The first month of mentoring has been a great learning experience. Coming out of a high-pressured commercial environment into a voluntary, supporting role for a few hours a week is both refreshing and challenging.

A few things are needed it seems when mentoring:

  • Try to look through the eyes of people new to the world I am used to
  • Provide guidance instead of management, in a project situation
  • Stop talking so much and listen carefully to the students
  • Think about the best way to be useful in the short time I have with them

First session in the school

Very much a finding-our-feet session, this is the second time we have met and the first time we all get to talk about the project collectively with a bit more time.

The students have a sizable task on their hands; they have to plan, design, build and present an iPhone app within a 6 month window. They need to create the app for a local business community they have very little knowledge of (Hamilton House, Bristol) and they need to fit it around their daily school studies.

Students are creating their app for Hamilton House

In my shoes I find the task exciting if fairly daunting. In their shoes I would feel clueless and a bit scared. Luckily (unless they hide it well) they seem to be calm, collective and ready. Between them they have technical, creative and leadership skills, which is a good sign.

The competition is in its first year and I think it’s aiming to achieve something big and brave. Giving students an opportunity like this will I think have a big effect on them. Providing they embrace it I think they will learn some really valuable skills for the work place and may end up with an app on the App Store that will give them a shiny diamond on their CV before they even turn 18 years old.

My fellow mentor (thankfully) has many years of mentoring experience. This gives me the confidence to dive straight in and after an initial presentation of visual ideas from the students, we start talking about Hamilton House, the app itself and how we all might work together.

We are joined by two teachers, who are very nice, have a lot of energy and seem really interested in the project. There is a good flow of conversation and I feel I am able to draw on my knowledge and skills to give the students some guidance.

Our next meeting will be at a masterclass, I will attend a session with 2 students that teaches the basics of AppFurnace (the software they will use to build the app) and the other group will attend a marketing masterclass.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences over the next 6 months, follow me at @olliefrancis for links to the blog articles and regular updates.

November 24, 2011