re: I've Trained Programming Interns For 6+ Years, Ask Me Anything! VIEW POST


How did you get into the role of a mentor?

How do you build enough knowledge to be confident enough to mentor or teach?

I find that I have a good amount of knowledge to share with other developers but not enough to take on a leadership role.


I wound up in the role of a mentor somewhat unintentionally. I'd been planning to start an internship program through my company, but I was originally afraid I'd have nothing to offer. It was my computer science professor who assured me that I already knew plenty enough to mentor, and I'd learn the rest on the way.

I've learned that there are really only two rules about whether you're ready to be a mentor:

  1. You can only take people as far as you yourself have gone.

  2. If you keep learning more, you'll always be at least one step ahead.

Starting out, I knew how to write production-quality code and complete a project by a deadline, but that was about it. I learned a lot through least as much as my interns did!...and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. The trick was, I was willing to admit to my interns when I made a mistake, to listen to feedback, and to continually grow as a leader. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you can only grow in your leadership and mentoring skills.

I think Doctor Who (11th, if you're keeping track) unintentionally sums up the primary secret to leadership when he says to his companions...

Hang on tight and pretend there's a plan!

It works out surprisingly well.


Have you recorded what you have learned in some type of ASK system or ExTRA (Experts Telling Relevant Advice) system that junior programmers and developers could consult when they need help after office hours?
I'm looking for something better than YouTube subscriptions to numerous videos I am not interested in at the moment.

I share most of my insights in my articles here on DEV, so I'd recommend through my profile.

In-house, we use Phabricator Ponder (which functions like a mini-StackOverflow) for asking and answering questions. I try to encourage interns to use that instead of email when they have a question, so the answers are available to other (and future) interns. There's not as much information on there as I'd like, but we're working on it.

We also maintain extensive documentation of our processes and workflows, including detailed setup and debugging instructions.

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