How to get involved in mentoring as a software engineer

How to get involved in mentoring as a software engineer

How to get involved in mentoring as a software engineer

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to give back and how to find my place in the programming world. As a continuation of that thinking, I decided to do a deep-dive into something I imagine a lot of experienced programmers want to do: mentor.

There are three broad categories of mentor opportunities:

  • Paid mentoring opportunities
  • Partial and Unofficial mentoring opportunities
  • Volunteer mentoring opportunities

Paid Opportunities

Here are just a few I encountered through conversations or a few simple internet searches. I imagined there are more lurking out there.

  • Code Mentor – A web development mentor marketplace. After getting vetted, you’ll have a nice little image of yourself along with your main selling points and rates on the website.
  • Mentor Cruise – A much broader mentoring website where users can get mentoring on not just web development, but business, design, and data as well.
  • Thinkful – This is one I have tried personally as a mentee. I thought it was very valuable to have a mentor help me through problems. I imagine it’s very fulfilling for the mentor as well. They offer courses in software engineering, data science, analytics, product management, and design. I imagine they have mentors for all of those programs.
  • Make Your Own – I feel like I suggest this for everything on my blog, but it’s true. I see so many folks getting into mentoring simply by calling themself a coach/mentor, publishing this new title on their website or LinkedIn profile, and marketing themselves as such. If you get some coaching/mentoring clients, you’ve made it!

A closely related concept to mentoring is teaching. There are so many paid opportunities to teach, especially at web dev bootcamps. Too many to list here. If you feel like you might want to mix in presentation skills with a dash of facilitation and mentorship, teaching might be the path for you. Just google who the local bootcamps are in your area and apply.

Partial and Unofficial Paid Opportunities

Higher level individual contributor and managerial track positions like Senior Engineer, Lead Engineer, and Architect typically involve mentoring more junior engineers. This is usually codified in the job description. If you find yourself in this situation, GREAT! You can probably stop reading this.

But don’t despair everybody else! Just because mentoring isn’t in your job description or implied by your title doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Many workplaces have structured mentorship programs. Ask around or go ahead and get the ball rolling to start one. It’s also worth bringing this desire up with your supervisor. They might be able to shine a light on little mentorship opportunities you might be missing in the day-to-day work on the team.

There are also less structured ways of working on mentorship skills on the job. Invest the time and energy on being more helpful, empathic, patient, and knowledgable in your interactions with coworkers. Open your eyes to the many little moments every day where you see someone struggling or could benefit from a little direction. Those opportunities are all around us. I don’t imagine too many employers would get upset with you for doing this on the clock.

Unpaid Opportunities

Getting paid to do something fundamentally changes your relationship with that activity. Perhaps after some careful consideration you’ve reached the conclusion that you’d rather do it for free. Or you lack the experience or certainty to pursue a paid opportunity at this time. Thankfully not everything you do has to be compensated. In the spirit of generosity you can do it as a volunteer. There are many volunteer mentor/teaching opportunities mentioned here in my previous blog post.

Did I miss an opportunity? Are you a mentor yourself? Tell me about it below.

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