This National Volunteer Week, HeartPress is giving a big #CheersToVolunteers! To celebrate the 13 million volunteers across Canada, we’re featuring stories from local volunteers in action. This week we spoke with Danny, a volunteer mentor with HighTechU.
Describe your volunteer role with HighTechU.
I volunteer as a mentor with the HighTechU program. This means that I help students build web applications and answer questions they have about working in Victoria’s tech industry. The role is both in person at UVic at least once a year (sometimes more if we are able to run more than one cohort) and online via Slack.
What qualifies you for this role? Do you need special skills or experience?
When I first got involved, I wasn’t sure that I was qualified, as I don’t consider myself a developer (I’m more of a Systems Administrator). Andrew MacLean (One of the co-founders of HighTechU) assured me when I was learning about the program that my experience working in the tech field in Victoria was enough to qualify me. I was hesitant, but tried it anyway, and was glad that I did!
It was exceptionally rewarding to fix an issue in ‘real world’ code!
How did you find out about HighTechU and their volunteer opportunities?
The YYJ tech community Slack.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I’ve always loved the idea of volunteering in a way that also lets me work with technology, but I’ve had a hard time finding a group or program that I feel I can make a meaningful contribution to. HighTechU fit the bill perfectly. I’ve always loved teaching people new things, and the great thing about the HighTechU cohorts is that they’re full of people that want to learn!
What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had so far as a volunteer with HighTechU?
It’s hard to choose just one, but the first thing that comes to mind was helping a student fix some code from one of Mozilla’s (the people that make the Firefox web browser) code repos. The code has a typo that was causing it to fail, and we were able to debug it together, and get it working in their project. It was exceptionally rewarding to fix an issue in ‘real world’ code!
Have there been any challenges?
Certainly! Getting used to a new group of students every time takes some getting used to. Every group learns a little differently, and every cohort is a little different. You need to adjust your approach for each student.
What were you expecting when you signed up to volunteer? Was there anything that surprised you?
Andrew and Ulrike Stege (HighTechU’s other co-founder) did a great job of setting expectations and laying out the day to day activities. There were a lot of on the fly changes, when it made sense to make them, but all in all, the cohorts were exactly what I expected!
What advice would you give others who are considering becoming a volunteer?
Do it! It can be a little daunting to get into, and you might feel that you’re under-qualified, but you’ve definitely got something to teach that someone will want to learn! It’s also a great opportunity to learn from others, and make new connections.
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