How to work with your programming mentor

How to work with your programming mentor

Having access to a more experienced programmer who wants to help you grow professionally can speed up your progress. Maybe they are:

  • a friendly senior colleague on the job,
  • a helpful friend, or
  • an external mentor—free or paid

How can you make sure you get the most from this help?

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Senior JS developer

Bring your real-world problems

Your mentor has much more experience in the workforce than you. They can share their insights with you—as long as you bring the issues that trouble you. So, for example:

  • if you are facing some technical challenge, they can recommend alternative approaches to you, or
  • if you clash with some work colleague, they can evaluate the situation and help you figure out how to address it in the future, or
  • if you are overwhelmed with options for a library, they can help you pick and commit to one of the options, or
  • if your work situation isn’t great, they can help you prepare salary negotiation or look for a new job. For this one, it’s probably better for this mentor to be someone outside of your current company.

Do your homework

Mentoring is fun if the mentee—you—is receptive. Pay attention to the recommendations from your mentor. If they recommend an article, read it. If they recommend a book or course, get a copy and follow it. If you get feedback on the code review, at least engage with the proposition: discuss its pros and cons, even if there is no time to follow it.

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Treat your mentor the same as you would treat an owl.

While studying

If you don’t have real-world problems from work, you can try creating some. While working on a personal project, you can ask your mentor to review your code. It would be best to work in public. The workflow you could use is:

  1. You do the first implementation on your own
  2. Your mentor gives you some feedback
  3. You implement the feedback.

Doing it in public gives three strong signals to a potential employer:

  • you are dedicated enough to deliver some project
  • you have external help and will not depend only on the employers’ resources to progress
  • you show off how well you take and implement feedback

What about you?

What has been your experience with mentoring so far? Share your story in the comments!