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Ninad Mhatre
Ninad Mhatre

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being a mentor...

Recently we had a few new joiners, they were all from different background with different level of experience. Being a bit longer in the team, I was tasked to guide them to be productive in the new role. I have done guiding a few times in the past but every time I do it, it feels like is this the best way to do it? or can I improve? (of course, I can improve)

After guiding new joiners with onboarding, I never received negative feedback, so there are 2 possibilities, either I am really good with this thing or totally bad so not worth sharing feedback. Being optimistic about (many) situations in the life I would go with the first case :)

My start

I always go back to the days when I was just starting out, and I always feel what others could have done to improve my learning experience back then. I started right out of college in 2006 and then put on to work with Unix & Cobol. I did my engineering in Electronics and never used a computer to code before I actually started working. For first few weeks I was given really stupid tasks since I never did coding in my life but when I think back about those tasks, those were really shitty tasks for e.g. open 5000 files and manually categorise them in shell, SQL, Cobol and some other type. if this wasn’t enough after completing this next day there were 11000 files. This task was so bad that I actually started learning to code and diving into more challenging tasks. There i started with Perl and my coding life started. My seniors back then helped me only after I spent some considerable time (ranging from few hours to a couple of days) with the task this also helped me to explore new things and sometimes break my head as well. But I liked the “breaking my head” over some simple tasks this helped me to understand the solution and remember it. Imagine someone helping me as soon as I was stuck, I would have completed the task but would have always dependant on the other person to complete the task.

My Way

Like the way I started, I expect even learners to spend some considerable time with the task before actually asking for help. I mean they can certainly ask for help as soon as they are stuck but then instead of giving the final solution I just give them hint to proceed further. This helps only when learners are just dependant on you but if you have more than 1 person who can help and won't mind helping them all the away then people approach another person directly.

Well, this works for me as I can concentrate more on my task without getting disturbed but I would prefer to get disturbed than creating the dependency on another person. In long run this extra helpfulness will bite us. I can of course go and talk to everyone who can help and explain my strategy, but, like mine, they also have some strategy which is different than mine.

Final Thought

I am not sure which is the best way to guide someone, but I think helping new learners without letting them struggle is more harmful. Helping might save time initially but then small time is spent every time a similar task is to be done and worst that attitude of trying to find a solution on own is not created.

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