I struggled with is we all learn and we can all become better.
I feel like in or the technical industries, one of the key components is just, you’re always learning, right? It’s, it’s always in any science field. Things are always changing. You’re always learning. And I think to be a sister, you really have to be able to share and share what you know, and it’s not, you know, Medina. Very talented, very organized individual, but she’s just as, as a junior person, she’s struggling to identify and even a little bit of that imposter syndrome creeps in and Medina, you know, I’ve been doing this 20 years and I still have imposter syndrome. It’s real. And you know, but again, it’s, it’s just being sisters to one another and sharing and saying, Hey, I’ve been there.
I understand what it’s like to. Want to be writing code and debugging something and your child comes and throws their arms around your neck, and you’re literally physically being torn from your work. And it’s, subhanallah, it’s a challenging experience. So I think it’s, I keep telling Medina I didn’t do anything.
We really just, it’s just sitting down and, you know, like saying, Hey, you know, you’re thinking of this. What are you not thinking of? And it’s a key component in coaching. Get someone else to think about exploring questions and what else they can do.
[00:16:46] Medina: also, you know, sadiya you were, I’m not a whole thing up until now, so not once did I ever feel like. I’m asking too many questions or I’m disturbing you no I would send WhatsApp messages. She would, you would be totally fine. So for the last really, I didn’t really, I thought,
[00:17:12] Sadiya: Yeah.
[00:17:13] Medina: you know, cause sometimes sometimes I, I always worry, you know, because am I making too many questions?
Am I just, you know,
Yeah, but you would always, you’re always on.
[00:17:31] Sadiya: I’m an, I’m an older sister. So we learned quickly that we answer our sisters. We help them out, you know, just like somebody other people helped me. Right. Like I we’re not trailblazers any of us. Subhanallah we’ve we are walking down a road. Someone else has walked down and they’ve laid those tracks for us.
And we’re just. Guiding the next person behind us. And if we can do that, I think it’s alhamdulillah, beautiful hallmark of just sisterhood in general.
[00:18:03] Grace : Alhamdulillah, mashAllah. I love so happy that you two got paired together and I’m so happy. You both really embraced it because it feels like after the mentoring’s over you two have made a real friendship as well.
[00:18:18] Sadiya: Inshallah, I’m going to go visit
[00:18:22] Medina: Yeah, you should. Yeah. I forgot to mention I’m in Macedonia. Yeah. So it’s north Macedonia somewhere, but
[00:18:31] Grace : Holiday destination. Yeah,
[00:18:34] Medina: that’s.
[00:18:34] Grace : inshAllah beautiful mashallah, who would like to go next ?
[00:18:38] Muna: I could if you mind. Yeah. My experience with the whole sister in tech was really, it was really great cause I was really confused and lost on how to take it and cause I cause I was like self-teaching as well. And I didn’t know if I wanted to go into boot camps and. There was a lot of things that was going on and I just needed that guidance.
And when I got set up with a person that was, went through it too and taught herself and she had those similar experiences and we connected culturally And where she was. I knew so much, we bonded so well, and I didn’t know I was going to get a friend out of it. And it was, it was a really nice learning experience alongside what I was learning as well.
Yeah, I, I enjoyed it I hope that we stay friends it. And then yeah.
[00:19:37] Grace : I remember when you were first, matched and I was doing the two week check just to see how everyone was getting along. I could see your chat history was like so long. You just really hit it off mashAllah.
[00:19:53] Muna: soon as she said, like where she was from and what she was doing, man, I was like, oh my God, I, I used to live there that’s how we bonded. And it was so easy just to talk to her. And then when we, I was really She was
too and we had our and we just made a plan it got really, we were so excited that our plan, the first plan did really work out.
And that was because of it was her first mentoring experience as well. So she was taking different routes with me and I didn’t really mind that. I’m really flexible with that. I just needed someone to talk to and express what I was hearing daily and seeing online, because it was always in my head and I, I just needed that place where I could talk it.
she was really helpful and listening. Like she was, she was always listening to my dilemmas and things I wanted to take forward.
[00:20:48] Grace : The, yeah, that’s connecting with Sadiya and Medina, just having a place to listen, having someone listen to you and point out the things that you’re not necessarily seeing.
[00:20:58] Muna: Yeah, because I always, like, as you guys mentioned, like that doubt of what the.
[00:21:05] Grace : Imposter
[00:21:06] Muna: Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a syndrome. I always thought I wasn’t good enough in what I was doing. And I had so much doubts and there was times I didn’t want to continue. And just thought if I miss this call, it’s fine. But she would text me and we had that communication and things that, a thing that was happening alongside my my work.
