Mentors can make or break the internship experience. And at BillGO, mentors are makers rather than breakers.
When Sean Kouma joined the company as an engineering intern, his mentor, Owen Davis, helped him get his feet wet from the very start. Davis, a software engineer III and tech lead, not only gave him an immersive introduction to the company, but also outlined a project for Kouma to work on and fielded dozens of questions.
Kouma found Davis approachable and nonjudgmental — and he discovered during midday breaks that Davis is a killer ping-pong player. For Kouma, every aspect of his internship, from bonding over games to tackling complex tasks, made his experience truly exceptional.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the mentorship that I received, and I’m a substantially better engineer because of it,” he said.
Since the internship, Kouma joined the company full time as a software engineer I, and considers the company’s onboarding process as supportive as its internship program. Every new hire learns about the company’s goals, the specific work done on each team and the organization’s overall impact.
According to Davis, the onboarding process is designed to help team members, such as his former mentee, thrive at BillGO.
“It sets the stage for expectations and the company’s vision,” he said.
BillGO’s platform enables consumers to manage and pay bills and subscriptions in one place. The company’s software allows people to send and receive bills in real time and determine when and how to pay their bills.
BillGO is dedicated to unlocking access to a healthy financial future for all people. Davis said this vision becomes clearer as the onboarding process continues and new hires connect the dots between each team’s work and the organization’s goals.
Zooming Out, Then Back In
Establishing a formalized onboarding program that applies to every new hire is challenging, which is why BillGO assigns a mentor or team lead to personalize the process, giving the new hires steady support as they ramp up.
Davis said new-hire orientation begins by granting employees a “10,000-foot view” of what the organization as a whole is trying to accomplish, which includes a direct presentation from CEO Dan Holt. Team leads then guide each new hire back to “sea level” through one-on-one sessions, giving them an understanding of how their individual work fits into the wider organization.
After these preliminary overviews have ended, new hires get to dive straight into their roles. Each one is given a smaller self-contained piece of work and is encouraged to communicate often and ask questions throughout its completion.
“The goal is to identify where there are gaps in their understanding, gaps in our documentation or both of these things,” he said.
Kouma noted that the company’s onboarding process is a thorough foray into life as a full-time employee. New hires have access to a large number of documentations and videos, which outline high-level processes and are useful to reference during the first few weeks.
“New hires have access to a large number of documentations and videos, which outline high-level processes and are useful to reference during the first few weeks.”
For Kouma, one of the most impactful aspects of onboarding was getting to know more about other teams. He believes this is significant from both a business and cultural perspective.
“Not only does it help improve companywide visibility and transparency, but it also helps people from different departments meet so that questions can be better routed and individuals feel more connected,” he said.
According to Davis, curiosity is an important — and noticeable — trait to have as an intern. He described the excitement he felt when working with one inquisitive intern on a specific problem that was proving challenging to solve. “As our intern worked on the problem, he immediately asked the questions I crave, such as, ‘Why does this work this way?’ ‘How might we do this?’ and ‘What happens if we try this?’” Davis recalled. While he didn’t have the answers to the interns’ questions, the two sought them together, which served as a growth moment for both of them. “During every one of our deep dives, I learned something new, whether it be about our code or the external systems it interacts with,” Davis said.
While there are myriad ways to approach onboarding, one of the keys to a successful program is striking the right balance between high-level companywide themes and team-specific topics.
So how can teams master this balancing act? By starting the planning process early, Davis said. It’s also important to take a feedback and data-driven approach when gauging the efficacy of the program, as this will make it easier to continuously evolve it over time.
Onboarding may cover the first 90 days of new hires’ employment, yet the support doesn’t end once those three months have passed. Kouma said team members have access to countless professional development resources, including tuition reimbursement for university courses.
The support received as a new hire is reflected across BillGO’s culture, which Davis has witnessed firsthand during his time at the organization. He has seen managers identify employees’ career goals — and offer the resources needed to achieve them.
Not only has the company’s empowering culture enabled Davis to step into a leadership role, but it has also unlocked access to enriching experiences. He said he has leveraged the organization’s education reimbursement to attend tech conferences over the years, allowing him to incorporate new knowledge and tools into his work.
BillGO’s approach to orientation and onboarding revolves around a universal desire to inspire employees. For Kouma, this inspiration came from his time as an intern, which has encouraged him to continue the cycle of support that defines life at the company from the very beginning.
“I hope, at some point in the future, I can provide the same caliber of mentorship that Owen provided me, because I understand how impactful it can be,” Kouma said.