Around a month ago, I finished up teaching my second (and last) mentor group at Launch Academy. Now that I'm fully rested, I thought I’d express my thoughts on my experience as a mentor.
First, I think it's so amazing that I was given the chance to mentor 10 incredible people again. I’m completely in awe that they only casually thought of mutinying against me as opposed to actually mutinying against me.
I think I sometimes get caught up in the idea that my job is solely to teach someone how to become a web developer. As long as that goal is achieved, I can rest easy and say "good job Sam!” The trap that I fall into is that it can become really easy to lose touch with what my mentees are going through, both mentally and emotionally. I remember the emotional toll the course took on my life and those around me when I was a student myself. However, for some reason it becomes really easy for me to forget all of that now that I am a mentor and the roles are reversed.
I think being a 'good' mentor comes down to not only taking a direct interest in someone’s intellectual development and helping them achieve their goals, but seeing them as a fellow human being and being able to empathise with what they're going through. Unfortunately, too many times I failed at that second part. And it sucks.
So how do you fix it? Never forget that at some point you were in their position. Never forget that, as great as you may be now (or not, in my case), at some point you were terrible. Never forget the people that you were lucky enough to have around; the people who helped you to develop both as a programmer and as a person. And most importantly, take the time to know and care for the people you’ve been lucky enough to mentor.
Celebrate their victories. I remember the feeling that I got when I first scaffolded a Rails app. It felt incredible and I relished that moment of accomplishment. Sure, I didn't cure cancer and some developers just suffered a minor heart attack after reading the word ‘scaffold’. But that shouldn't lessen the feeling of elation. This means that whenever one of your mentees achieves a victory, celebrate with them. Don't put them down because you, with infinitely more experience, could have done it in half the time with half the code while balancing on a unicycle (although that would impress me).
Respect that everyone is an individual. Everyone that I've had the pleasure of teaching has come from a different walk of life, with different levels of experience, different ambitions, different learning methods, and different names. It's no use trying to hold them all to the same expectations. (Sorry. I do that a bit too much).
Most importantly, love what you’re doing. Mentoring might not be for everyone, but I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to do so. Everyone who has been unfortunate enough to be my mentee has made me a better developer, educator, and most importantly, a better person. So to Albert, Keith, Lauren, Cai, Dave, Emily, Doug, Greg, Eric, Paul, thank you so much for giving me the privilege to be your mentor. I love you all and wish you nothing but the best. And to my Krystle Methods, I still love you.