The power of mentoring

This is a guest post from Stephen. Enjoy!

Dear new developer,

I have been looking for a nice definition for mentoring, and I finally found one that was short and concise on

An experienced and trusted adviser.

I like this quote because it does not go into details, nor does it mention higher qualification or age or company position. It focuses on what really matters: experience and trust.

Experience and trust

Experience is of course a core required for mentorship, as a mentor is supposed to “guide” an individual toward an improvement of some sort. But this experience is not specific to one skill(more details below). During my last 10 years of experience I have been taught by some great mentors, each of which have inspired me in different ways, but what was really great was seeing employers coming in, learning, and sharing that knowledge with other people.

To mentor someone you need to have some skills to share. What this means is that you could be very good at keeping notes, and therefore still be able to mentor and support a very disorganized Senior developer, or you could have adapted to scrum faster than your fellow colleagues and help them to get up to speed (both real world examples).

I really think that teaching and mentoring were two completely different ways of sharing knowledge. When using the word mentoring, you are implying that you are taking “ownership” of an individual supporting him/her all the way, while teaching is just about knowledge transfer, and does not focus on how much the audience assimilates.

How to mentor

I personally love to mentor, but even more being mentored. I like to see how different people approach this subject and try to learn on the way.

To mentor people you do not need a bright star on your shirt, or a cool job title on your name badge. What you really need is a state of mind, one that will put other people before any sort of priority. As I said before, when mentoring, you are taking ownership of someone’s skills and therefore have a duty to support them every step of the way.

I have always enjoyed teaching other people what I know, but it has just been recently that I have been able to learn how to mentor people. I am currently supporting over 40 developers, and I try to build a specific road map for each of them to help them improve where they need it the most.

Lead the way

There are many different examples that I could share, but the message is always the same, lead the way and make sure you are being followed. Always make sure you are not talking to yourself: involve the person, test how much they are learning, and let them take control.

If you are dealing with a junior developer, instead of just showing the correct code to complete a task, you should first of all try to understand the thought that went behind his/her solution. Try to guide the programmer by showing them possible improvements and the different paths that could have been taken, so that the correct code becomes a small part of a greater lesson.

Of course the mentoring tactic needs to change depending on the individual. Some people want to be supported and helped and don’t really value themselvesThere could be others who are very confident and need lighter support. They may not even know that you are mentoring them; this is a case when mentoring really is different than teaching.

Why do mentoring

It takes time, energy, it is very difficult and sometimes the person that you are mentoring may not even be aware of it, so why should you even bother?

Personally I think that a great mentor is a great leader. Mentoring is the best way to learn your strengths and your weaknesses. It helps you with personal development and improves your existing skills.

I talked about “the imposter syndrome” above, because developers are well known for not being very social, and in many cases this is also accompanied by a sense of failure. Unfortunately, these developers are usually the most skilled, but their knowledge is not shared. I have seen the great effect of mentoring on a specific individual: starting to share his skills made him realize how good he was, he improved his self esteem, and it made him a key employee in the company. We usually focus too much on the core skills (in this case coding), and we forget that people may need help in different areas.

Who can mentor

It should be clear by now, that everyone should mentor. We may all do it differently, and some of us may not succeed at it at the first time, but this does not mean that mentoring is not for you.

As mentioned above, I love to be mentored. I like to find the strength in people and let them teach me what they really know by sharing their love for something. It is not important if they are junior, senior, or even if they do not work in my same sector, if someone has a specific skill worth sharing, it is important to accept your weakness and ask for support.


I am currently a software architect, but this does not stop me from admitting that there are developers that are better than me in specific skills, and this is what mentoring did for me.

Mentoring and being mentored showed me my weakness, but it also showed that there is no harm in being open about them, because I am also known to have many different strengths. This state of mind is what helped me and there is no better or easier way to achieve it than by offering your help and opening yourself to support others.



This post was originally posted here.

Simone Cuomo is a software architect and mentor. He recently released a book, Beyond Coding, about how to get your first job in tech.

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