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Mentoring in Programming Series: Part 4 – How to Get Started

Throughout this series I'll be explaining what I believe the "What", "Why", and "How"'s are to being a good mentor.

Check out Part 1 What, Why and How Series, Part 2 "What" – 11 Steps to Mentoring Success& Part 3 Why Mentor? of the series.


Resources and Next Steps

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If you’re interested in learning more about mentoring or interested in getting involved, here are some tips, pointers and resources!

1. Start a Mentoring Relationship on Your Own

Jeff and Susannah from Jumpstart Lab & Turing School of Software and Design had some of the most useful advice I was able to find anywhere online on finding, approaching and setting up a mentoring relationship on your own.

Local Ruby user groups (RUGs) are the place for people who would either like to mentor, have a mentor, or would like to be a mentor, collaborate. It's as simple as asking. If an individual goes to their RUG, stands up during the announcement period, and says "Hi, my name is [Jeff], I have [3 months] of experience with Ruby and I'm looking for one or more mentors who'd be up for working with me [2] hours per week." I promise you'd leave with at least one. Just alter the script slightly if you're willing to be the mentor — or email me and join a posse 🙂 – Jeff (Jumpstart Lab)

The cool thing about web development mentorship is that, much like the actual work, it can be done successfully from anywhere. Finding a structured mentor program isn’t easy unless you’re with a company/school has one. Expanding your professional network by joining meetup groups and going to conferences, significantly increases the chance you’ll strike up a relationship with a potential mentor or mentee. Make it known that you’re apart of the community by contributing to open source projects, and look for opportunities to pair program. Great mentorship opportunities will present themselves in these types of environments, but you also have to be willing to ask for it.
Susannah (Jumpstart Lab)

2. Mentor With, or Study at The Turing School of Software & Design

Having recieved my start with Jumpstart Lab, I can obviously recommend contacting them if you are interested in becoming a mentor, or in attending a course in web development that utilizes mentoring.

You can find more information at: http://turing.io/

Email for more information: contact@jumpstartlab.com

Or find Jeff on Twitter: @j3

And Turing has some exciting plans for shaking up their mentoring relationships.

In the past we've always setup 1-to-1 mentoring relationships. When it works well it's awesome, but too often it breaks down. The mentor gets swamped with work, travels to a conference, or otherwise drops off the map a bit. Then the student doesn't follow up. Or maybe there's just a personality mismatch. Since it wasn't reliable we really didn't depend on it being a requirement for the class. We almost never said "do [some specific assignment] with your mentor." Mentoring slipped to become a minor piece of the program.

With Turing we're creating the idea of a "posse." It looks a little different for our first two classes while the student body ramps up, but for the long run it goes like this: a student is assigned to an existing posse when they start the program. That posse includes one student who's in a class 7 weeks ahead of them, one 14 weeks ahead, and one 21 weeks ahead. And the posse also includes two alumni from our past programs and two senior professional developers. So the group is eight people all together.

We believe that this structure will be much more resilient and effective. The active students can rely on each other and the alumni for the more day-to-day bits and reach out to the senior devs for pairing, architecture help, etc. I think they'll become really vibrant elements of the learning experience. – Jeff (Jumpstart Lab)

I also suggest checking out Jeff’s interview on thoughtbot’s podcast

3. Checkout These Mentoring Substitutes Online

If you’re interested in mentoring, but don’t feel you can put in the time requirement – here are some resources for sharing your knowledge or getting feedback on your code.

Contribute to Open Source

Open source projects are an excellent way to get your code looked at by other passionate developers, often times these developers make for pretty good mentors.

Matt Rogers, who contributed to this blog post, is the maintainer for Jekyll.

We already know he’s a wonderful mentor, so maybe you might want to start there!

Exercism.io

Exercism.io is an amazing way to work on solving large and small code challenges, submit your responses for review and receive feedback from other programmers. The platform supports an insane quantity of languages and is also open sourced and wonderfully maintained.

stackoverflow

stackoverflow can be intimidating, but it’s a really great way to learn (sometimes painfully) how to construct a well formatted question or answer.

4. Read More About It

If you’re interested in learning more about our experiences as students, I recommend checking out my classmate Persa's excellent blog post about her experiences working with mentors:  http://www.codeadventurer.com/2014/03/15/the-value-of-mentorship

5. Follow these Wonderful People

My sincere gratitude to the developers who took the time to answer my questions so intelligently!

Matt (@mattr_)

http://mattr.info – Works at Hireology – Mentor

Persa (@pzula)

http://codeadventurer.com – Employee at Hireology – gSchool[1] graduate

Laura (@AdventureSteady)

Employee at Quick Left – gSchool[0] graduate

Ben (@FluxusFrequency)

http://fluxusfrequency.github.io/ – Employee at Quick Left – gSchool[1] graduate

Raphael (@raphweiner)

Employee at Pivotal Labs – gSchool[0] graduate

Adam(@MaganAdam)

Employee at thoughtbot – gSchool[1] graduate

Jeff Casimir (@j3)

Jumpstart Lab & Turing School of Software and Design

Susannah Compton @susannahcompton

Jumpstart Lab & Turing School of Software and Design


And of course, if you enjoyed reading this series, feel free to tweet a thank you to my two mentors Kim @Kimberlydbarnes and Melanie @melaniegilman . I wouldn’t be here without their help!

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