Meet Muhammad Motawe, a mentor for Springboard’s Software Engineering Career Track.
Muhammad Motawe’s strategy for moving up in his profession is simple: soak up as much knowledge as possible so that when a leadership position opens up, hiring him becomes an easy yes.
“When one of the companies I worked for was looking for a team lead, I was the obvious choice because I had a wider skillset and a birds-eye-view of the technology stack they were using,” says Motawe, who was a tech lead and CTO before attaining his current position.
Now he is the VP of engineering at The Quantum Insider, a news organization focusing on technical news in quantum computing–an emerging technology that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems too complex for regular computers. An example is modeling the behavior of individual atoms in a molecule. The news publication recently expanded to other verticals like the metaverse and space tech, and Motawe is currently building data platforms for each vertical.
He decided to become a mentor at Springboard after several years of mentoring junior employees at work. He says he loves watching junior engineers discover their passion and gradually come to grasp technical concepts.
Tell me about your role as VP of engineering at The Quantum Insider. What does your day-to-day look like?
I’m working on an app that shows all the information related to the quantum computing market–the companies, investors, investment rounds, and other insights that show you where the industry is headed. I’m building a specialized database and integrating machine learning techniques like natural language processing to extract insights from the data.
You worked your way up from individual contributor to tech lead, CTO, and now you’re VP of engineering. What is your advice to Springboard students on advancing their engineering careers?
Be open-minded when it comes to technology. Focus on concepts rather than syntax and the code you write, because that’s not important. Once you get the fundamentals right, you can learn anything. My job was mainly in software engineering, but I had a lot of interest in AI, machine learning, and statistics. So I started learning on the side even though my job didn’t necessitate that, which helped my career immensely.
Engineers typically have two options for advancement, the technical track or the leadership track. How do you decide which track to pursue?
I went with both. Although I went into more of a leadership side, I still write code and do code reviews. I would be bored if all I did was manage people. It’s really important to know what you’re looking for.
You also spent time working as a freelance software engineer. Would you recommend it?
I do recommend it if you can build a good client base and know how to do customer service. It depends on your preferences. If you prefer more freedom and the ability to work on different types of projects, freelancing is the way to go. But if you like to focus on one thing to build and scale up, a full-time job is a better choice.
What made you decide to become a mentor at Springboard?
I’ve been mentoring junior employees at work. I realized I love mentoring and helping people, so I decided to pursue formal mentorship opportunities. Springboard’s mission struck a chord with me, so I started with a few mentees. Now, I have 14 Springboard students whom I meet with on a weekly basis.
What advice do you have for Springboard mentors about how to balance mentorship with a full-time job?
I usually work in my full-time job in the morning, and I book all my Springboard mentor calls in the evening. I try to take calls within a limited timeframe so I have the rest of the day to work. For example, four or five calls would take two or three hours maximum.
What kind of training did Springboard provide you with before onboarding as a mentor? Did you feel adequately prepared?
I focused on the actual curriculum for the Software Engineering Career Track. I looked through the material and tried to review things I’d forgotten or tools I hadn’t used before.
Tell me about your mentees. Are there any stories that stand out to you?
One of my mentees used to work at distilleries and he was trying to switch careers. I was impressed by his progress. He didn’t necessarily move faster than the others, but he always made steady progress. He got a job offer right before he finished the Software Engineering Career Track after I suggested he apply to jobs in the industry where he used to work.
What is your advice to Springboard students on how they can make the most of their relationship with their mentor?
The curriculum is really good and has a lot of information, so you should use your mentor’s experience to understand best practices for the real world. My mentees often ask me, “How would I do this at a real job?”
Your mentor can also help organize the way you study the material. For example, focus on computer science concepts rather than syntax or memorizing stuff.
How should Springboard students prepare for their weekly mentor calls?
Use the agenda Springboard provides. Structure the main points you want to discuss and list any issues or obstacles you’re facing. This helps your mentor as well and ensures you get the most benefit from our calls.
How has being a mentor boosted your career development?
Being exposed to people from diverse backgrounds teaches you a lot about different personalities, what motivates people, and how they learn. This knowledge helps a lot when you’re managing a team.
What’s your advice to mentees who are dealing with imposter syndrome?
We all have this problem, especially in the tech field. It’s not just you. You shouldn’t worry about it. Focus one what you want to improve and the areas where you’re lacking. That gives you more value than worrying about what you don’t know.
Want to become a mentor? Apply here!
We were founded in 2013 with the goal of helping people anywhere in the world advance their careers through affordable, mentor-led online courses. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of students across the globe grow their skills and build new and rewarding careers via a flexible, human-centric, online approach. Every learner is unique—and so are their learning needs. We believe education should prepare learners for the real world, and that working on meaningful projects under the guidance of industry experts is one of the best ways to get there. Our education model, centered around these principles, has launched students from more than 100 countries into professional success. We deliver curated, expert-developed curricula via a mentor-led approach that emphasizes hands-on learning and human interaction.