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Meet a MuleSoft Mentor Part 1: My Journey

Well, Hello There!

Hi, I’m Dylan, a MuleSoft Mentor.

Let me introduce myself and tell you about being a mentor. I want to give you an insight into what I do for a living and how I got to where I am in my career. Hopefully, you’ll find this both engaging and informative – learning from any mistakes I’ve made along the way!

At this point in my career, fewer working years are in front of me than behind me. Not that I’m implying retirement is just around the corner; far from it – there are many more years to go. But like others, I’ve reached this point and just wanted to reflect on things. It’s time to give back and pass on some of the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my working life.

I’ve split my story into two blogs. In this first blog, I’m going to tell you a bit about how I got to where I am. In the second blog, I will tell you about my current work and what I now do.

In the beginning…

I graduated in the mid-90s (yes, I’m that old!) with a degree based in Mathematics and Computer Science. Maths and Sciences were about the only thing I was any good at at school – I found languages, especially foreign languages, just impossible. 

However, after graduating, I didn’t find it easy getting my first job in the IT industry. It took almost two years; the number of vacancies I applied for must have amounted to nearly triple figures. So, if you’re currently in that situation, I really do empathise. The best advice I can give is to persevere and not give up! Consider jobs in other fields your degree (or whatever qualification you have) may not initially suggest. You don’t have to follow any set route laid out. You may eventually find yourself working in a completely different industry. One you’d never thought of and enjoy it even more. You can always change jobs later if you don’t like it. 

If you’re someone not yet sure what you want to do or what the direction should be, don’t worry too much. But please make the time and effort to think about it – that will help your sanity and stop the feeling of drifting.

All I’ll say at this point is, ‘…think about the 1997 song by Baz Luhrmann…’, listen to it if you haven’t – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

As for me, I started my career as a Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL) software engineer and spent nearly the next 20 years doing that. Over those years, my job sent me to many different places – I’ve worked in South America, in Asia and for almost ten years, in the Netherlands. Do remember that COBOL has long been the backbone of many financial systems worldwide. Without it, the global economy would be in chaos. I would say that if you ever get the opportunity to work and travel abroad, DO. Even if you don’t do it for long (or, like me, you do it for so long you can’t face doing it anymore), you’ll have gained from that experience.

Triggering a Change

Now, at this point, you may be thinking that a COBOL developer’s natural career progression isn’t into Integration or MuleSoft. And you’d be right, so let me explain what triggered such a career change.

Before I go on, I will make an important point here that your career is your responsibility and nobody else’s, and note, this is not the same as not yet knowing what you want to do. If there is something you want out of a career, be prepared to make the decisions necessary to achieve it.

So to continue with my story. I was at a point where COBOL wasn’t particularly challenging me anymore. Honestly, I found it dull – I just wanted to do something else. At that time, I hadn’t even heard of MuleSoft, and as we think of it today, integration wasn’t even the focus of my attention. 

However, I had become more interested in how computer systems interfaced with each other and how those interfaces were built. With COBOL monoliths, these interfaces generally involve transferring large, flat, fixed-width files generated by one application and then uploaded into another. I was also starting to work with more real-time data transfer protocols such as SOAP Web Services (similar to REST APIs but pre-date them for those unfamiliar). My first use of a graphical no-code/low-code tool was Cordys Business Operations Platform, and I also used SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services).

All this was about eleven years ago.

To finish this section of the story, a Solution Architect I had worked with had just changed jobs. The company he started working for had begun using Mule as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). With it being a relatively unknown entity to them, they wanted more technical expertise within the company. A 2-minute conversation with him one day led me to follow him, where I taught myself Mule and helped build up that expertise. 

This was how I got introduced to Mule. From that point, there was no turning back, or should I say, I wasn’t going to.

To this date, I’ve worked within the MuleSoft ecosystem. I’ve worked both as a MuleSoft consultant and an end-user MuleSoft developer; I’ve even (for a short time) worked for MuleSoft directly. I hold Certified Developer – Level 1, Certified Developer – Level 2, and Certified Platform Architect – Level 1 certifications. One of these days, I’ll set aside time to gain the Certified Integration Architect – Level 1 – someday, if I ever find the time! 

So why am I a Mentor?

Some of you may be wondering what a MuleSoft Mentor is, so let’s take a look.

Mentoring is a relationship between two people; an experienced person (a mentor) and a less experienced person (a mentee). Mentors support and assist mentees by giving advice as necessary. Usually, this is for professional ends, but it can also be for personal development. Ultimately, the goal is to help the mentee reach their full potential.

MuleSoft Mentors follow the same principle but don’t have dedicated mentees – the whole community are their mentees! They provide advice and help with their technical knowledge and generally try to assist wherever possible.

However, mentoring is more than simply for the benefit of the mentees. It can also help the mentor both personally and professionally. In terms of career development, there can be increased networking and advancement opportunities. And mentors often personally gain a sense of accomplishment through helping somebody else and experience that feeling of paying it forward.

For me (and I suspect this is true for many of the other mentors), finding the time to develop and gain new skills can be difficult. However, being a mentor gives you that extra impetus to continually learn new things, whether MuleSoft-related or other technology. After all, the best way to demonstrate your knowledge and help somebody else is to first understand it yourself.

Goodbye for now!

So that’s just a quick summary of how my career progressed from my early days. I hope you found it interesting. 

In the second part, I’ll talk about my current employer and what I do there. I’ll give you an insight into my working life at Devoteam. Maybe you’ll discover it’s also for you.

Speak to you then…