Understanding Mentorship: By a Software Engineer

Mentorship: The door connecting two worlds

This article is an attempt to highlight the importance of Mentorship for both Mentor and Mentee. The targeted audience is both budding programmers and Software-engineering professionals. Having an opportunity to receive some Words of Wisdom early in our career during confusing crossroads can be a game-changer. Take my case for example-

Me, During my 3rd year of college:

I am learning so much technical stuff and programming languages every day but every Job post has some technology mentioned that I don’t know of. I see these awesome programmer salaries, surely they must be knowing python. How are they making this much money? Oh! knowing Data structures and algorithms makes them special but I am weak in Data structures. Finally!! I have mastered this hottest tech, recruiters bow down to my wishes, throw me some offer letters. What! there’s a hotter tech. Shit! I need to learn that. Sorry, I forgot about it since I never used it that much but give me a week and I’ll learn it. Oh! their tech is boring. OK, it’s hot but I saw this video where that guy said it’s not hot so I am confused.

Me, Currently:

  • I have carved out a technology niche by learning from industry experts as a Full-stack developer.

A fresh eye might not detect it but there is a HUGE clarity in my words in the current situation. Usually, it takes a decade in the software industry to reach such clarity. It’s definitely not easy when you are jumping across tech stacks learning new stuff all the time.

It was only possible because I was able to proceed the last 3 years with utmost confidence that I am doing the best thing possible and expected to fail at these specific points. I had a guardian angel watching my moves and sharing personalized feedback based on my velocity, not the generalized ones you get from YouTube mentors.

Great! Now you know me a little so let’s talk about Mentorship from a Mentee’s perspective.

What is Mentorship?

It’s like an unspoken arrangement where a person deemed super worthy by yourself has agreed to occasionally listen to your stupid questions and provide you with guidance.

That’s it, nothing more, and do not confuse your mentor with your Teacher, Trainer, Manager, or Spiritual Guru.

How will I know that I need a mentor?

When you'll have an intense feeling of ambition mixed with confusion & anxiety then you'll know.

It’s like, I know I have to get there but can’t find a way and nothing is working.
It’s like when Will Smith saw the Stockbroker coming out of his Ferrari and knew he wanted one too.
It’s like when the farmer’s son saw their King bowing down with respect to the recluse Rishi a thousand years ago during a harvest festival in some Indian village. Farmer’s son was like “Hell Yeah! I want that respect. Everyone always barks orders at me”.
It’s like when I was writing dozens of cover letters for programming jobs in UpWork (oDesk back then) but no one responded and I saw the profiles of top freelancers charging $233 per hour.

How will I find a mentor?

Not a lot has changed from ancient times. Back then you had to do household chores and labor for years to impress the Industry experts and learn their secrets. Resourceful students would get away easily by offering grains, cattle, or land. The same applies these days but within legal boundaries of course. LOL

Talking of the current online world, where you are reading this article, things are easy—
Just follow the person online, analyze their content deeply and in turn create interesting content to capture their attention. Consistency is the key, as everyone else will quit after a few tries but you’ll be remembered because you showed up after every post. Try helping them with stuff like - providing unbiased feedback, solving their problems if you know they have one, suggesting a helpful tool, shadowing them by offering to become their assistant.

In short, do whatever it takes for the person to take out time from their busy schedule for you. Impress them with your research and provide some value. Usually, the more popular the person, the harder it will be to grab their attention. If they can’t guide you then ask them for the next best person who can.

If you are interested in making a career in programming and would like to get some directions then meet me here. Just remember, don’t show up at my door with bags of rice. However, I will accept exotic farm-grown fruits as a gift offering.

Now let’s answer the same questions from a Mentor’s perspective.

What is Mentorship?

I have a friend from Russia in Sololearn. He writes clean code and that’s a lot to say for a 19-year-old. You have to see his JavaScript codes. Nicely indented, meaningful variables, clean logic, perfect type-checking, a delight to read. He needed some help with clearing interviews and English so we would meet in Discord a few times a month. We also talked about the nature of work I do daily, as it’s not just code. He would always ask about the designations in Software Engineering, we got hundreds of confusing designations. In return, he would show me some new cool library and what we can do with it.

Now, I don’t know if my friend thinks of me as a Mentor or I would call him my Mentee but hearing his successful interview story gave me a sense of achievement. Not to mention the insights on trendy stuff that helps me better understand a young programmer’s background during my interviews.
Maybe that’s a Mentor-Mentee relation!

How will I know if I need a Mentee?

When you’ll have an intense feeling of loneliness in your profession and realize that there aren’t many people around who can understand or appreciate your work.

It’s like, watching an old version of yourself who is struggling and repeating the same mistakes.
It’s like, watching Will smith solve the Rubik’s cube and realizing he can solve tough problems like us, let’s give him a shot.
It’s like, the Rishi thinking to himself “All this knowledge will be lost after my death if not transferred to the next generation”.
It’s like, myself struggling with Impostor’s syndrome because of my relentless pursuit to stay humble enough to learn new things but having a peaceful realization that I am not that stupid after all when watching another person work.

How will I find a mentee?

Look for your old selves in places you’d expect. For me, it’s SoloLearn where I was picked up by my mentor three years ago. There are dozens of platforms like Sololearn but I stay here because of my friends.
In my free time, I would peruse through a lot of codes written by fellow Sololearners. That’s how I have stumbled across some of the best programmers. Every now and then I see someone asking the same questions with the same frustration as I would. It’s delightful watching them find peace in life after hours of struggle in their code.

Among dozens of budding programmers that I have met, only a few stayed consistent in their learning and became good programmers. They all have one thing in common.

They love to code and blow everyone’s mind with crazy logic.

Ending Note:

  • Great thanks for the free stock photos from the folks at Pexel. Especially, Sora Shimazaki and cottonbro.