Affecting it, but I really had a goal and a learning, the skills that she taught me was definitely needed. That’s what made it all worth it?
[00:21:38] Grace : That’s wonderful. And I really liked it. It was a learning experience for both of you, because you said that it was your mentors first time mentoring. And so you’re really going through it together.
[00:21:49] Muna: Yeah, she was like, I was taking a leap on like the mentoring and who’s perfect then someone’s that just went through as well. So the, the gut, like the things that she done and cause it at the speed that she went through, she was just shortening it for me. And I really appreciated that. Cause all the things that she had to find out months, she just picked and chose. And I didn’t have to. Second guess what links, if those are true and how I would take my research. We, we mainly focused on research, and UX, and that’s why I really struggled with like folks finding out The research side, how people take their research. I found that as the main fundamental thing I could take my mentorship and I focused so much on it.
I didn’t really do too much on design, I felt like because of my degree, I knew how to design. I can figure that one out, but with researchers more. Like you need someone to speak to you about it and have a second opinion. And she really . Did that for me yeah.
[00:23:01] Grace : Oh, that’s wonderful alhamdulillah. I’m really happy to hear how that went for you.
[00:23:06] Muna: Thank you guys.
[00:23:07] Grace : Okay, madiha my mentee how it for you?
[00:23:12] Madihah: So I found mentorship really helpful. I can’t remember what stage I was at when I came in, I think. Well, they doing the bootcamp. So
[00:23:21] Grace : You were on like the last week of your bootcamp, and I think you had just applied for that first.
[00:23:27] Madihah: Yeah. So yeah, I was, I was already enrolled in the bootcamp and yeah, the main thing for me was how to find the jobs to apply to like junior roles. And then It’s a lot about applying, interviewing those four, we discussed like how to find the right company for you and what like values to look out for and what questions to ask.
Cause obviously I’ve never worked in tech before. So all of this, all of that was new. And it was great having a more experienced person who’d been through that process of applying and interviewing and. You know, finding companies that they did, like they didn’t like and what the culture that you need to look out for, especially as sort of a Muslim woman in tech you know, just the things that you need to think about before accepting a position or applying to a company those really helpful.
And then also the interviewing tips interview practice was again, helpful. The CV editing, then the CV reviews. Again, really, really helpful. And then I just generally enjoyed sort of our weekly chats and catch ups. And also the accountability of that, you know, because after the boot camp, you’re, you’re really alone because, you know, you’ve left your cohort and you’ve left.
That’s all structured system and you’re just doing your own thing. So it’s nice to have you know, you’re mentoring. To hold you accountable, , what you did that week and what progress you’re making on different things. And alhamdulillah, you know, I’ve got, now I’ve edited my CV and done all the rest of them.
I’ve got like interviews. So hopefully that they go somewhere inshAllah and yeah, looking forward to sort of my first role. And yeah, generally it’s been really good.
[00:25:09] Grace : Yeah. And I think from my perspective, mentoring, you has been a breeze because you’re so responsible. And so on top of it, I barely had to do anything mashallah. I think a highlight for me has definitely been the mock interview practice that we did. So we went through questions where I was asking you kind of typical interview questions.
And then we went through questions that you could ask the interviewer when you’re doing your interviews now. So you’re getting a lot more feedback with your new, new and improved CV mashAllah have you had those questions come up? Did that practice directly?
[00:25:42] Madihah: Yeah. So I’ve had sort of those questions about like what you, what you want to do in five years and, and things like that. And I’ve also definitely been putting forward the questions to the companies about sort of their diversity and what they’re doing about that and how they, how they think about those kinds of things.
Also what they’re as a company, what their values are, what their plans are, what their culture is, you know, where they see themselves going. And I think that’s given me sort of good insight to what it’s actually like there, because some of them have been you know, , front about what the makeup of their team is.
Some of them have been, you know, sort of more shy about it. But then generally it’s been, it’s been really good alhamdulillah and answering some of those questions and being prepared for those answers has been really helpful for the soul. Just rolls off rather than having to think about this so much on the day.
And it’s a lot of the, sort of the typical questions that you get. It’s just good to practice this.
[00:26:42] Grace : Yeah, that’s it. So that when you’re actually. On the spot. It’s something that you can say without thinking about, which looks a lot more natural in your interview anyway,
and yeah, I think from my perspective, mentoring you and Dami
[00:26:57] Grace (2): who by the way had to drop off the call
[00:26:59] Grace : has been really nice, I think cause we were the only one that had group dynamic and I think it actually worked out pretty well since you two were in a very similar situation in terms of your learning. You’re a little bit further ahead than she was because you’ve completed the bootcamp.
