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Jeff V
Jeff V

Posted on

Learning how to be a good steward

Whats the point of this:
This post isn't about sounding my own praise.

The following are just a few examples of what I have done to pay it forward. I really want to hear what others are doing in their community.

My history:
I started out just like everyone else did back in the mid to late 90's: Wondering what computers were going to do for me? And more importantly, what the hell I was going to do with them! I had just graduated with a CIS degree in business. I was an average student & I hated my business focused classes. But I loved the VB4 class, my Database class, my finance class & my management class. Those were the 4 classes in my entire college career that I really liked. The rest I just slogged through & consequently barely passed.

That was 20+ years ago now. I graduated as the dotcom bubble was happening. But I didn't work at a startup at 1st. I worked as a QA person, making a whopping $27,000 per year. My manager at the time, knew I wanted to get into programming and after about 8 months in my job, he took me to a book store and bought me 3 very expensive VB5/6 books. My 1st application I wrote professionally was basically to do what I was currently doing in my QA job. I recognized a pattern that worked for 80%+ of my day to day tasks. I ultimately automated my position. It was a good little app & apparently it was used for years.

After that job, I started my job hopping journey. I also worked on a Y2K project for a baby bell company. I did eventually make it to a start-up before the dotcom bust happened. In fact I wound up working for 2 start-ups, which both wound up failing. Yes, I'm getting old, but with age means I have some knowledge (hopefully) & some experiences in the development field. Maybe I can share that with others...

What I've done... So far!
I've volunteered at my wife's school, teaching a basic programming at an after school club & I'm currently mentoring junior developers.

Both experiences have proven to be challenging, but not in the same ways.
Obviously, mentoring adults is a lot easier than teaching kids at an after school club. However, both have proven to be good learning opportunities for me.

With the after school club, it forced me to plan what I wanted to show the kids. I couldn't just "wing it". Some of my lesson plans were successful and some were total garbage. It also taught me that being a teacher is tough. It was especially so with kids that may not have wanted to really be there for the same reasons I wanted to be there.

Ultimately it was a good experience. I got to know the kids a little better & maybe someday 1 or 2 becomes a successful coder. IDK - its possible :)

As a side note: I was blown away by what these kids in elementary schools are learning. I had no concepts of programming at their age, yet these kids were being taught the basics in a very cool way using and scratch ( It was really amazing to see how far these kids were in their practices.

I've currently started mentoring adults. These adults are trying to switch careers & are trying to get into development as full time programmers. At first I thought mentoring adults would be easy. However, I started to notice the difference in how I became a programmer versus how they are trying to become a developer.

Since their path is different from mine, I'm a little out of my depth as I can't tell them to do what I did. I had the luxury of being a developer while I worked on side & passion projects.

What I've learned from mentoring so far is to listen, be positive & to advise when needed, but most of all be respectful. I'm also reminded to practice what I preach (with practice & going to meet-ups for example). I'm also humbled when I have a rough day at work, knowing there is someone on the outside looking in, that would LOVE to have a hard day coding.

The best part of mentoring is the relationships though. I'm very excited to see how this ends up.

What are you doing ?
I would love to hear what you are doing in your community to pay it forward. I'm always interested in other ideas. Let me know.

I'm also interested in what you look for in a mentor. Leave a comment below to give me some ideas to be a better mentor.

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