How to find yourself a coding mentor
The development world can feel like a daunting world to enter. Let’s review how to find yourself a coding mentor to help you navigate it.
What is a mentor?
People often mix up teaching and mentoring. Today we want to talk about how to find yourself a coding mentor. Teaching focuses on specific knowledge, competence, and skills while mentoring guides you in a broader sense. Mentors usually help with:
- Sharing their expertise
- On-the-job training
- Technical and life guidance
Some questions that you would ask a mentor are:
- Can you help me figure out what subjects to study for back-end development?
- How should I approach a job interview?
- What are the pros and cons of native apps vs. web apps?
On the other hand, teaching in tech is often tied to specifics:
- There is an error in line 155. Can you tell me what’s wrong with it?
- I added this module, and now my code won’t compile.
- Why does this automated test not pick up this specific error?
As you can see, teaching-related questions are different. For those, it’s great to have a mentor or teacher, but you can often Google them. People usually think they need a mentor when afraid of upcoming challenges.
Why have a coding mentor
If you are looking to cut learning time, I have bad news for you. Even if having some by your side can speed things up, it’s not a shortcut for acquiring the skills and getting experience. You can end up spending more time looking for a mentor that could take you to learn the stuff you are struggling with.
You want to have a person that you admire to be your mentor. You’ll be lucky if this person has time to guide you through your coding learning curve, but if they don’t, you can read their blog or analyze their past projects.
How to find a coding mentor
Mentors can appear from unexpected places, could be a friend’s friend, a family member, or a colleague at work. You’ll have more luck finding a mentor if you have a large network, so dust-up that Linkedin profile and start looking for people that are on the place where you want to be in the future. Think of it as setting up a compass.
Start doing what you want to do while you look for a mentor. Better to be acquainted with the technologies and theories when someone finally shows up to help you. Having a mentor will be much more productive if your foundations are already in place.
Show your passion for what you are doing. Share your projects and learning milestones on social media, or create a git repo where you upload everything. Making your social sphere aware that “this is what you do” can foster opportunities to appear. Also, this can help you keep track of your progress and organize a resume afterward.
Don’t sit and wait for people to show up. Life is not usually like the hero’s journey. Here is an opportunity to create your own call for adventure and make Gandalf come to you. On this note, learning how to write for tech and polish your communication skills will help you immensely in this field (and anywhere in life). We are often judged more on the quality of our speech or writing than the ideas we try to convey.
Pay attention to how you structure your messages. Remember that being nice and polite always pays off. If nothing works, you can add a bit of spice to your message. Fortune favors the bold, they say. But bold and disrespectful are not the same.
Don’t ask generic questions that you can Google, and don’t ask specifics that only you can answer. You got to learn how to walk that thin line. Also, remember that you don’t need to limit yourself to a single person; you can ask for advice from many people online.
Another way to meet mentors is to assist conferences, meetups, challenges, or any coding event of the sort. If you are an introvert like me, you’ll find this option challenging, but talking to someone face to face can make all the difference to strike a good first impression.
How to repay your mentor
Think of what you can offer in return. Even if your mentor's intentions are altruistic, it’s good to reciprocate. They will spend their time on you, so it would be nice to repay the favor.
As a tip, I use bartering a lot, even outside of IT. For example, I have my writing and also know photoshop and premiere. So maybe I can review your copy, edit a video or modify pictures in exchange for some coding lessons. Having a diverse skill set helps a lot.
Finally, there is a reason why we humans invented money. Many devs will prefer to be paid for their mentoring efforts, so consider this. Starting off, you can be struggling with money, but think of it as an investment.
Developer mentoring vs. developer courses
A mentoring course is often more advanced and comprehensive than a developer course. You are literally under the wing of an experienced developer that takes care of your training and designs how you learn. It’s an apprenticeship.
A developer course is often focused on a single tool or skill for you to polish. Yes, it may have some overarching project and a teacher to guide you, but a lesser impact overall.
Mentorship is often up and beyond a course, thanks to having an actual human being in charge of your global learning. Someone organizing your skill set creates an advantage over jumping blindly from course to course.
The main difference between developer mentoring and developer courses is the active component of the first one. Having someone with a background in tech, someone aware of trends, and priorities for a dev, makes all the difference.
Also, learning with a mentorship can help you get you out of restrictive labels. You are not learning to be a PHP developer, JS developer, or Ruby developer, but a developer as a whole. This broadness pays off in the long run, giving you strong foundations while remaining versatile. Pivoting and moving from one language to another is part of the dev game.
In any case, don’t think that you should ditch courses altogether. I love courses. I’m always trying to learn something new, and they often work like dipping a toe in the water. You just need to learn to play the strengths of each learning path.
At Awkbit, we strongly believe in the power of mentoring. We know of the difficulties that devs go through when looking for a job, so we provide a learning-focused workplace. This addition of mentoring invites our company, clients, juniors, and even senior devs to take time to revisit their knowledge with the goal of striving together.
Are you looking for a mentorship program? Would you like to get personalized learning?