There’s no better way to spark an interest in something than seeing someone else happy, fulfilled, and successful. And that’s exactly where mentorship comes into play. Mentorship can take many forms, but typically refers to when someone older or more experienced than you guides you and gives you advice about your ambitions.
Why is mentorship valuable? Let’s discuss:
Mentors help you envision your professional growth: you know you want to study web development, but aren’t sure where to start or get a job. In fact, you could be interested in a broad field such as tech as a whole and don’t know how to go about preparing yourself for a job in the field. Mentors can help you envision a career path and share their own experiences.
Mentors can tell you what the real world is really like: the best way to learn about something is from someone right in the middle of it, right? If you’re worried about the work/life balance in tech or how remote work actually happens, you’ll find the best answers to your questions from a mentor.
Mentors can help you develop specific skills: abilities like receiving feedback well can be both hard to practice and hard to learn. But when you have a mentor, feedback will become an integral part of your relationship, helping you get more comfortable with it and learning to use it to your benefit.
Mentors expand your network: think about it: your mentor probably had a mentor at some point, and has years of experience in their field. This means that their network is now at your fingertips and you can use it to find the right role for you.
Mentors provide (usually) free knowledge: the vast majority of mentorship programs and relationships are free of charge, meaning you’ll be able to receive tons of information free. To show your gratitude, however, make sure you’re a hard-working and thankful mentee.
You get it now, right? Mentors can provide invaluable information and connections to their mentees, giving them professional guidance and a sneak peek into the life of a tech professional. The benefits of mentorship can be further explained through these four C’s: conversation, connection, community, and culture.
Lots of workplace relationships are one-sided: the younger or less experienced employee learns from their mentor, asking questions and receiving answers. But as we’re sure you know, everyone has valuable experiences to share and a mentorship that boasts two-sided conversation, with both parties learning from the other, is truly valuable.
Example: the mentee assumes they’ll be learning everything from their mentor, eagerly asking questions about working in the field of UX/UI design. But as their conversations progress, the mentor realizes that the mentee is asking lots of questions about a new design tool of which they weren’t aware. The mentor begins to ask about that new tool and learns about an upcoming technology that will be useful for their tasks.
Lots of mentor/mentee relationships are assigned or formed due to similarities; either the mentee or the mentor sees something in their counterpart that reminds them of themselves and chooses to move forward because of that. But even though this sets a solid foundation for a good connection, going outside of your comfort zone to form a connection can open doors that would otherwise remain shut.
Example: a mentor is almost always assigned a mentee within her own department, meaning she’s quite familiar with how everything works. But next quarter, she’s going to mentor a new employee from another department and while she’s meeting with this employee, she learns a lot about issues in the other department and takes action to improve the mentee’s work environment.
When you think of mentors, you may think of the advantages for just the mentee; however, companies or organizations that have mentoring programs actually improve the overall sense of community at the company, creating connections that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Example: your company has huge gaps between different levels of employees, with very little interaction between interns, entry-level employees, senior workers, and the bosses. A mentorship program is introduced, bridging the gap between these different levels and creating new connections and fostering an overall sense of community.
Creating a mentoring culture requires hard work from almost every party involved, ensuring that the development of all employees is a priority from day one. This can begin with an explanation of why mentorship is so important, connecting the values of mentorship with the values of your organization. Lastly, make sure you commit to mentorship in your company, scheduling periodic check-ins to make sure everything is going as planned.
Example: as mentorship relationships flourish, communicate these stories with the rest of your organization, sharing how mentorship can benefit everyone. As more and more people see real-life examples of how mentorship truly works, it will become more and more ingrained in company culture.
Mentorship in Tech
Tech is constantly evolving and that’s why mentorship programs in tech are so important. In fact, sectors like technology are positioned to receive the most benefits from mentoring:
Lots of people entering the tech field are career changers: we’ve said it a million times before so we’re sure you already know this, but let’s say it one more time: tech is evolving at a dizzying speed. More and more job opportunities are popping up in practically every area of tech and those salaries are attractive. Many new techies are coming from other fields and have chosen to take a bootcamp or up/reskill to learn what they need to know to land a job in tech, meaning they will benefit heavily from one-to-one guidance and a sneak peek into what working in tech is really like.
Tech moves fast and so do trends: whether a mentee is having trouble keeping up with new tools or simply knowing where to look to find out about the newest trends, tech is fast-paced! A two-sided mentor relationship can help both parties learn about what’s going on in their specific areas.
Mentors know how to handle specific situations: tech newbies may not know how to create a healthy work/life balance towards the ends of sprints or even address a team member who’s not carrying their weight. Mentors can advise on these specific situations, sharing their personal experiences and what’s worked well for them in the past.
Tech is a broad field with new areas emerging constantly: ten years ago, machine learning and artificial intelligence were small branches of tech; now, both are fields that are growing incredibly fast. Mentorship programs can introduce you to new areas of tech and maybe lead to you finding your new passion.
Tech mentorship improving diversity and inclusion
We know we were just outlining the benefits of tech mentorship, but this deserves its own section! Mentorship can have an incredible effect on diversity and inclusion efforts in tech. How? Well, although lots of work has been done to improve the gender gap in tech and remove barriers to accessing the field, there are still few women in leadership positions, for example.
To show younger girls that entering the tech industry is truly an option, mentorship programs with successful C-suite women in tech can provide hard proof that women in tech can be successful--and are. There’s truly no better way to show someone that they can do something than connecting them with someone just like them in that position. After all, seeing is believing, right?
Finding a Tech Mentor
Great! We’ve convinced you that it’s time to find a tech mentor. And remember–no matter if you’re new to the field or have been working in it for a while, mentors are valuable resources for anyone and everyone. To find your next mentor, follow these tips:
Look to your school or company: higher-ups like your supervisor or instructor may seem intimidating, but here’s a little secret: they were in your shoes once! Yes, they once started out as a student and tech newbie and they’ll definitely be eager to help. When you approach them, ask concrete questions and be clear about what you’re looking for: helping finding a job, assistance fine tuning your coding skills, or advice about the tech world.
Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn is full of professionals eager to share their knowledge and experience with you! Search for the specific keywords that interest you, browse profiles, and reach out to a few potential mentors with your questions. This may even expand your horizon, creating a relationship with a mentor across the world or in a totally different field.
Attend conferences or events: conferences, talks, or meetups are great places to meet tech professionals and create connections with potential mentors. You have an easy way in: you’re both interested in the same topic! Use these events to your advantage and network with potential mentors–there’s no better way to create a connection than in person.
Use your personal network: whether it’s your university professor or mom’s best friend, we’re sure you know people who are already working in tech. And people are more likely to help those that they already know; use your existing connections to your advantage and create strong mentoring relationships right there.
Tech mentoring has the potential to introduce you to new connections, sectors, and tools; what are you waiting for? Your next big step is right at your fingertips: it’s time to harness it and get searching for your tech mentorship.