Why Mentors Are Important

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Why Mentors Are Important

How having mentors has propelled me into becoming a stronger Software Engineer

Jarred Taylor's photo
Jarred Taylor
·Dec 21, 2021·

4 min read

Whenever I look at my growth as a Software Engineer, I attribute a significant amount of my success to my mentors. Having a mentor as a Software Engineer is vital, whether you’re a code newbie, junior engineer, senior engineer, or even someone converting from one engineering emphasis to another.

All mentors are not created equal, and all don’t provide the same benefits as others. In my personal case, I have one very hands-on mentor, to the point where I can just call him and discuss my problem (regarding anything but, in this instance, a problem with my code). He will either walk me through the issue, guide me towards the answer, or even offer we get on a video call and knock out some paired programming. Having this type of mentor has granted me an amount of confidence to tackle any programming issue because I know I have a safety net that can help me get back up if I fall along the way.

My other mentor provides more oversight and guidance without being hands-on. This looks like us often having a phone call or meeting up for lunch and just discussing the journey as a whole. He helps me decide which projects would be beneficial and non-beneficial to take on, what next steps I should be taking for my career, and how to grow as an engineer as a whole.

While these two mentors are drastically different from each other, they both help me with two essential things nearly every time we connect. Those things are:

  • My Goals

  • Growing a Personal Brand

Having goals set in place is critical, not just as a Software Engineer but as a person. I often find myself talking to my mentors about what I am looking to achieve in my career, and they help guide me towards the pathways of how to get there. Having a mentor who is already a few steps ahead of me makes it comforting to hear their advice on how to get there because the proof of work is clearly displayed. Not only are they able to fill me in on what they did to get there, but they also educate me on the mistakes they’ve made along the way and how to avoid them.

Talking about your goals also requires self-evaluation because if you have a plan to run a marathon and sign up for one but never realize you struggle to string three miles together, you’re going to show up on race day and get demolished. Having a solid mentor in place will give you someone who can ask you those hard questions to get you thinking about what you are really doing to get to the next level and accurately depict how close or far you even are.

Developing a personal brand as a freelance web developer has been an essential step towards acquiring clients, but having that personal brand, in general, will also benefit a Software Engineer during their job search. Of course, an effective personal brand doesn’t always have 50,000 followers on Twitter or over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube. But, frequently, having an interactive personal web page, an engaging LinkedIn, an inclusive Twitter page that promotes conversation, or even a blog that’s open to comments can help grow and sustain your personal brand.

Having that platform is great for sharing your story with others. You never know who is watching. There have been countless software engineers who have been offered a job unconventionally because someone in the position to get them hired was connected to their platform. This is also the case for the conventional hiring standards, like LinkedIn, for example. Piecing together the most optimal LinkedIn profile or even just creating your professional resume can be intimidating. But, who would know more about the job hiring process than someone who has either successfully acquired several jobs or even worked in a role that involved interviewing potential hires? More times than not, this is your mentor; they’ve done it, they’ve been through it. Your mentor can help you optimize your LinkedIn portfolio and create that job grasping resume.

Finding a mentor isn’t always easy, but you always want it to be an organic relationship, so I wouldn’t advise you to directly ask someone to be your mentor. If someone wants to be your mentor, they will move into that role authentically by giving you a helping hand and direct guidance along the way. The only way you’ll never find a mentor is by never putting yourself in a position to be seen. Go ahead and start building your personal brand. Your mentor can help you dress it up more after they hop on board. Ask those programming questions on Twitter, post your unique website on LinkedIn, Stack Overflow, and put it in your bio. Get into the traffic of Software Engineering communications, and you will have someone gravitate towards you who’s in a position to help you take the following steps.

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