Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Dev Mentor

September 14, 2022
Development

One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.

- John C. Maxwell

The tech industry is booming, locally and globally and the Covid-19 pandemic has played a major role in this accelerated growth. Taking on software development as a career path is now more promising than ever, but certainly comes with its unique set of challenges.

Navigating the tech scene calls for ambition, experimentation and quick learning. Following set rules and structures that have stood the test of time isn’t always an option for developers, however, due to the quick changing nature of the industry. It can therefore be incredibly beneficial to work with a mentor, who will be able to guide you through unfamiliar places, help you see what might be coming and how to prepare for it. A good mentor will ultimately accelerate your growth beyond what you would have been able to achieve in the same space of time, without them. 

We’ve put together a guide to unpack everything you need to know about WHAT to expect, and what to look for in a dev mentor, WHY you might want to consider looking for one, and HOW you can go about finding a good one. 

Let’s jump straight in!

So, what is a dev mentor?

Clara Chaouat defined mentoring as “a learning relationship between an experienced person and someone who wants to grow”. With coding, it is typically a relationship between a senior developer and someone who has less experience. Having a dev mentor holds numerous advantages.

Why you should consider getting a dev mentor.

The learning curve of settling into a developer role can be a steep one, and overcoming the obstacles you face can prove to be a time-consuming exercise. It then becomes very convenient for you to have a dev mentor that has already navigated through these obstacles and has found fitting solutions. Your dev mentor can guide you through the world of developing and provide direction when you feel overwhelmed.

A mentor encourages personal and professional growth

A mentor can provide great guidance when it comes to professional growth. They can guide you towards the best resources, give great career advice, and also provide valuable feedback on your work.

Ndzalama Mabasa, a junior developer, recently outlined how mentorship improved his communication skills, in an article written for the OfferZen blog. It is also a great space to learn leadership skills and will undoubtedly provide you with opportunities to practice these skills and take more responsibility when going back to your team to share and implement new information. 

A mentor brings a new perspective

A mentor doesn’t only bring more experience to the table, but also provides a different perspective on problems that less experienced developers have not necessarily encountered yet.  Less experienced developers can often get caught up and struggle with small details where a mentor can really help when you need to see the bigger picture.

Convinced you need a dev mentor yet?

How to go about getting yourself a dev mentor.

Finding an experienced dev mentor who is willing to go the extra mile for you can be a daunting task.

Before you begin your search, keep in mind that the best mentor is: 

- NOT (necessarily) a familiar face

Yes, that’s right. When you hear the word “mentor” you might have immediately thought of someone in your immediate network who you know, and that you know you can trust. 

However, when you encounter a problem as a developer, you can’t solve it with the same thinking that got you there in the first place. When looking for a dev mentor, it would be most beneficial to find someone with a radically different way of thinking and reasoning from you as this will ensure you always have a fresh pair of eyes to help you solve certain issues.

- NOT (necessarily) the best in the game

Okay, if your dev mentor turns out to be the leading party in the developing field, that’s great, but it definitely is not a necessity.

All great developers do not necessarily make great mentors. Sure, you want a dev mentor that knows what they're doing, but don’t let status and achievement make you blind to a great potential mentor. You want your mentor to be someone with good people skills who is willing to build a relationship with you and guide you through the many trials you’ll face as a developer. 

Start by reaching out to:

1. Your current company

A lot of companies have senior developers who are more than willing to mentor someone with less experience. It will be a great opportunity for them to practice their leadership skills and to test their own knowledge, and certainly, learn from you as well!

2. Your direct contacts and friends, and then your extended network

Think about who of your friends or even acquaintances might be willing to meet with your OR  which of them might know someone that will.

LinkedIn is also a powerful platform to grow your network. Reach out to your connections by making a post that you are in search of a mentor or message certain contacts directly. 

3. Alumni networks

Numerous secondary or tertiary institutions have an alumni network that regularly hosts events you can attend to get in touch with that network. This can be very valuable if you have a network full of developers.

4. Meet-up events, Conferences and Workshops 

The tech industry loves meet-up events, conferences, and workshops. Use these events as a form of networking - you might just find a great mentor there.

5. Mentorship Platforms 

There are already existing platforms that help to connect experienced developer mentors to those in need of mentoring. We recommend that you check out Coding Coach, CodeMentor, OfferZen Project Thrive and MentorCruise

If you would like to join Specno’s network (to become a mentor, or to be paired with one) you can fill out this form, and we will get in touch with you when we’ve found you a good match! 

It is important not to get stuck in the mindset that mentorship is just for junior developers. There will always be something new to learn and someone you can learn from. At Specno, our senior developers are mentors, but also have their own mentors to ensure that they keep on learning and growing. 

All the best for your search!