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Meet a Mentor: Ilona Utting

Written by James Adams

Ilona Utting

As we continue to grow and have more students take their journey through our Full Stack Coding Bootcamp, we continue to ask for mentors to step forward who can support the transition from the coding bootcamp, to a career in tech. We are delighted to welcome Ilona Utting to the mentor team, to support our graduates as they progress into a career in coding.

We caught up with Ilona to find out a bit more about her history, why she feels offering her time to mentor students is important and why a good mentoring relationship is a win-win for the mentor and the mentee.

Ilona, you’ve committed your time to be a mentor with TechEd. Can you tell us why you think this is important?

When I started in tech I had to learn a lot for myself which meant that it took longer for me to ‘find my feet’. I had to complete a lot of additional training, suffered massively from the imposter syndrome, and always had a lot of questions whether I was moving in the right direction, which branch of tech I could move into to further my career, and so on.

I made it and progressed really fast comparatively, from the entry-level BA/PM roles to being Head of Projects in less than five years, but I do keep wondering how much quicker and easier it could have been if I had a mentor from the very beginning. That realisation came three years ago when I spoke to my first mentor, and in less than an hour-long chat with them I got the validations and the answers I needed, it was almost like stabbing in the dark for two years and then having someone turn the light on.

This is exactly why I want to be a Mentor – I want to help others who are now in a similar position to where I was five years ago. And at the same time, I want to learn and grow from this experience myself, there is a lot I can learn from my mentees as well, so it’s a win-win.

Can you tell us your background in tech so far, what mentors have you had? How did they help you?

My first tech role was a Project Manager/Business Analyst delivering a CRM replacement project at the local enterprise hub. After that I was headhunted to join the Norwich-based AI company Rainbird as a Business Analyst, and was then further promoted to be a Project Manager. During my time at Rainbird, I delivered high value AI-powered decision automation projects to UK-based and international clients in financial, professional services (including the Big Four), insurance, and medical industries, whilst utilising cutting edge AI technology to solve business problems.

My next career step was joining Wex Photo Video where I started as a Lead Business Analyst managing a team and delivering large scale business initiatives, and then progressed to incorporate the change management and business benefit realisation functions in the more strategic role of Head of Projects.

I also had some experience of working with an international fintech company LenddoEFL alongside, managing alternative credit scoring projects in Asia, Latin America-, Africa, and the UK.

In terms of my mentors, I have worked with two very strong mentors so far who continue to help me shape my career plan, and identify the gaps, addressing which will enable me to get to where I want to be in future.

As someone who has risen to a managerial position, what would you say are the important qualities to have or work on when starting in the industry?

Everyone’s path is different, but what really helped me was my previously diverse experience and a strong business background.

From having worked in four different countries, I’ve learnt adaptability and being able to work with very different people in very different environments.

From teaching and mentoring in the past, I’ve learnt how important it is to recognise the great work my team are doing and to be empathetic.

And most importantly, from being a business advisor, running my own business, and doing my MBA currently, I’ve learnt how to connect business and tech, and focus on the wider business impact and the value delivered to the whole organisation, rather than being carried away with the local benefits of a technical solution.

Do you have any advice for people just starting their journey in tech?

The main thing is to keep going, not be put off by any setbacks, and to try out a variety of roles in tech to give you that broad experience before you decide what you want to specialise in. It’s amazing how versatile tech is, requiring a whole range of skills, and you don’t necessarily need to be able to code! Take my example – I do not code, yet the value I bring to organisation is in organising and managing the streams of work and people, to deliver high-value projects to help the whole business succeed.

If you would like to see if a career in tech as a software developer is for you, you can apply to our free to UK residents, introduction to software development one day bootcamp today.

About the Author

James has 8 years with Fortune 200 US firm ITW, experience of managing projects in China, USA, and throughout Europe. James has worked with companies such as Tesco, Vauxhall, ITW, Serco, McDonalds. James has experience in supporting start-up and scale up companies such as Readingmate, Gorilla Juice and Harvest London. James completed his MBA at the University of East Anglia in 2018.

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