Things I learned while being a mentor
A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to try a role of a mentor for a junior developer who joined our iOS team. In this article I want to share what I learned during this experience and my thoughts on the topic.
So, here is a few things I learned:
Provide strategies, not solutions
Being an experienced developer, it is sort of easy to start assuming that you know all the right answers. It happened to me in the beginning as well, but later on I came to the realization that it is not the best way to help my mentee grow. I may have the answers that worked for me, but mentor’s job is to help the mentee to explore what works best for them in their own unique situation. The key is to listen carefully to what mentee has to say and rather than providing a ready-made solution, offer some strategies which may help them to find their own answer.
Technical skills aren’t everything
At first, my main focus revolved around technical side of my mentee’s professional journey. I was busy thinking about the better ways to help them strengthen their technical skills up to a certain level in a short amount of time. At the same time I didn’t realize that they might be struggling with absolutely different things - for instance, communication inside the team or language barrier.
During one of our one-on-ones, my mentee shared their concerns, completely unrelated to technical issues they were working on. Hopefully, I was able to provide some encouragement and support they needed at the time to switch back to the positive mindset. This situation made me realize that mentee is going through a lot of different things being a new member, and their concerns are not always only about the lack of technical skills. Hopefully, it also helped me to become someone my mentee can rely on in any situation, not just a teammate who can teach them better coding practices or point out the mistakes.
Mentoring boosts your own growth
If I am being completely honest, I wasn’t very interested in mentoring earlier in my career. For me, mentoring was trading away time I could use to pursue my own career goals and just spend it on another person. At the time, I didn’t realize that a mentor role is a great opportunity to promote my own professional growth and reach the next level in my career. Being a mentor is tough, it requires a strong set of soft skills to be able to offer effective guidance and support to your mentee. It wasn’t easy, but I am happy I did it and could gain a lot though this experience.
For instance, being a mentor offered me countless opportunities to practice soft skills, such as communication, active listening and patience. It also helped me to strengthen my own knowledge, because sharing the knowledge reinforces it within yourself or helps you rebuild it, if you teach some skills you no longer use on a daily basis.
Finally, it gave me a good chance to reflect on my own professional journey, become more aware of who I am as a professional, what drives and motivates me in my job.
Watching them grow gives a sense of fulfillment
This is something I didn’t really expect I would say, but it is a pure joy for me to watch my mentee’s progress and growth as a professional. From my experience, being a mentor offers an inner fulfillment. Knowing that your support and guidance might have made a positive impact on someone’s career is very fulfilling and inspiring. It also helps you gain more confidence in your own skills and abilities.
These are just a few insights I gained through this experience.
Overall, I can definitely say that it was a great opportunity for me to build new connections, practice leadership and communication skills, reflect on my own journey as a software developer and gain some new perspectives on my career.