People and Culture

From getting help to helping others: How Yasen developed his mentorship style

When you join Zühlke, you don’t just become a better practitioner of your discipline—you develop your whole professional skill set. As Yasen Bonev discovered, you get plenty of opportunities to help the people around you grow too.

Yasen Bonev, Advanced Software Engineer

Insight in brief:

  • Read about Yasen’s growth journey since joining as one of the office’s founding members, from a developer with less than 12 months experience to advanced software engineer today. 
  • Discover his experiences of Zühlke’s Global Talent Program, what he’s gained from it so far, and how it’s shaped his attitudes to life and work.
  • Find out how key learnings from a global team impacted his communication style in his local team.
5 minutes to read

Yasen was one of the first recruits at the Sofia office back in 2019 before working remotely. He joined with less than a year of software development experience under his belt.

“When I think about who I was when I walked in the door back then versus now, it’s like comparing two completely different people,” he says. “Zühlke provides far more than just an opportunity to write code. There are unlimited avenues to develop as a person.”

Three years later, and now an Advanced Software Engineer, Yasen has also grown into a leader and a mentor with a highly empathetic approach to development. The secret to finding his own style? Throwing himself into Zühlke’s Global Talent Program (GTP).

Shaping mentorship styles with the Global Talent Program

Twenty employees joined the program this year. The first iteration of its kind, the GTP has been designed to foster intrapreneurship and innovation leadership. Participants team up for innovation projects that enrich Zühlke’s culture, performance, partnerships and social responsibility. 

As he admits himself, the GTP can demand a lot of time and focus. But the payoff is worth it. 

“It’s hard work, but I’m really invested in the GTP— it’s helped me bring words to my feelings on complex and abstract topics that matter to me personally.” 

So far, Yasen and his team have undergone innovation leadership training, storytelling and pitching training…as well as mentoring sessions with other, hand-picked mentors.

He offers his take on what the GTP is like:

“We work in self-organized teams that move at their own pace, but I’d describe the workload as a combination of sprints [including program deadlines] and marathons [regular, scheduled workshops]. 

“Overtime doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it feels meaningful— I’m at a moment in my life when it feels valuable to go all-in on projects I care about. It’s unique for someone in my position: a software engineer working on a completely non-software related problem.”

An initiative with long-term value

Today, Yasen has developed his own unique mentoring philosophy. His work in the GTP was fundamental in informing his approach, in two key ways. 

First, Yasen got to experience the different leadership styles of his international colleagues, and expand his communication style. 

Second, his team worked on the topic of Diversity & Inclusion; with an emphasis on fostering psychological safety in the workplace. In most instances, the things he’s learnt are relevant for both client and colleague interactions.

“Working with international colleagues exposed me to multiple communication styles. Interestingly, some were very different from those in my home culture. 

“For instance, my Bulgaria-based colleagues (and the Bulgarian culture) typically have a direct approach to challenges. They’re more likely to focus on tasks at hand, prefer face-to-face communication and pull no punches.

“Over time, I realized I find it helpful to frame tasks around the experiences and challenges of my colleagues. Establishing open and honest dialog has become a key influence on how I communicate with all my colleagues.”

Mentoring the Managing Director

Yasen’s GTP adventure isn’t over yet. But despite more “sprint” sessions on the horizon, he’s had plenty of chances to develop a mentorship style for a range of team mates—even the Managing Director of Zühlke Bulgaria, who suggested he be her mentor. 

Thankfully, Zühlke’s culture of open feedback made him feel comfortable in taking up her offer.

“When I joined Zühlke, I was nervous to join an international team. I grew up in a small place, so I hadn’t traveled much or experienced many different cultures. Plus, I had all the typical insecurities you feel when starting a new job.

“But the open feedback culture at Zühlke—in both the GTP and general workplace—has been so enriching. 

“It’s like having many mirrors, each of which help both you and your colleagues see a different part of who you are.

“That culture extends to more senior leadership, too. As one of the earliest Sofia office recruits, Diana Elenkova [Managing Director, Zühlke Bulgaria] would regularly ask me for input on what life was like there. That was a real catalyst for me in that it helped me believe in myself! I lacked the “curse of knowledge” at the time—my outside perspective was really valuable in providing a fresh view of the daily experience.” 

And while their mentoring roles have since reversed, Yasen has grown comfortable helping his own mentees grow to their full potential. As well as being a Career Coach for one, he has regular meetings with two more junior engineers, plus two interns. 

“I enjoy taking a compassionate stance to help my junior colleagues in their own growth journeys. And when the interns first started, I took a more proactive stance to help them get settled. That stance has evolved to become a more reactive one. I try to help them when they reach out.”

“I’ve found that being honest and proactive can break down a lot of barriers. For instance, I recently admitted to a colleague that ‘I wanted to help them grow but I wasn’t sure how to do it.’
They were hugely receptive to this openness and it made for a much better experience.”

“Ultimately you need to be the change you want to see. I’m so glad that Zühlke has helped me build on that belief.”