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5 Things I Learned from Mentoring New Developers | by Bennett Garner | Jun, 2022


What the newbies taught me

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A new email in my inbox — subject line “Accepted an offer!”

One of the developers I coach got a job! I’m so proud of him and happy that he’ll now have a remote position with a good salary that supports his family.

Of course, mentorship doesn’t end with a job offer and I’m still coaching him through the transition to his first developer job. When I offer mentorship, I hope my mentees are learning from me.

But today, I wanted to reflect on the things I’ve learned from my mentees over the past few months. As a senior developer, offering mentorship can teach you a lot!

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Currently, I’m coaching 3 different developers. What does coaching mean?

  • I’m available via email anytime to answer questions
  • When it makes sense, we set up a time once a week to chat through problems
  • Most importantly, I try to point out areas where my mentees don’t know about something. As someone with more experience, I help them uncover topics they wouldn’t have known they needed to learn about.
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I learned to code gradually, over time, using free resources, but also playing around with websites with friends.

Most of the developers I’ve mentored have also been self-taught, for free.

And they’ve built some really cool websites!

  • Recreated the New York Times Spelling Bee game, but using Latin words for her Latin class she teaches
  • Mapped out historic battlefields and their details for when he travels to historic sites

Recently, I’ve heard of several new developers who like the Odin Project for free learning. I’ve never done Odin’s curriculum, but my mentees really like it!

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Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!

Totally my bad — I completely forgot.

That’s an email from me to one of my mentees, when I totally missed one of our meetings. I really lost her trust that day.

While we were able to reschedule and still talk, I can tell that missing the meeting made her feel unimportant and undervalued.

It’s a hard lesson for me to learn, but a vital one. I’m still working on it.

As a newbie developer, it’s difficult to decide what to put on your resume and how to frame your experience.

I was happy to offer my advice to my mentees, but apparently Reddit could be the best place to solicit feedback. Here are some potential subreddits:

  • reddit.com/r/resumes
  • reddit.com/r/cscareerquestions

After one of my mentees got feedback from Reddit, his new resume immediately started gaining more traction.

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My mentees are all web developers, something I know about.

Nobody is working on data science, AI, embedded systems, or other specializations. I don’t know much about those. I wouldn’t be a very helpful mentor.

Still, within web development, there is so much to learn and know!

Some of my mentees are using different frameworks than I know. Others are exploring WebRTC and sockets. My mentees are using different platforms to deploy their applications. Some of them need help with the intricacies of NodeJS and webpack. Others have questions about server-side logic.

I’ve enjoyed being reminded of how big the world of web development is. It’s great to expand your mind. With each mentoring call, I confront how little I know, even after years of doing this as my job.

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When you write code for work for several years, it feels less fun.

The wonderful thing about mentoring is that your mentees are still eager, interested, and curious about coding and the problems it can solve. You get to renew your sense of wonder and curiosity about software and solving problems.

As a result of mentoring, I wrote code for fun to solve an interesting word puzzle, just because I found the problem inherently intriguing.

I’m so glad to have reconnected with my original joy for coding, and it’s thanks to mentoring.



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