In the previous article, we covered the topic of mentoring in IT in general. In Part 2, we will explain how mentoring is organized in SoftTeco and will talk to our senior developers who have experience with mentoring junior and middle developers.
Mentoring in SoftTeco: the process overview
The main goal of mentoring in SoftTeco is to facilitate the adaptation process of a new employee and to help them faster and easier merge into both the work process and the team. Thus, we assign a mentor to every junior specialist that joins our company.
A mentor is assigned by the head of the department before the new employee starts working. In this way, the mentor has enough time to prepare, rearrange the working schedule (if needed) and plan future mentorship. As well, during the first three months of work, the junior specialist also receives help and support from the HR department as we want to ensure that mentorship is beneficial and comfortable for both the mentor and the mentee.
Throughout the years, we have observed how mentoring benefits mentors and mentees. By introducing mentoring to our processes, SoftTeco ensures a smooth adaptation process and receives knowledgeable and confident specialists. As for mentors, mentoring allows them to “roll back” to the junior stage and once again review the basics. And this can be really helpful as sometimes even the best specialist may miss some minor things.
The main responsibilities of mentors in SoftTeco include:
- Checking the work of the mentee and making sure they cope with it in an efficient manner
- Providing useful feedback that helps mentees grow and improve
- Help with finding the needed additional materials (articles, webinars, etc.) that contribute to improving one’s knowledge and skills.
As for the mentees, we expect them to be open to learning, display a proactive attitude, and be open for feedback and advice on self-improvement.
A case from Yegor Kozlov
Yegor is a vice head of the front-end development department. He usually mentors a group of junior developers and has rich experience in mentoring.
Q: How does the mentoring process go in your department?
A: At a project, there is always a senior specialist and several junior or middle specialists that work together and learn from their senior colleague. In this way, a senior specialist monitors their work, gives advice, and overall provides guidance throughout the project.
Q: What about your own mentoring experience?
A: As the vice head of the department, I constantly mentor a group of junior specialists. My goal is not only to explain the intricacies of a project. but also help them grow as specialists and apply the gained knowledge in the future.
One of my main activities as a mentor is holding technical retrospective meetings every 2 weeks. During these meetings, I explain what are the most frequent mistakes made, what are the best ways to do certain things, and what things to look for in the future.
As well, I try to provide my mentees with useful recommendations on articles, books, podcasts, and similar educational materials. It is important to note though that I do not check whether a person reads an article or not: my responsibility is to provide them with certain information but it’s up to them to learn it and dig into the topic.
Q: What are your personal recommendations for the mentees?
A: Judging from my experience, I actually have a few!
First, be open to feedback and criticism. The main and the most important thing to remember here is that your mentor wants to help you and this is why they point out your mistakes. They genuinely want to help you grow so they say what areas of your expertise need improvement. I have met people who took feedback very personally and obviously, such an attitude can serve as a stopper on your way to growth.
Second, be enthusiastic and proactive! After observing so many junior specialists, I can confidently state that your future career depends on your solely. If you are interested in your work, you will grow in no time! I always see if a person is passionate and I always approach them and offer them my help. This usually leads to great results: one of my mentees, for example, now works as a team lead.
A case from Raman Navarych
Raman is the vice head of the Android department in SoftTeco. Having rich experience in mentoring both big and small groups of people, Raman talks about his main responsibilities as a mentor and what is expected of the mentees.
Q: Tell us a bit about the mentoring process in your department.
A: Since the department is really big, a mentor (who is a senior developer) usually helps those junior specialists that either work on the same project or work with the same technological scope. In this way, both the mentor and the mentee work on the same thing and it’s easier for the mentor to share their knowledge and experience.
The same applies to me: when there is a junior specialist who works on the same project or with the same tech scope that I know, I always try helping them.
Q: What are your main responsibilities as a mentor?
A: I mostly monitor people’s work, guide them in the right direction, see that they understand everything, and make sure they know what they do. As well, I offer a lot of additional support: I recommend articles and books, suggest studying English, etc. Overall, I see what are the areas for improvement and recommend the best way to work on them.
One more important thing that I do is helping a person with their professional development plan. If I see that a person is kind of “stuck” and really needs guidance, I approach them and together we come up with a plan for the nearest half a year or a year. However, it also happens that people approach me themselves as they are willing to learn more and create an actionable plan for future growth. This is really great when a person is proactive as it helps in all aspects of life and serves as a guarantee for success.
Q: Can you remember a really memorable mentee?
A: There was a guy who was a junior specialist. Since his first days in the company, he was constantly asking so many questions - but all of them were to the point and relevant. He displayed an incredible amount of interest and enthusiasm and no wonder he grew into a middle and then a senior developer really quick.
So to sum up, the success of the mentoring process depends on both the willingness of the mentor to provide valuable advice and support and on the mentee’s readiness to learn and be proactive. If you are a junior specialist, I highly recommend to take initiative and approach your mentor with questions or requests for help, this will help you grow really fast. As for the mentors, my advice is to be patient and to provide useful feedback to help people learn in an efficient manner.