We need more mentors. Mentors help us avoid mistakes and give us guidance on how to be better at our jobs and at life.
The first eight months of my new job at Ordered List I paired with my coworker Brandon three or four days a week. We kept each other on task, but most important for me, he started teaching me the process of writing beautiful and maintainable code. He had years of experience in this industry and a passion for elegant solutions that I didn’t have, but I could learn from him.
While we aren’t pairing as often now, Brandon and I have built a level of trust that enables us to quickly and easily share ideas and continue to educate each other and make better software.
In the last couple months my coworker/boss John has been mentoring me. We meet once a week, either over breakfast, lunch, or just a hot chocolate, and have a nice long chat. We usually cover things we’ve been thinking about the past week, what to focus on in the next week or month, personal goals, even our personal lives. This too has been invaluable for me.
Why Mentors Matter
In my time with both Brandon and John I’ve been able to get someone else’s perspective on how I’m progressing as both a programmer and a person. Looking back I’m completely shocked by how much I’ve changed for the better thanks to them taking the time to care about me and give me feedback that I can act on.
By listening to their advice, which has years of experience and thought behind it, I am able to set a better course for my own life. A good mentor shares what has worked and what has not.
Finding A Mentor
If you have the opportunity to be mentored right now, by someone you respect, seize it. Good mentors are few and far between in my experience. In my current situation I didn’t have to go seeking a mentor, they came to me and offered to help.
In the past I have had to seek out mentors. I wouldn’t be working at Ordered List if I hadn’t reached out four years ago, initially seeking like minded geeks, but eventually finding Steve and John and growing to respect them, so much so that I took advantage of every opportunity to hang out and learn from them.
While having a good mentor can be uplifting, constructive, and life changing, likewise a bad mentor can tear you down. Be careful entering a mentoring relationship to ensure the mentor is someone you have at least some level of trust and respect for. If you leave a meeting challenged and excited, things are probably on the right track. If you leave a meeting discouraged and ready to quit, examine whether its your attitude that is the problem or whether you can’t trust and respect your mentor enough to learn.
One on one time with your mentor is essential, so put it on the calendar and stick to it. If you aren’t serious enough to make the meeting happen then figure out why you are resistant and fix it. John and I have to reschedule a meeting every so often, but we try to avoid canceling.
Finally I would just like to encourage you to mentor someone yourself, if you are ready. I am not mentoring anyone at the moment, but I have in the past and I will in the future.
We need more mentors.