This blog was first published in 2019, this is an updated version.
Learning new software engineering concepts has never been easier. Someone new to Software engineering or any other skill can pick a course and in a few hours gain a good understanding of the concept. This has promoted lots of self-taught developers and indeed is a good thing as it shows a high level of commitment and self-motivation.
We all have learned a thing or two by ourselves and deserve applause 👏 for the commitment during the learning period and we must help others develop such attitude and tenacity towards learning because it is needed at different points in our careers.
However, as software engineers looking back at our careers, one would agree that having a mentor at some point would have been amazing. The learning or experience would have been super smooth if we had someone to guide us, share lessons learned, effectively make learning faster, someone who can help unblock us towards a goal. This is similar to a scenario where a junior engineer asks a senior a question and the response from the senior engineer is worth more (given the context) than searching online. While the junior could still motivate himself through this phase, it is essentially smarter to consult a senior who has been through the same phase to guide him accordingly.
Much learning is involved in the Tech industry and knowledge gained lasts as long as there are no updates which is barely the case🌚. Hence quick and effective learning becomes a necessary skill to have and one of the ways of achieving that is by having a mentor.
Want to get great at something? Get a coach - ATUL GAWANDE
I opted for professional coaching/mentoring some years back and it fundamentally changed my outlook on software engineering positively. Sometimes we feel some questions are irrelevant or mundane but a good mentor never misses a chance to explain or give guidance where it seems necessary. Given what I know now, I only wish I had it a lot earlier in my career; hence the reason for this blog post.
Benefits of Having a Mentor
Some of the benefits of having a mentor include:
Learnings are Faster
Focus is Improved
Hidden ideas become Obvious
Improve Your Skill
💨Learnings are Faster
A mentor with experience in an area provides an opportunity to rely on their wealth of knowledge. Consider learning a new framework all by yourself for the first time. Then compare that to learning under someone who is already an expert in the given framework. You will agree the latter will be faster and straight to the point. Learning anything Tech related can get overwhelming. However, with a mentor, you can gain insight worth several years of experience in a relatively short time than would have been possible. In this case, the mentor knows the various information you need per context and can bring it all together in one simple yet profound instruction or comment.
🎯Focus is Improved
We would agree that there are lots of information sources: articles, blogs, online courses, etc. that are available in the tech industry. The irony about this is; it makes it a bit difficult to pick one that solves your exact need. This could cause derailing from the focal point of your study. With a help of a mentor, you can pick the exact resource that helps you learn better. This works like a 2-edged knife; the first is that the mentor is well-aware of the resource and can guide you through the seemingly tough areas and the second is that you go all in with a razor-sharp focus, clearing out the ignorance.
💡Hidden Concepts Become Obvious
When studying a concept for the first time, there is a tendency to ignore some parts, especially one that does not readily appeal to your understanding immediately or seems to not be so useful in the long run. When this happens, there is the likelihood of missing the lessons to be learned especially when they could be vital much later. A mentor having gone through the same subject can call your attention to that and cause you to spend some more time to gain that necessary understanding. This helps you realize the importance of the concept in your study and how it impacts your overall understanding. This also applies to important ideas that are not readily seen. Having a mentor can help you avoid such mistakes and greatly improve your career.
🎉 Improve Your Skill
A mentor can notice a missing skill in a mentee and thereby help the mentee to improve in that area. For example, a back-end developer without a practical knowledge of Docker or a Cloud Infrastructure engineer that provisions infrastructure via the management console only, repeatedly without the use of IaC tools like Terraform. Whatever the reason may be for the lack of skills, a mentor can call the attention of the mentee and this can cause improvement in that area.
Beyond technical guidance, a mentor can help in several other areas of your career; if you should take on a specific role, if you need to develop your soft skills - this is a very important skill to gain. If you need to be the change in a company or plan an exit. Whatever the reason, we would agree that getting help is better than spending all the time or being stuck.
This is by no means an exhaustive discussion of why you need a mentor. Please share your reason, if you will, why having a mentor can boost your career or how having a mentor has boosted your career.