Effective mentoring practices for software developers and engineers

Mentoring is an essential part of building your team to be the best that they can be. Since you are the one they look to for advice, you must know what kind of mentor you’re going to be. Mentoring isn’t just limited to teaching them the technical aspects of their work. There are a lot of things to understand about their job past the code they create. 

As a mentor, you need to show them the effective learning and development skills that only an experienced senior member can provide. Here are some of the important practices you should include in your mentoring:

 

Ask Them About Their Methods

The first and fastest way to get to know your junior developer is to ask them about their personal work style. The tone of your entire mentorship relies on knowing this so you know how to talk to them and give advice. Don’t talk to your developers to block them out with your own methods. 

They are professional software engineers and developers with their own way of doing things. It is crucial that they feel respected. However, you must be willing to tell them if their work style does not fit your company’s culture. Instead of telling them to not do it, look for ways to find a solution.

When you give them a sample problem, watch how they solve it before providing the “right” way of solving things. If they don’t quite get it as fast or exactly how the problem needs to be solved, tell them without canceling their accomplishments.

If they do solve it right, then even better. That means you now know the extent of their knowledge and experience. This lets you move on with your mentorship and not waste time on the things they already intuitively know.

Show Them Your Methods Thoroughly

Whether they solve the problem or not, once they show you their methods, you show them yours. If you have coding experience or watched senior developers all your life, show them what the work process is like within your company.  

Give them insight into the way your team works so they get an idea of how they’ll integrate. Let them connect the pieces on their own, then give them a hand when you notice them getting stuck for too long.

Once you’re done showing your methods, hand them another sample problem and solve it again. Tell them to apply what they have learned from your methods. More importantly, see if they can merge it with their own and add more tools to your team’s coding arsenal. 

Let them talk out loud about their new process. They will be more aware and more receptive to suggestions if you do this. An hour of mentorship every other day is enough to help your junior devs grow.

Also read: How to Be the Best Mentor?

Tell Them Why Your Methods Work Best For The Team

There are core practices in each company that every dev must follow. Junior developers should know that while their own methods can be integrated, it’s important that they can work with the rest of the team. If their code “works” but has some sloppy qualities,  notify them immediately. There are reasons why your team codes a certain way, and that’s to minimize errors and miscommunication. Give them the experienced perspective that only you and your senior developers know.

It’s during this part that you should teach them all of the work jargon you use. From important code words and shortcuts to even simple in-jokes, it’s important to get them up to speed so they integrate with the team faster.  

Use the terms a bit more often than you normally would with your team. This is so they can get acquainted with the terms faster and learn the meanings from context clues alone.

Teach Them That Business is Just as Important as the Code

Writing code is only one aspect of working as a software engineer or developer. At the end of the day, you are running a business, and that means they have to know how to market themselves and their code to the right people. Bring your junior devs along on important meetings with clients and let them observe.

After the meeting, talk with them and ask what they learned. After their response, tell them what other things they should have taken notice of. They must know the purpose of the tasks given to them, as well as how their clients react to the project. The context of knowing what the client wants helps the junior dev understand their priorities.

Coding and such are learned from books. Business acumen must be taught through solid experience and mentorship.

Also read: How do I Start Mentoring Program at Work?

Ask What Specialty They Want To Pursue

Junior developers and engineers are often unsure of what specialty they want to pursue. While it’s important to have some experience in several fields of software development, having a niche is very important for team projects.

Highlight the available career paths they have within your company and ask them what they want to work towards. The specialty they choose within your company will hopefully be the trajectory of their career in the next few years.

If your junior dev is picking up Python skills really fast and seems to enjoy them, gently push them towards specializing there. If their interest lies in spreadsheets and SQL queries, then perhaps a position in database administration is more their speed.

Once you have shown them all the options, leave them to their own devices for a short bit. Observe which of the options they are training for at work or showing the most interest in. Giving your juniors a goal is a concrete way to keep them focused and constantly learning.

The best part is that dabbling in many different niches means they are a more well-rounded developer for your team. They may not choose every specialty, but their knowledge makes their coding much more refined.

Conclusion

The IT industry is one of the most supportive industries and communities in the world. Mentorship relies just as much on knowledge and experience as it does with sincerity. Successful mentorship is based on mutual trust and respect. Follow the practices above and collaborate with your senior developers to know the best way to train your juniors.

About the author

Chatty is a freelance writer from Manila. She finds joy in inspiring and educating others through writing. That’s why aside from her job as a language evaluator for local and international students, she spends her leisure time writing about various topics such as lifestyle, technology, and business.


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