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Craig Nicol (he/him)
Craig Nicol (he/him)

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Ask Your Mentor These 40 Questions : introspection (Q21-30)

Lifehacker suggests 40 questions to ask your mentor. So that I don’t have to repeat myself, I’m posting the answers here in 4 chunks.

  1. If you were me, what’s the single most important question you would ask you?

Are the experiences I’m talking about typical for all, or do they exhibit a white cis male bias that I need to correct for?

  1. If you were me, what’s something you’d aim to change immediately?

It’s never too early to practice your people skills. If you can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll never write the best software for them.

  1. How can I tell I’m not cherry-picking which feedback I accept about myself?

In my experience, it tends to be the opposite. People pick out the negatives and ignore the cherries. The best way to keep yourself honest is to set it your own goals, and honestly reflect to yourself how you did, good and bad. Write it down in advance, and as you go, and look for opportunities to improve.

  1. Is there a strategy to unlearning behaviors that are holding me back in this field?

Coding challenges are a great playground for behaviours and techniques. If you find a behaviour you want to change (e.g

too procedural, not enough functional), then challenge yourself to solve 5 puzzles without that behaviour, see how the new behaviour feels, and see if the old behaviour is sometimes useful.

  1. Do I exhibit any warning signs that indicate this field won’t be right for me in the long run?

If all you care about are the technical aspects, you will limit yourself. Your job is solving problems, software is a tool. You need to know the technical, but you also need to understand elements of psychology, ethics, politics, economics and others. If you’re planning to stay within your bubble, new ready for an escape plan when your skills bedtime obsolete

  1. When is it time for me to contemplate changing career paths?

When you stop caring about doing it right. Maybe it’s time to change jobs, but if the whole routine of requirements and coding and testing just grinds you down, get out whilst you still have passion. And follow your passion somewhere else.

  1. How do I ensure I’m prioritizing the right things?

Always provide value. Sometimes the value is direct (e.g. a new feature), sometimes it’s indirect (e.g. refactoring before a new phase of work). If you’re not sure, ask. Either ask the team, the product owner, or all your future self what you wished you worked on.

  1. Where do you feel I fall short?

That’s for you to answer. Ask for honest feedback and take it in the spirit it is offered. We always reflect on the sprint for ways the team could improve, and always there are things we can do better. There are axes to sharpen, new skills to learn, new people to teach and lead. Pick your favourite retrospective format and apply it to yourself.

  1. How am I perceived by those around me?

See my previous answer.

  1. What should I do right now to improve myself and my career prospects?

Figure out what your 5 year plan is. Once you know which direction you want to travel, the first step is much easier to decide.

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