Developer Reveals: Why Mentoring is Revolutionary

November 11, 2020

The Road to Becoming a Mentor

I started off my programming career with the help of mentoring. Everything about being a trainee developer was new and exciting and that gave me a drive like nothing I’ve experienced before. 

Luckily in this profession you can learn and grow every day, and you don’t get bored of what you are doing. 

This realisation settled that this was the profession I want to pursue. 

Looking back, I do believe a big reason for my success was due to the help of my mentors. 

It gives great reassurance during developing when you can count on someone who has been where you are and faced the same issues you currently face.

After a year and a half of working at Splendex, there was a generation change in our company, new interns came, and I was one of the lucky developers to be asked to guide them to become part of the team.

Mentoring at Splendex

Our mentoring program offers something different than a standard mentor-mentee relationship. 

We are not only training people to be good web developers we are training them to be part of our team, where we face problems together instead of struggling individually.

I believe that makes us and the program special, because in addition to a good knowledge of coding, we teach high quality standards, and our way of working which by the end of the program makes trainees very valuable members of our team.

Splendex mentoring
Viktor mentoring Bence

I was thrilled by the opportunity but slightly scared, because let’s face it, coding does not cover all we do in this area of work.

I felt like I was ready to transfer my knowledge and experience to someone who has the same motivation & passion towards solving issues.

Why did I feel scared if I felt ready? I felt this was a huge step both in my career and personal life. 

This was the turning point from which I was also responsible for the work of others and I had to ensure their progress. 

Since the only way I knew how to establish their success was remembering what I did during my first months. 

I had to ask my mentors where to start and they said the most important thing was to have a system.

The Perfect Mentoring Structure

The founders of Splendex have tried and tested many methods throughout the 5 years and the 50 trainees who have been under their wings.

It was my task to utilize all this experience to give my trainees the most value possible. 

As I was trying to put together “the perfect system” the most obvious task was regular monitoring.

A couple of sessions a week to systematically see their progress, and to ensure that they can always rely on you if they face any troubles. 

I found it to be a very delicate problem, where if you talk only once a week, you lose grip over the trainee, but if you have too many sessions per week, you start solving problems for them that they should be solving by themselves. 

2-3 sessions a week proved to be best, as we had time to deal with technical issues while also bonding on a personal level. 

The other main aspect was accountability

Yes, you can see a mentee’s progress by the tasks they solve and the questions they ask, but handing them a complex problem to solve gives you a better understanding of how they oversee it, and the way they think. 

Also, it gives the interns a way to prove their skills to their mentor and themselves as well. 

After all, why have a bunch of knowledge if no one sees what you can use it for.

The third aspect I had to consider was deadlines and time management.

Deadlines of the mentoring system
Photo byhudsoncrafted on Unsplash

I do believe in the present-day people like to manage their own time. 

Super strict deadlines don’t help people concentrate, they make people anxious and result in rushed work. 

To really bring the highest potential out of your mentee you have to give them a comfortable period of time with a reasonable number of tasks to do.

It’s better to overestimate the time a bit but keep in mind that too much time might also decrease productivity. 

To people who are new to deadlines, and managing their time, you can lead by example and tell them how you’ve done it, this is a crucial part of mentoring.

This system proved to be great and functional, but I still want to perfect it further.

The Difficulties Along the Way

What I had to learn first is that not every mentee requires the same amount of attention or the same kind of help. 

As a mentor I cannot follow a strict ruleset, I have to adapt to each and every new trainee which also gives me an edge and “keeps me in shape”.

We are all different and we have to be treated so, a method that really motivates someone, might be the complete opposite for another. 

You must be able to bend the boundaries of your mentoring system based on your understanding of the person.

As I mentioned before, having less sessions will not give enough time for you to understand the person you are working with, which is essential. 

This is a really evident strength at Splendex. 

Even while I was learning the founders gave me a lot of their time to make sure I will be successful. 

And this is one of the most important factors which set us apart from companies, the concept they don’t understand.

You have to put in time and effort because every mentee is the single greatest investment to any company.

Effects of the Pandemic

COVID-19 turned everything on its head, including mentoring. 

When we all went remote it took away a lot of structure from our daily life. 

We have all worked from home previously, but those days you didn’t get much done.

However in this situation the workload did not change at all, I struggled a lot with getting tasks done in a timely manner. 

It was hard to find a schedule that worked for me, and I believe many people can relate. 

Processes slowed down when everything became electronic instead of personal. 

Online meetings during mentoring
Photo bycwmonty on Unsplash

I had mentees I had not even met in real life, this really made it difficult to be flexible in the curve, to get to know and understand them. 

