Running my ‘Mindfulness for Developers’ course at Mayden Academy
Mayden Academy is an extraordinary place for anyone who has ever thought, “Could I be a coder?”. If you want to learn to be a full stack developer in 16 weeks, Mayden Academy in Bath is the place to go. You can know that you really are on the path to a new career: “Every one of our graduates has been offered their first job as a software developer within 90 days of taking the Full Stack Track.”
But be under no illusion that coding is easy work. A developer’s brain works hard. Billions of neurons hyperwire to enable the coder to think multidimensionally for hours a day, under complex deadlines, day after day. An understanding of what keeps the brain/mind fresh makes for a more fulfilling and productive career. With this in mind, I designed an interactive and practical course that would give the student coders at Mayden Academy an overview of neuropsychology for the coding mind, and present them with go-to tools for keeping their brain-state healthy, calm and balanced as they move from the learning sphere to the dev workplace.
The three lunchtime workshops were spread over five weeks, to give people time to absorb and practice the new mindfulness skills. We wanted the participants, a mix of Mayden Academy students and Mayden staff, to finish the course closer to being able to say:
“I know how my brain/mind functions and performs under pressure.”
“I understand the challenges my brain/mind may encounter in developing.”
“I have acquired a range of practical concepts about mental self-care for developers.”
“I have experienced the benefits of mindfulness for myself.”
“I have access to a toolkit of practices and platforms that I can use to support my wellbeing as a developer.”
At the end of the three sessions, everyone had experienced six mindfulness practices, and identified their current preferred type of mindfulness meditation, whether that were focusing on breathing, paying attention to the body, or using a visualisation technique. We explored mindfulness tools like the Headspace app, and looked at other methods of boosting our resilience like the Five Ways to Wellbeing. We looked at the neuropsychology of stress to understand how the brain perceives threat, and explored how, by training our mind to ‘attend’ and ‘notice’, we can calm that threat system and access the mental space required to make the best next choices for us.
Developers need to be able to handle complex data sets in an interdependent team setting, often under tight deadlines, so learning to move from reacting to stressors, to responding to challenges, is key, not only to maintaining health and wellbeing, but to being able to ‘get in the zone’ and work effectively, efficiently and with continued joy. They say that you cannot ‘burn out’ if you have not been alight in the first place, and ‘mindfulness for developers’ is about keeping the innate passion for coding burning bright, even through challenging times.
What did the Mayden Academy participants say?
Everyone who came along threw themselves into the practice brilliantly, and we all learnt from each other’s insights. When we asked participants what they had liked about the course they told us that they appreciated having access to a new set of tools to start to practice mindfulness for themselves. One person said it was “a new experience. I liked the guided introduction to mindfulness and the meditations”; another, “I liked exploring the tools to becoming more mindful”. One participant reflected the fact that mindfulness is a practice that we develop for ourselves, over time: “I’ve learnt many resources that I can use for being mindful. Started to work on myself to apply them on myself.”
Participants expressed how much they had liked discussing the experiences and techniques within the group. One said, “I liked the opportunity to talk to other members of the course about subjects that we might not otherwise have talked about. The participation during the workshops, and hearing from other attendees, was important.” In future, we will aim to have even more interactive segments to the course, as there was such value in hearing each other’s particular approaches to mindfulness.
There was also encouraging, positive feedback about the course format and content, with one person saying they “learnt a lot about how the brain processes stress and how to deal with it in a healthy way”; another saying, “the delivery was very well-paced. Slides and video content were great and I really liked the science bits that showed it is grounded in research”; and another that it was “clear, informative and enjoyable”.
For me as a trainer and mediator with a passion for workplace wellbeing, it was exciting to work with such dynamic minds and innovative thinkers. Everyone involved was so ready to try new techniques and share their thoughts. It reflected the excellent learning environment that Mayden Academy fosters, where people feel confident to learn ‘out loud’ and support each other within a team. Furthermore, the whole Mayden ethos of workplace wellbeing shines through at the Mayden Academy HQ, with notes and quotes encouraging people to take ‘mindful mini-breaks’ on fridges, doors and in unexpected corners. Mayden is an organisation which really walks its talk on the theme of mental health.
Thank you for having me, Mayden Academy. Keep mindful and well!
For further information on Arabella’s ‘Mindfulness for Developers’ course go to: http://arabellatresilian.com/training/mindfulness-for-developers/