You can be a mentor at any level
Jack Finlay - April 30, 2020
I am a firm believer that anyone can become a mentor at any level. Through my own personal experience and observations, I have seen that all team members can add value, at any level. Be it the senior developer helping with getting a junior onto the tools, or the junior developer helping the senior get trained up in some snazzy new framework, there are always opportunities to help each other.
I have had quite a bit of experience in mentoring other developers over the years, so I know first hand how anyone can do it. Ahead is a few examples of ways you can, or may already have been able to, mentor other people.
I’ve been helping other developers grow and learn since I was in university. I used to tutor other people in my programme, helping them with course content, and giving general advice. At this stage I was already working as a developer professionally, so I had knowledge of how software development works in the real world. This was really the start of my journey in mentoring. I found that as I helped others, I came to know more and more people, and my sphere of influence grew.
After about a year working while in university, I was tasked with leading a team of interns that came onboard for the 2015/2016 summer (Southern Hemisphere). I worked with the team quite closely: I reviewed their code, I helped them when they got stuck, I helped them decipher the solution we were working on.
As I progressed in my career and moved on, I came to a point where I was a few times asked to help onboard people new to the team. I had been at the organisation a little while and had managed to get a good overview of the system for the product I was working on. In this experience, I helped some new people get up to speed with setting up their development environments for our particular solution. I also was their point-of-contact for any questions they had. While this was meant to be a way to help the new starters, I actually found that I learned a lot! By helping them out, it encouraged me to look at things from a different perspective. I couldn’t always answer their questions. This was a good thing. It allowed me to look at new areas of the solution, and to explore the code a bit more than usual.
Differing Skill Sets
In my last role, there were ways for me to be a mentor to others at the same level as me. There was one problem we had, where the solution that had been developed was quite complex. While I have a background knowledge from university in some areas of computer science, my colleague had studied other areas. Given this difference in the kind of things we had worked on in the past, I had actually seen this problem and solution before. From this, I was able to help out my colleague and give a background in how the solution was working, and they were able to bring in knowledge from their areas of expertise. Solving the problem together, we both came away with new knowledge and got a working solution all sorted.
If you want to help out others and want to also grow yourself, you don’t have to wait until you reach a senior level. Even giving the new person a hand, or helping out the interns are both ways for both of you to develop skills that will drive your career forward. If you are the expert in something within your team, share that knowledge and you’ll likely even learn more in return.
Jack Finlay - Software Engineer in Melbourne, Australia. Exploring the writing process and developing my skills through the occasional article on life as a programmer. Follow me on Twitter for updates.