I was participating in a Twitter chat the other night. The discussion was all about mentors, how to approach them, what to ask them, and the value in having great ones. This got me thinking about how important mentors have been for me. The role they have played in molding my professional development and personal drive.
I have also gone from mentee to mentor recently and learned a lot from that experience as well. Through my experiences I have gathered some opinions on mentors. How to find them. The best way to work with them. Then what it means to become one.
What Makes A Great Mentor
This is an opinion that varies from person to person. Individuals are drawn to different characteristics in our fellow human beings. Yet, I am going to go out on a limb and say that there are overarching characteristics for great mentors.
- They are approachable.
- They are patient.
- They are motivating.
- They are hungry to learn and help you learn.
- Your success is their success.
When I look at the mentors in my life these are the five principles that pop in my mind. I have had incredible people that have mentored me. Through my CS degree, becoming a developer, and even aspiring to run my own company someday. All have had these characteristics.
Working With Great Mentors
Mentors are a resource that can take your learning and understanding from 0-60. To make that happen you have to maximize your time with them. The reality is that everyone’s time is limited. We all have deadlines, projects to get done, and other commitments. This never means your mentor doesn’t have time for you.
It means that you should understand the constraints. I have found the following things in working with my mentors to get the biggest bang for my buck.
- Articulate your problem/idea/thing. No one ever expects that you have researched everything. But do your best to articulate what you are looking for help on. This comes down to being an effective communicator as well. You will get the best advice a mentor can offer if you are able to communicate.
- Understand when you know you need help. If you feel like your smashing your head into a wall, you are. I continue to struggle with this one. There are many times where I feel like I should “know this”. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact going through this process can actually help you learn even more. That said there is a point where you are doing more harm than good. Be mindful of that and find where that point is for yourself. Once you do, you now know where to ask questions of your mentor.
- Explain what you have done up to this point. Context switching is a real thing. The process of walking through how you got to this point is great for you (i.e. rubber ducky debugging). It also allows your mentor to catch up to you and switch to your context.
Great mentors can elevate your learning and understanding. Help them out by being mindful of these three steps.
Going From Mentee to Mentor
The reality is that the number of years of experience someone has is bullshit. It means nothing. We are all learning because we have to. I hope it is because you want to as well, otherwise, you are in the wrong game. Nobody can learn everything and be the king mentor, not possible. But I want to learn a little bit more about this or that? Great. Do it. But you also know stuff about the other thing that can most likely help someone else!
You may think that this is years away when you are early in your career. You are wrong. This day is right around the corner or tomorrow if you want it to be. For each day you learn something and take one step forward, there is a person that is back at the step you were at.
I always wanted to be a mentor to someone. I wanted to teach others things I know because it is the most rewarding thing you can do. So I waited for someone to give me that opportunity. And I waited. And I waited. And then I woke up.
Nobody is going to hand that to you. If you want to mentor people or share your knowledge with the world, do it and do it now. Don’t wait around like I did.
I woke up one day and thought I would write a blog post about AWS. I knew somethings about a problem that were not documented by Amazon. So I spent a few days writing the post and then published it to the world. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but to my surprise it got 2,000 views in a week.
That is 2,000 people I potentially helped with that problem. See being a mentor is about being approachable, patient, motivating, hungry for learning, and wants others to succeed. This can take any form you want it to take. You need to take an action that can help others.
Inspired by everyone that is hungry to learn I decided to create a course. The focus is on learning Amazon Web Services by using it. Focusing on the problem of hosting, delivering, and securing static websites. You learn the services, like S3, API Gateway, CloudFront, and WAF by building a solution to the problem. There is a sea of information out there around AWS. It is easy to get lost and not make any progress in learning. My goal with this book is to share what I have learned. By working through this problem we can cut through the information and speed up your learning.
Sound interesting? Check out the landing page to learn more and pick a package that works for you, here.