Career mentors: why are they important for tech specialists?


People often see a mentor as someone who walks young programmers by the hand into the realm of exciting projects and high salaries. But is that really so? Let’s find out.

Opinion Culture Developer For candidates Team IT

The purpose of mentoring

The purpose of mentoring The purpose of mentoring

Everyone knows that it’s more expedient to grow talent within the project than spend effort, money looking for new hires. After all, mentorship enables you to plan ahead, developing people in line with the company’s needs. Helping others achieve success, the career mentor contributes to the common cause, getting satisfaction in changing someone’s life. Also, it’s an excellent incentive to stay at the top of one’s game, refreshing the knowledge that might have become rusty and learning new things.

With all the experience under their belt, a mentor can exponentially speed up a new specialist’s professional growth and help avoid mistakes.

The people that undergo mentorship are called mentees, albeit the term is rarely used in practice.

Nowadays, the Internet is full of information for all kinds of specialists (especially in tech), but it takes precious time to learn things independently. A savvy mentor helps filter information sources, thus speeding up their mentee’s growth.

Another perk of having a mentor is access to their network. Meet the right people, and you very well may get invited into an exciting project.

Also, bear in mind that mentorship is almost charity, with both sides incurring non-existent material expenses.

A mentor, a business advisor, and a coach walk into a co-working space...

The range of occupations involving guidance to any extent is growing year by year. So, how do you tell a mentor from a coach?

Mentoring is primarily about the interaction between an experienced specialist and a new one. What makes it special is that it may involve not only work but also everyday life. The goal of mentorship is to improve the protégé’s skills and impart new knowledge. The key factor here is the recognition of the mentor’s authority in the eyes of the learner.

Coaching is a somewhat different concept, and its goals are limited to the client’s needs. A coach does not impart any knowledge and has to keep their opinion to themselves. They can’t gauge their client’s actions. What they need is to establish communication to foster the achievement of goals. The experience of working with clients is much more important for the coach than hard skills and abilities.

Business workshops establish a sequence of events with a predictable outcome. They focus on the business component, not personal development. In addition to specialized knowledge, a business coach needs to be able to train others professionally.

Finding a mentor

Finding a mentor Finding a mentor

Not everyone would want to spend their own time mentoring. Also, few are adept at it because it takes specific qualities as well as leadership abilities.

But those who seek will always find! Here are a few places to look for a mentor:

  1. Industry conferences and events. Although these were suspended due to quarantine, offline events are starting to make a comeback. Take the conferences like Growth Marketing Stage, where the best managers in the Ukrainian tech industry flock. An undeniable advantage of direct networking is that you can meet people in person and make contacts faster.
  2. Online media like DOU, habr or Medium. Try looking for publications by professionals in your industry—you can’t go wrong here. The rest is technicalities like finding the person’s Facebook account or email—nowadays, it’s no big deal.
  3. Courses and schools (online and offline). Educators and participants of educational events almost certainly would have lots of career experience.
  4. Clubhouse. Booming social networks never cease to amaze, especially when a new networking format emerges right before your eyes, which is especially valuable in times of quarantine restrictions. Clubhouse is one of the social networks that lets its users participate in thematic hangouts in the comfort of their own home. You can follow a cult figure, enter rooms with fascinating speakers, find a mentor, and interact with them in real-time.
  5. Facebook and LinkedIn. You can also tap into the infamous power of Facebook to find a mentor. You can ask a person directly or look for employees of well-established companies open to mentoring opportunities.
  6. Industry websites like Makemebetter are also an excellent place for aspiring mentors and learners seeking guidance.

Some companies offer well-managed mentoring programmes, in which new hires are assigned to long-time employees. In this case, the mentor and the leader are not necessarily the same person: these functions can be distributed among multiple people.

Finding the one

Finding the one Finding the one

Although there are objectively not that many mentors per a tech industry area unit, it doesn’t mean that all of them are worth being blindly trusted. It takes time to find a mentor that is right for you. Also, you can take into consideration these attributes of a good mentor:

  • Working in the same industry as the future protégé
  • Doing admirable work that inspires a desire to learn to do the same
  • Possessing expertise that is proven not in word but in practice
  • Competent in providing feedback—a must-have skill for a mentor since feedback shapes the understanding of where to go and what to do next to keep growing.

If the mentor checks all the boxes, you can safely approach them.

An example from experience:

Ask the mentor

After long days of search and wandering, you have finally found them—your ideal mentor. Your eyes are sparkling with joy, and you are ready to approach them. But it’s not that simple—the match needs to happen for both of you.

Writing to your prospective mentor, remember to pay attention to the following:

  • If the mentor’s field of expertise aligns with yours. E.g., it would be wrong to approach a front-end developer specializing in AngularJS for mentoring on React. It’s important to clarify if you are talking to the right person. Otherwise, you will end up wasting your time and theirs.
  •  Whether you have concrete questions for your mentor. You must articulate your request properly. Otherwise, the mentor will be unable to help you. E.g., ‘What are the prerequisites for landing a Product Manager position in an international company?’ or ‘Where do I start to learn UI/UX design?’.
  • Telling why it is them whom you have decided to approach. Try writing a small story, like, about how you saw a great article on some website, and it resonated with you.
  • Telling about yourself. For a mentor, it is crucial to understand who approaches them. Talking about your experience, you show your level of interest in the profession (consider writing not only about the work itself but also about the events you have visited).

Most importantly, don’t be shy to make a follow-up if you don’t get an answer (but only once).

Although not a therapist or a coach, a mentor can offer a broader and deeper perspective on your situation. They can show you your strengths and weaknesses, making it much easier to progress in any field.

Case in point

Case in point Case in point

In February 2021, a start-up team that needed to boost project development and improve staff skills decided to involve mentors. They scheduled 90-minute-long meetings three times a month.

As a result, the team upgraded its public speaking skills and prepared a presentation for future investors. Also, mentors provided a contact base for networking and gathering feedback regarding the product.

The team thus got more ideas on promoting their product and sought-after features. A product development roadmap was prepared, too.

Involving a mentor early clearly enables one to achieve their goals faster (which is crucial, especially for start-ups) and avoid mistakes, thus saving time and money.

Author: Кристина Флоря
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