By Gwenny Warnick, Cloud Engineer @ Kasna
TL:DR; I did a great traineeship at a Melbourne-based startup after career-changing into tech and now I’m a happy cloud engineer.
A small note for any potential trainees reading this – I was not technical at all when I started to learn programming then cloud engineering. My background was music and then teaching and curriculum development. Tech skills are learnable and anyone can learn them!
The traineeship at Mantel Group
The Mantel Group Academy is a paid traineeship that focuses on supporting more women and gender minorities to enter tech. Long term, it is to be a program that supports people from underrepresented backgrounds in tech who might not have otherwise had a chance to enter the industry or get a foot in the door.
The main reason for the program is the diversity crisis in tech, which still sees alarmingly low numbers of minorities in tech (women, non-binary people and people of colour) entering and staying in the industry. Less than a quarter of jobs across the industry go to women specifically, and in cloud and AI/ML the numbers are far lower. Mantel Group developed their initiative to increase diversity in the industry by helping women and gender-minorities enter the industry and develop the skills to stay in it.
Before the traineeship
When I first applied to be a trainee at Mantel Group, it was just after finishing a six-month internship in DevOps and prior to that, I’d completed a six-month web development bootcamp to career-change into tech full time.
After the bootcamp, I knew I wanted to learn more about DevOps and cloud because I found it hard to understand the way all the parts of a technology ecosystem work together and how I might write a line of code in an application and then not know what that application was operating within. This led me to request an opportunity to learn more about DevOps and cloud engineering in that first internship, and by the time I applied at Mantel Group, I was keen to continue my cloud journey.
Why I chose this traineeship
Working somewhere that is improving diversity in a meaningful way is a priority for me. What that looks like for me is having paid opportunities in teams that are inclusive and equitable for women, disabled people, neuro-diverse people, gender-diverse people, people of different ages and people of colour.
The traineeship is part time, which allowed me to work on other days. For my cohort, the traineeship was 9 weeks long and 3 days a week; based on feedback, the next program starting at the end of June 2021 will be 4 days a week.
On top of these reasons, I knew Mantel Group’s traineeship accepted people with no industry experience or formal education (i.e. degree or similar), which showed me they were genuinely wanting to support women and gender-diverse people. Because these groups face many barriers to enter tech, requiring industry experience or formal education and not having paid opportunities for entry-level engineers meant I would not consider the program or the employer (huge red flag!).
Getting a place in the traineeship
To apply for the traineeship, I completed an expression of interest form on their website. I was also a Code Like a Girl Intern at the time, which is open to women across Australia looking to enter the industry, so I applied that way too (they share your profile with potential employers who have been vetted).
After a phone call from Mantel confirming why I was interested in the program and that it aligned with my goals, I had an interview at Mantel Group where I answered more in-depth questions about what drew me to tech and why I was interested in cloud. I also had the opportunity to ask questions. The answers I got when I asked things like how the company had supported my interviewers during a challenging time told me that Mantel Group was a place that valued its employees.
Something I really appreciated about Mantel’s application process is that I got to share something I’d worked on related to code, but there was no ‘technical test’ beyond that. Tech tests for marginalised groups often act as barriers to enter the industry, and requiring them—particularly for an entry-level role—is another red flag for me.
Lots of reasons.
- It’s a growth industry. Cloud computing is going to remain relevant for a long time.
- The salaries are good.
- It’s practical and useful. Everything runs on some kind of infrastructure, and cloud infrastructure is a cost-effective and scalable solution.
- While foundational concepts remain the same, technology is always evolving, and I like learning new things.
- Cloud/infrastructure is one of the least diverse areas in tech. Two of the main barriers to women entering tech are not having role models or seeing tech as an option , and I wanted to contribute to remedying that.
What interning was like
My traineeship at Mantel started in mid-February 2020. Eight other women from a variety of backgrounds, including grads, bootcamp grads, current students and career-changers were in my cohort. This was the first intake Mantel Group had had of this size, so they’d implemented streams where women could choose to pursue their interest in either software engineering, cloud engineering on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or data science/machine learning. In the next traineeship, there’ll also be the option to do design and Amazon cloud (AWS) and design, since Mantel Group already has more brands under their umbrella brand now.
Along with workshops, we had time most days allocated to going through training courses that would help us get certified as Google Cloud Associates. We spent time in our streams going through existing codebases of projects and contributing to them. For cloud, we created a Codelab—a how-to guide using code—for their in-house command-line tool to build cloud infrastructure. It might sound complex if you’re new to tech, but we had support to get through it.
Then the pandemic hit
Half-way through our program, Mantel Group made the strategic decision to stop all non-billable activity without knowing how long the pandemic would last. While it was hard to hear at the time, I respected the company prioritising supporting staff and remaining a viable business as the pandemic continued to grow worse.
Unlike other workplaces that made people redundant, not one Mantel Group employee lost their job. Seeing such a tangible instance of being ‘In it together’ really drove home to me how everyone at Mantel Group lives the company’s principles.
What I liked about Mantel Group
Having different brands in one larger company is one thing I really love about Mantel – all the brands share a Slack workspace for example, so you can stay up to date with what’s happening in each company and its area of expertise. There’s also the opportunity for Mantel Group employees to move sideways into a different brand if someone becomes more interested in pursuing a different role or field.
Social activities and work engagements at Mantel Group can be with a mix of brands, so during the traineeship we got to meet people from across the company. We heard about different people’s roles and day-to-day work from all of the different brands, including presentations and workshops on topics from design thinking and Kubernetes to Agile delivery, DevOps, Machine Learning and engineering practices. I loved that aspect of the program—it gave a lot of insight into how varied roles within tech are and where different skillsets come into play.
People were so welcoming the whole time. As someone pretty introverted, I felt anxious being new in the office, but people came and asked us to walk to coffee with them or said hi in the kitchen or office space from our first day onwards.
The last thing I liked about the program and Mantel Group more widely is that people request and take on board feedback. For example, we had ‘retros’ during the program where we gave feedback on how things were going and things were changed as a result. I think this approach stems from Mantel being a principles-based company, where each person is responsible for knowing the principles and making decisions with them in mind.
After the traineeship
I was very fortunate to be hired as an associate cloud engineer fairly soon after our traineeship was cut short. This was made possible because Mantel Group also lived their principle of ‘In it together’ with some clients, working to find a suitable role for a junior—something I thought would be impossible as the pandemic continued to grow. Another of my fellow interns was hired later when client work became busier post-Melbourne lockdowns.
Mantel Group’s usual approach when bringing trainees into the program is to have the trainee only if there is likely to be a role available if the traineeship goes well on both sides, but the pandemic in March for our cohort made an exception to the usual way things work.
A year down the track I’ve been promoted to cloud engineer, and I love it. Despite onboarding during lockdown, every Mantel employee I’ve worked with has been supportive, inclusive, and respectful.
If you’re from an underrepresented group in tech, I encourage you to research opportunities like the ones Mantel Group and other companies provide. We need people from different backgrounds in tech so we can build robust, ethical solutions. Whether you identify as technical, ‘mathsy’, into gaming or not (I was none of those things), there’s a place for you.
Mantel Group holds intakes to their traineeship throughout the year – if you are gender-diverse or a woman looking to enter the tech industry, please express your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will contact you before the next intake begins.