Being a mentor
My thoughts on being a mentor to more junior developers
I have always considered myself a good and willing mentor for younger engineers but I have never been a formal mentor for anyone. Recently I was offered the opporunity to formally mentor a promising younger engineer and I was happy to accept.
After I accepted my first thought was “ok, now what am I going to do?” I thought back to my earlier days as an engineer and what my mentors taught me as well as what I wished I had from a mentor. A few of the things I came up with were:
- A champion. I have been fortunate throughout my career to have champions at every step of the way. Knowing that there are people who honestly had my best interests at hear and wanted to help me achive them bolstered my confidence in extending myself to take on things that I knew I could fail at.
- A technical guide. Having people of all levels look at and review or critique my code has always made me feel like a better, more confident developer. If the people giving the feedback are very honest but also gentle and encouraging then this can make learning a very positive experience
- A career guide. Most of my career guidance has come from watching others who have gone before me. I’ve had a few conversations over the years with people about my specific goals or general career feedback and I wish that I had had more of that.
- Someone to provide exposure. I think that it is valuable for a person’s growth to be able to see what they may grow into. Including junior engineers in meetings with senior engineers that they might not otherwise be in or giving them more opportunities to stretch themselves by participating in these meetings
So the first time we met my goal was to get a better understanding of their career goals. Where did they want to be in a year? Where did they think they wanted to be in 3-5 years? Thinking this far out is challenging and I wouldn’t expect someone to necessarily know that at this point in their career but it is good to understand someone’s vision of the future. I myself have wavered throughout my career between taking a management position or continuing on a technical track. I ultimately landed on the latter but this took some time to figure out and I expect that it may be the same for my new mentee. They are currently leaning heavily on the technical track which is great for me because I feel like I can be a sherpa for them in this regard.
I don’t know yet if I will be a good direct mentor. It certainly requires more forethought than just being an “in the moment” mentor when the opportunity arises. I’ve already asked some of my mentors for their advice.