I attended the Meet A Mentor event at Queen Mary this morning, it was an event that was arranged with the university to coincide with students taking a particular module looking at the technology industry. Students were split into groups with mentors rotating between groups. There were a lot of students that wanted to get advice which was encouraging. The mentors that I saw talking to the group I was in offered advice on interviews, CVs, how to find the right job for you. In addition most of the mentors were discussing their career working as a software developer offering advice on different programming languages that would be good to learn and development techniques and tools commonly used in the software industry. Open source software projects were also discussed as a good way of gaining experience if you do not already have any.
As this was the first Meet A Mentor event I felt the time each mentor spent with each group was about right in order for the mento to discuss their background and job role and for students to ask the right kinds of questions that the group wanted to hear.
The importance of networking with other people in the software industry at user group events was also emphasised as one of the best ways to get recognised and start meeting the right people that can kickstart your future career. Its probably worth mentioning that the the GDC and the LJC hold a free informal social gathering event in central London every month called London Developer Sessions, giving undergrads the opportunity to meet people already working in the software industry. It is definitely worth checking out, more details of this event can be found here: http://www.meetup.com/grad-dc/events/48009522/
I was only able to stay to hear a few mentors speak but they were very open to share their opinions about different routes into the software industry and to answer any questions as best as they could. It was great to see so many mentors take the time out to discuss the industry they are working in. I would highly recommend anyone to attend future Meet A Mentor events to find out more about career options and the software industry, as its not often you get some of the best people in technology in one room willing to share their years of experience with anyone that wants advice.
Hope to see everyone again at a future GDC event.