Throughout this series I'll be explaining what I believe the "What", "Why", and "How"'s are to being a good mentor.
In this edition of Mentoring in Programming Series we ask our panels of mentors, students, and teachers, for their advice on why it is important to have a mentor and why someone should choose to mentor.
The best answer to the "Why are mentors important to learning how to program?" came from Jeff Casimir, (Executive Director of Turing School of Software and Design and erasable marker guru). I asked him what influenced his decision to have mentors be a part of his teaching method?
One of the challenges for new programmers is finding out that there are a lot more opinions than rules. The mentors provide an outside perspective which might reinforce or might differ from the instructor's opinions. That's really valuable. It's also just not possible for a few instructors to possibly spend much one-on-one time with each student, where outside mentors are typically more available to spend an hour or two per week pairing. And lastly, it's great for the hiring process; we've had students from every class go to work with mentors. – Jeff (Jumpstart Lab)
I was also curious as to why busy professional web developers would chose to volunteer at least two hours a week to training someone.
Having experienced the positive influence mentors have had in my life, I wanted the chance to do that myself. In some ways, I feel that by being a mentor I can continue the chain of providing support to newcomers in the programming field. It's a really interesting perspective to have a vested interest in someone else's learning. It's exciting when something they struggled with last week is second-nature this week. – Laura (Mentor & Mentee)
I enjoy teaching a lot actually but not necessarily in a group setting. In one-on-one sessions, I feel like there’s a better chance of being able to connect with somebody, help them as they deal with the problem they’re working on, and have both of us learn something in the process. Watching the light bulb turn on in the other person’s head is particularly rewarding. Mentoring is a way for me to pass on the knowledge that I’ve gained, and I usually end up learning something as well. – Matt (Mentor)
I saw volunteering my time and experience as a way to give back to gSchool. I had an amazing mentor going through the program myself (Gary Bernhardt), and thought of it as a great way to stay involved. If he had enough time to volunteer, so did I. – Raphael (Mentor & Mentee)
And I definitely wanted to know what the panel thought of the value of mentoring now.
It can be hard, but it makes you realize how much you know (and don't know)! – Laura (Mentor & Mentee)
I am continually educated by the difference in perspective. It’s helped me learn that just because I see it one way doesn’t mean that’s the only way. Mentoring students has also helped me fill in gaps in my own knowledge about particular subjects as I’ve had to answer questions about things I’m not completely familiar. For example, I’m still pretty sure that Persa knows more about how to implement SOA than I do. 🙂 – Matt (Mentor))
I would say that most recently, my mentorship under Matt has been very successful. We both feel like it was helpful and that we got something out of it. Now we’re coworkers, and that relationship gets to continue. – Persa (Mentee)
It was great to pair with my mentors (Mike and Raphael) because going through the process of coding with them opened my eyes to a lot of useful processes. – Ben (Mentee)
Mentoring is incredibly valuable to your career both as the mentor and the mentee. People worry about taking up others' time, but we find that mentors love putting time into new developers if the mentees are willing to put in the time and effort. – Jeff (Jumpstart Lab)
Everyone I interviewed still remains in touch with at least one of their mentorship partners. Two of the ‘mentees’ that I interviewed got hired at their mentor’s companies.
Obviously mentoring can be an incredibly valuable way to learn… but it can be intimidating…
If you're getting anxious to get mentoring – stay tuned for the panels' advice on the "How" – Resources and Next Steps to get started!