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Vets Who Code

Find a Mentor, Better Yet, Find Two

jeromehardaway profile image Jerome Hardaway ・3 min read

Seeking mentorship is one of the most given pieces of advice to people seeking to level up professionally and finding a mentor is usually one of the top "New Year, New Me" resolutions, but the problem is that no one teaches you how to find a mentor, what to look for in a mentor, or how you can make the Mentor/Protege relationship feel mutual and not parasitic. Its a frequently asked question to me and I am hoping that I can share some insights with you.

Be Honest With Yourself

This is the first and hardest step. The easiest way to get the most out of mentorship is to identify what you want, what you need help on, and what you are willing to work on before you even start cold emailing people. You can then use this list to create an action plan as you build a list of possible mentors, as well as a script for when you approach people that you desire to mentor you. A little thought and time spent on this will go a long way in your goals and actually impress your your mentor-selects, which increases your chances of them saying yes.

Find a Mentor for Each Skill

Not everyone will have every skill you need to succeed, so its not unusual to have more than one mentor. I personally prefer it, as it gives me something of purpose to switch to when I suffer burnout on the other mentor's skill building drills ( I also have a board, so its like having 14 mentors, plus 2 ). I would focus on no more than two and separate them by hard skills and soft skills, that way you can be well rounded. My meetings with Billy Hollis to discuss leveling up in UX, technical leadership and speaking, while Rachel is like having my own personal Gary Vee. Her knowledge of PR and social media, particularly in the tech space, has not only helped me discover a bad deal but helped create opportunities for VWC that without her simply wouldn't have become reality.

Share Your Wins : Thank Your Mentor, Often

I think this is the most important thing to do that often goes neglected. My favorite Hip Hop line is by Rick Ross when he says " You weren't with me shootin' in the gym", a reference to a person that is not around while you are working towards success, put either believes that it came easy to you, or that they should profit from it. I get this all the time from people in my hometown who are upset that we pivoted (the same thing that instagram did when it was bourbon) into a successful remote nonprofit instead of fight for an old building and to the type of good that they could understand ( downsides of not being from a tech town). We all have had these people around at some point in our life and frankly, they suck. So now that you have found people who are willing to "shoot in the gym" with you, be unabashed in showing your appreciation. It involves them in the process, makes them feel good, and they can use it to build their careers, so seeing you succeed and you attributing those wins to the application of lessons and time they have invested in you makes the relationship mutual. I loved sharing with Billy about being mentioned in Wired Magazine and could not wait to give Rachel on of our Vets Who Code Challenge Coins as a way to say that I appreciate the time they invest in me. Be grateful : Say Thank You.

Discussion (4)

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voanhcuoc profile image
Khoa Che • Edited

Thanks for sharing Mr. Hardaway! As you're appear to be experienced in mentorship I would like to consult you about my situation:

Currently I'm mentoring a novice coder. He think some of my decisions suck but he doesn't dare to say that they suck. Instead he constantly ask me if he really need to do as I said, and finally shut up himself. Then I ask what he think about my decisions but he doesn't answer, he just say he's noob so his opinion doesn't count.

By my guess, he thinks I waste his time by demanding him understand the things he didn't give a fuck, and then feels belittled because he haven't got to the point he expect.

How can I help him get out of this toxic attitude ?

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Jerome Hardaway Author • Edited

Hi, firstly thanks for thinking of me as an expert, but I’m not an expert in anything, just found a ton of different ways to do it wrong. As for the person you’re mentoring, have you asked them to solve the problem before you do it for them, then have them explain their logic to you and then show them the things they maybe aren’t thinking about with your answer to the solution. They may develop their own style and they might not feel engaged. PS: You might learn something new as well.

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Jacob Evans

Definitely a great approach. Better let them struggle for a bit, if they really aren't making headway then stepping in can help but never do the whole thing for them, guide them through it.

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Jacob Evans

You're their mountain sherpa.