My Mentor Experience: Alex Aavang

My Mentor Experience: Alex Aavang

My name is Alex Aavang and I am a Technovation[MN] Board Member and a 2-year Technovation Mentor.  Many of my friends and coworkers have asked about what it is like to be a Technovation mentor, so I wanted to share my answer with you today!

I am currently a Software Development Engineer for Amazon in our downtown Minneapolis office, which is a fancy way of saying that I write code for a living.  One thing that happens when you code day in and day out is that you forget how much work it takes to get to that point. I took my first programming class during my freshman year of college and spent a total of 5 years (Bachelors and Masters degree) studying Software Engineering.  I grew up playing computer games, but I never wrote any code when I was a kid. One of the craziest things is seeing what these middle/high school students are able to come up with and actually implement. These students are learning things that I didn’t learn until I was in college.  It never ceases to amaze me!

As a mentor, you get to be part of that process.  You get the relive through your team that feeling of triumph you felt the first time you wrote a program that worked the way you wanted it.  You feel proud when you see one of your students successfully diagnose and debug an off-by-one error (as we all know, there are only a few hard problems in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-1 errors).  All these things that I, as a developer, take for granted, my teams got to experience for the first time. It’s really special to be able to see somebody else learn to love programming as much as I do.

Leaving the programming aspect behind (as mentors you don’t have to be programming savvy!), it is incredible seeing your teams turn into real entrepreneurs.  You are there from start to finish, from idea inception to final delivery. I have seen students grow from being petrified of speaking in front of a group to giving a Shark Tank worthy (In my opinion ☺) pitch to the Chief Technical Officer of US Bank.  It’s impossible to describe how proud you feel in those moments, you really have to experience it.

I hope you see Technovation[MN] as more than just a volunteer opportunity.  I hope you see it as an opportunity to leave an impression on the lives of these students that will continue to benefit them for the rest of their lives.

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