May 09, 2016 - by Angie Chang

Why Mentors Volunteer To Help Change The Ratio In Tech!

Many non-profits accept volunteers to help young girls and/or underrepresented groups get into STEM (Black Girls Code, Girls Make Games, Technovation). Engineers can volunteer at RailsBridge to help women learn Ruby, or Code2040 to help underrepresented engineers.

Hackbright Academy invites engineers to volunteer as a mentor for an engineering fellow (a woman learning software engineering at Hackbright). The time commitment is an hour a week with your mentee for the course of the quarter. New mentors attend orientation before being assigned a mentee.

Hackbright’s engineering fellowships run on a quarter system, so each quarter Hackbright welcomes a fresh class of available volunteer mentors to supplement our students’ educational experience in the classroom and lab. You can sign up to volunteer here and help change the ratio in tech!

Mentors Giving Back At Hackbright Academy

Dan Malmer is currently the CTO of Blendoor, a blind recruiting app that breaks down unconscious bias one swype at a time. He has mentored at Code2040 and Hackbright Academy, and recommends both mentorship experiences.

A serial engineering leader, Dan is excited for the opportunity to support and give back to engineers early in their own careers. He says: “Mentoring people from different backgrounds who are earlier in their careers has made me a better manager. Working with students reminds me what issues I struggled with earlier in my career, and has made me more effective at managing people who are less experienced.”

Daniel Malmer

“I choose to mentor because I believe it's the right thing to do. The tech industry has been less welcoming to people who don't look like me, something that I've benefited from. It's my responsibility to help make the industry more fair.” - Dan Malmer, Blendoor CTO

Rit Breisler has been mentoring at Hackbright Academy for years. He started when he was at BrightRoll as an operations engineer. Recently, he joined Earnest as a systems engineer, referred into the role from his Hackbright mentee Sofia Nguy, who became a software engineer at Earnest after completing the Hackbright engineering fellowship! When asked why he continues to volunteer as a mentor, Rit answers: “I mentor because I am uniquely empowered to do so; the only people who can make tech a more diverse and welcoming place to work are the folks who are already here. I find value in this goal (for a ton of reasons) and so I'm willing to freely give a bit of my time to see it realized."

Rit Breisler

“I find it profoundly rewarding and inspiring to make a positive difference in someone's life while watching them conquer challenges. It feels amazing to see a Hackbright get that red hoodie and know that I helped her out in some small way.” - Rit Briesler, Earnest Systems Engineer

"The other side of mentoring is that it can actually make you a better person and a better professional. You have to tap in to patience, empathy, and you have to learn how to communicate effectively with someone more junior than you. There's also this really interesting phenomenon wherein teaching someone about things you know serves to remind you of what you don't. The value in this is obvious," said Rit.

What Does Mentorship Look Like?

Hackbright welcomes back a handful of mentors who volunteer and give back freely (read about our encore mentors here) to support their mentees starting their new careers in engineering.

From helping with technical interview practice, to having conversations about technology over coffee or lunch, mentorship looks different from individual to individual. Find out how you can get involved and sign up to volunteer at Hackbright Academy this year - we have quarterly calls for volunteers!


Hackbright organizes events like mixers and celebrations for our mentors and mentees to meet and have fun, and get to know each other! The Hackbright mentor network is a valuable and growing part of the Hackbright community - we need everyone's support to change the ratio in tech.

You can sign up to volunteer here and get involved. We are grateful to the growing community of Hackbright mentors who invest time and energy in our graduates.

Aabhas Sharma

“I've always been told that what separates a senior engineer from a junior one is what mistakes they've made. It's rewarding to impart that knowledge to an excited, energetic and brilliant kickass-engineer-to-be at Hackbright Academy." - Aabhas Sharma, Postmates Software Engineer

Have you mentored before? What are your tips and tricks?
Let us know in the comments below!


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