Why You Should Mentor a Junior Developer – Hacker Noon

The Experience

I was assigned my mentee soon after committing to the mentorship program. As with any new experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to make an impact in someone else’s life, both professionally and personally, but I wasn’t even sure how much I had to offer. This was likely a symptom of my long-standing imposter syndrome as evidence of my career would prove that I had a lot to offer a more junior developer just starting out their career.

Nikhil, my mentee, was introduced to me over email and we soon scheduled an introductory call. Admittedly though I had planned on doing due diligence ahead of time by searching up Nikhil’s past professional history and projects, I did not end up making the time to do so. This, however, was not a problem. Nikhil was very excited to be given the opportunity to speak to an experienced developer in the States.

Similarly, I was already excited for the opportunity to be a mentor. So it was a good fit. But the specifics of what needed to be done in the program seemed free-form and fluid at first. This was daunting, but luckily my experience as a founder prepared me well for the task at hand. I realized early in the program a simple guiding principle:

Mentoring someone is similar to managing someone. In management, your company’s revenue is your bottomline. In mentorship, shared personal growth is your bottomline.

The first call was a simple introduction. I gave Nikhil a rundown of my professional experience thus far and he did the same for me. In my past experience, the better I could relate to my mentee, the more successful I would be at making an impact on them. So I tried to relate to Nikhil. It wasn’t difficult as we’d both had entreprenuerial aspirations throughout our careers and had realized that there was a ladder of experience that we would need to climb in order to get to where we wanted to be.

Throughout the mentorship program, I related my past development experiences to him in ways that would be productive and helpful. Initially, I wanted to be respectful of what the instructors had intended for Nikhil to learn in terms of coding practices and frameworks, but I soon came to realize that he was hungry for more knowledge and experience.

Throughout the program, I was held accountable by Nikhil’s professionalism responsiveness in emails. Every week, whether we planned for a call or not, he would email to make sure the a follow-up meeting was scheduled. He even took it upon himself to set the agenda for the next meeting we were to have. Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed.

At first, I would advise technically in a general sense. However, later in the program, I decided that screensharing the codebases we were working on would be the best way to understand each other’s working and coding styles. This became the standard on each call as we’d check-in on each other’s progress and have demos ready.

We got on nearly hour-long calls at roughly a bi-weekly cadence. When I didn’t have time on a given week or we had to reschedule a planned call, Nikhil always followed up. On a particular week, I had completely forgotten about a call we were supposed to have a few days prior. I felt guilty; Nikhil was very understanding:

As the program went on, the free-form fluidity of each meeting became more structured and productive. We pair-programmed at times. I gave him suggestions on npm packages, UI kits, React component strategies, styling methods, and more general advice on how to practice becoming a better developer. However, it wasn’t entirely stiff and formal. We chatted about Silicon Valley culture, the future of technology, and our lives in general. It was never boring.

By the end of the program, Nikhil demoed his final project to me and I was truly blown away at his growth and progress as a product engineer. Not only did he utilize every bit of advice I had to offer, he created a well thought-out tool that would be helpful to any remote employee called The Remotants. I was truly proud of he was able to accomplish in such a short period of time. Although he gave me much of the credit, his willingness to learn and grow were still his own.

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