You were almost in the role of a middle person. Through your mentoring her a little bit. Did you feel that way too?
[00:27:22] Madihah: I really enjoyed the group dynamic for sure. Because it was nice to see. Yeah, the different levels of experience and the different stages and, you know, different people. Cause I was also in that stage of self learning stop before the boot camp and also hopping between different resources and things like that.
So it was nice yet to, to chip in and give that advice how I found it and you know, what helped me at that stage. And just to hear different perspectives on a thing and You know, and she was talking about her, we just listening and that, listening to that and learning from that and, you know, yeah I liked the good dynamic.
It was good. It made it feel like, like a friendly chat, more than, you know, a really serious kind of thing.
[00:28:06] Grace : Yeah, especially with, we started talking about just like fun stuff so it was really nice mashallah checking in with you every week. And I really enjoyed the last 3 months with you.
Maybe just to finish up the call, each of you can go and say a tip for somebody who’s thinking about joining the mentoring program, when it next opens up after Ramadan inshAllah
[00:28:31] Madihah: I have one mine would be sort of know what your goals are. Planned beforehand. So , what you want to get out of the mentorship? Yeah, where you’re trying to go. What you’re trying to do like a rough, a rough idea. I mean, maybe that’s something you want to explore with your mentor, but yeah, it’s nice to have that.
[00:28:48] Muna: Consistency, I think taking the accountability to your spending and using that time and. And you have to have that level of maturity to do the work that you guys agreed on and coming into the next call with the work.
[00:29:07] Medina: Okay. So first starts with believing in yourself and then. All the questions for me, it has really worked out. You know, I would but asking questions has really helped me the best against the past.
[00:29:33] Sadiya: I will compliment that by saying you don’t have to know all the answers. I think, I think don’t be afraid to be a mentor Just cause we don’t have to be exact matches on paper, but if we have. I think the willingness to listen and the willingness to just share what you’ve gone through.
It really does help each other quite a bit.
[00:29:53] Grace : Yeah, absolutely. And my tip would be, if you want to get the best out of this, you have to show up.
[00:30:02] Sadiya: Yes.
[00:30:03] Grace : You’re not going to get any benefit. If you just put your name down and don’t come to any calls or you don’t reply to any messages. Then you’re, you’re not benefiting at all. If you want to have a good relationship with your mentor, if you want to learn things, if you want to contribute to this, you have to show up to the calls.
You have to reply. Showing up and being consistent is like 80%. Of finishing any coal, maybe even more than that, it’s a kind of less so yeah,
any final thoughts or just last reflections or things that you want to say.
[00:30:36] Muna: I had a great time. I would definitely become a mentor rather than a mentee this time. And I always wanted to give back and. Gave me the courage that you don’t have to be in a certain age to be a mentor.
[00:30:53] Madihah: Yeah, same. I think I might try for being a mentor next time as well. Just to see how it is like on the other side, just yeah. Give back as well. I think it might be a good experience. I mean, everything’s an experience being a mentee is an experience of being mentors. Experiencing, you can learn things from both of those.
It also leads to growth. Yeah. And I’m also really excited to be on a podcast, really being on a podcast before.
[00:31:19] Grace : Something to have on your LinkedIn.
[00:31:21] Madihah: Yeah.
[00:31:26] Medina: Okay. So Yeah, I’m talking here about the mentorship program and the Tech Sisters and knowing that you’re not alone there, that you’re not the only one, hijabi in tech and the only fact, it’s a lot good to know sometimes. When you live in a different parts of the world or on, there’s not many women in tech so having the feeling of community has been great.
So the mentorship was the cherry on top of the cake.
[00:32:03] Grace : I’m so glad that I could be your cake for you.
Sadiya, any final thoughts?
[00:32:16] Sadiya: I really can’t add anything else. I, I, I love that. Um, And, but he has said that they would try to mentor. I think that’s awesome. I think that’s the goal is right. We, we get a hand up and then we turn around and turn our hand out to the next person we can.
[00:32:33] Grace : Thank you all so much. jazakallahu khairan I really loved this conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us. I am really excited, this episode is really good. So thank you everybody.
[00:32:45] Muna: Thank
[00:32:46] Sadiya: you, grace, jazakallahu khair you do so much. You make this look so easy. I think we all feel a fraction of, of what you you do when you go through. And, you know, we really are all making the offer you as well, that you’re, you’re the person giving us this opportunity. And may it be a sadiqah jariah for you?
[00:33:06] Grace : Ameen. My dua for Tech Sisters, but that, that Baraka will stop being hoarded by me. And it’ll be something that’s shared equally with everybody. Everyone will, will have an equal share in that inshallah. Yeah. Thank you everybody.