The biggest struggle during Covid was communication. 

In our office setting we constantly help each other and we are really efficient in providing solutions to the tasks at hand. 

What would have taken us 3 minutes to figure out in the office setting was a hassle during remote work. 

The trainees had to let me know they had an issue, we had to schedule a meeting, people were a few minutes late, if they had technical difficulties the entire issue would easily keep everyone busy for 30 minutes. 

Time is much more precious than this, so we quickly figured out that collecting a few issues was better than solving everything as they came up. 

Another difficulty during Covid was that I would have needed a bit of personal bonding time with mentees to really understand how they communicate. 

We had to organise more frequent meetings, well-being checks and quick chats to make us both feel we were in this together. 

Emotions are rarely perceived correctly through text if you’re practically strangers. 

With the help of voice and video meetings I was able to figure out how trainees communicated and adjust the system, but it took a lot more effort.

Overall, I believe we handled the changes well. 

Our numbers grew and trainees were getting better and better despite the difficulties.

What Skills Make a Good Mentor

What made me a good mentor was experience I believe. 

Not experience in a sense that I worked with lots of people, but the experience of having been in their shoes. 

I remember how it felt writing my first line of JavaScript or finding the solution to a complex issue after hours of trying. 

I remember what led me there, what helped me along the way and the things I most needed during that time.

Being a good software developer and being a good mentor are completely different.

Developer mentoring in progress
Photo bynesabymakers on Unsplash

To be a good programmer you need lots of motivation and the willingness to learn. To transform into a good mentor, you need to possess certain soft skills on top of that technical knowledge.

You have to be able to see the issue like your trainee does and understand the way they approach their tasks. There is never one way to solve a problem, you really have to adapt and overcome your limitations and put aside your assumptions. 

During the mentoring process you have to be versatile in giving support. You must be honest and direct in giving feedback which should be fair and constructive.

Always remain respectful and level-headed, even if trainees underperform. You also have to communicate clearly and effectively, and phrase things in a way that won’t condescend or humiliate your trainees. This requires patience, asking the right questions, and being a good listener.

A good mentor must acknowledge that they are investing their time and knowledge to ensure the
success of another person.

If an intern is on the right path, and you give them the time and help the only thing that can hold them back is themselves.

Immersion into Company Culture

Our interns know from the very beginning that if they show motivation to learn and solve tasks successfully, they will have the opportunity to become part of our team.

These trainees are treated as valuable members of our company from the very start, naturally they are invited to our teambuilding events too.

During this programme trainees not only get valuable technical knowledge, but they meet their soon-to-be colleagues, and they gain a real sense of fitting in.

The founders aim to provide opportunities for trainees to meet the rest of the team, where everyone can bond and have a good time.

The Splendex team working
Working in our previous office

At Splendex we have a very tight-knit team, we are not only colleagues. We enjoy spending time with each other, which makes work fun and teambuilding events absolutely phenomenal.

Meetings also progress from very official, straight to the point discussions to more lighthearted fun sessions, which are mutually enjoyed.

We may come from different places, but we’re grateful we ended up here and we know every single one of us is crucial to the firm’s success.

Advantages of Mentoring

I believe mentoring is the future of studying, mentoring prepares you much better for actual employment within your field than any university class or online course. 

Especially since at Splendex we teach you basics and scale up to pivotal company specific practices.

It gives a sense of freedom to the mentee, and a system they are comfortable with. It allows for flexible time management, while providing support throughout the entire week. Most other courses take 6 months to complete, a university degree may take you 3 or 4 years, whereas mentees only have to spend 3 months learning here. 

Our study material is always getting updated as technology progresses.

Our mentees will never be asked to learn information that is no longer relevant, and everything that will be asked from them is crucial in our work progress today.

The materials are curated and put together by founders and mentors – who have over 5 years of experience actually working in the field.

There are no doubts about whether the knowledge will be useful, our background & experience in
web development guarantees it.

Even if you hated school, you might enjoy being mentored, or being a mentor. Since our attention is not as split as in a classroom or a course session, we are also able to dedicate more time to each mentee.  

As opposed to a university where you dabble a bit in everything and have to learn things you will never use for imaginary credits, or flaunt your surface knowledge with a multiple thousand word count, we don’t want to waste your time.

However, not only the quantity of the meetings is different, we also provide more in-depth support. We are not satisfied with approximate knowledge of methodologies, our aim is to transform comprehensive knowledge from the material into logical units and skill sets for our trainees to use.

Viktor Jámborcsik
Lead Developer