Mentoring

Why mentoring makes you a better developer

Imagine your first job. Even your first day in your first job, or your first day at later jobs. Remember your time when you have studied. Every time we start a new journey into the unknown the tasks are much harder to accomplish. This is not because we are not skilled enough or because we have had no coffee in the morning.

It is because we have just a limited amount of knowledge in the area we are going to start in. In addition to the professional knowledge, I also mean knowledge about processes, about our future collaborators and the knowledge they owe and share, about how tasks are tackled in that company or university or in school, about informative Slack channels, that you don't know about, yet. There is a lot of unknown. Remember how thankful you were in these situations for a few instructions. Think about how often you go to Medium or YouTube to get some knowledge about coding, cooking, gardening, how to clean inline skater bearings, or how to plan your next road trip.

When you share your knowledge, you really strengthen your skills. One of the supposedly best teachers of the 20th century said:

The ultimate test of your knowledge is your ability to convey it to another.

If you cannot explain something in simple terms, you don't understand it yourself. If you want to master something, teach it. Teaching is the best tool for learning.

[Richard Feynman](https://twitter.com/ProfFeynman/status/1264624098962882560)


How can you start mentoring?

There are two ways of mentoring. Mentoring can be either active, like doing (online)workshops, giving talks, or providing mentoring times for individuals like onCodingCoach. Or passive mentoring, which can for example include blog posts, YouTube videos, open-source projects on Github or helpful contributions on other platforms. I'd consider all of them as valid forms of mentoring.

Think about what you want to teach. This can be something where you have tons of experience, but it can also be something where you want to start. The important thing is to bring a lot of passion for that topic. The depth of the knowledge depends on the target audience. Let me give you an example.

There is for example the organization AngularGirls, which is a derivative of DjangoGirls and their focus is to get more women into tech-driven professions. The most important part to bring as a mentor is not the in-depth Angular knowledge. It is my passion to work with these technologies. For AngularGirls I participated as a mentor, twice. The only requirement here as a mentor is to be able to write some basic JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Although this is an Angular class there is no need to be able to excel in Angular. The goal of this workshop is not to provide in-depth Angular knowledge and to turn mid-level developers into masters of Angular. It is to encourage people to work in Software related fields.

On the other hand, there is for example the excellent [3Blue1Brown](https://www.youtube.com/c/3blue1brown/featured) YouTube channel. In order to create such a channel with this kind of content, I assume, there is a lot of experience necessary. Also if you want to create advanced classes, like many of the pro classes on ultimate courses, there is a lot of experience necessary. The target audience here are developers who are already working in the industry with some experience.


Some helpful tips and tricks for active mentoring

No one learns by someone explaining stuff in front of them. You need to get your hands dirty. Imagine driving a car. For most of the population, this is rather a simple task. However, there is some practice necessary to coordinate such a metal box with wheels attached safely. You need hands-on sessions.

If you plan your mentoring session, g.g. a workshop, it is a good practice to plan some time for related tasks, so that the participants can apply their newly gained knowledge directly. And for questions and answers. Plan these time slots not too tight.

It is also almost always good advice to get to know your participants first. Get a feeling for their base knowledge and try to figure out which parts you can summarize quickly and which parts should be tackled in detail.


Takeaways

Don't hesitate to share what you have learned. There is always someone who is thankful for the knowledge you've provided. This is really something I am working on myself. When I read the blog posts I am feeling like, there is someone who already has written about that topic and this article explains the subject nicer or whatever. It's not. Your perspective is valuable.

Keep in mind that there is only a win-win situation. For both, you and the mentees. The mentees profit from your teaching, while you straighten and even gain knowledge. When I was mentoring at AngularGirls for example, there was a question I could not answer and indeed it led to a very insightful aspect of Angular. And I work with Angular extensively since its version 2 release in 2016.

You can do something really good. Let it be that one of your mentees land a job in the tech industry or you work towards a higher goal, like getting more women into the amazing field of tech and math-related professions. You can save other a lot of time. Imagine how thankful you can be about the tons of blog posts you've read or videos you've watched. At least some of them for sure granted you access to knowledge that otherwise you would have had a really hard time figuring out. Give some of your knowledge back!


Let's start!

Get yourself into a community now or start your first blog post! There are plenty of opportunities. Have a look at mentee programs at your university or communities that relate to your p(a|rofe)ssion. For example, there are lots of Google developer groups, tons of meetups, and other organizations like AngularGirls or DjangoGirls. Apply there, share some details about yourself and why you want to mentor. I am sure, they are happy to hear from you!

Thanks for reading.


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Published by Felix on 2021-08-06

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