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Ibrahim Shamma
Ibrahim Shamma

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From senior engineer to a mentor for software engineers

One of the awesome things about tech is that it introduces many people to you, once you get enough experience and you are finally not the student of the game but rather senior engineer after years of experience, mentoring can be a good option into transitioning from seniority in writing code and delivering into seasoned tech lead who help people to deliver value

Find a mentee, they can be your friends on tech, or simply look at mid level engineers, these are the most in need for mentorship, mid level engineers are in a unique spot in their careers, they know a lot of the basics, they can finish tickets, they can create something, but they are not experts at their thing, and it might be they are not aware of their options or they don’t have a clear goal.

  1. Know your mentee goal

Basically ask the question, where do you see yourself in 3 years?

Based on the feedback from the first goal, you can proceed but sometimes engineers do not know what they want or they do have a clear plan, if so, those are the most of need to mentorship, so relax if you don’t get the answer you were looking for, it means they will get most out of your mentorship, it is also an opportunity for your to revise your decisions and directions, a win win scenario for sure.

Back to when the mentee does not have a goal, then you need to throw around what goals are there given that they are in software engineering you most likely will end up in one of the following scenarios

  • Do they want to switch out of tech? if so are you looking to become a product manager? engineering manager?
  • Do they want to become QA Engineers?
  • Do they want to get comfortable with code?
  • Do they want to become a tech lead or a senior engineer? (For fun, check You are not the Tech Lead)
  1. Setting up a Growth Plan

The goal behind the plan which short-term action items will drive toward their long-term goals.

This is a very important step, what differentiate great mentors is that their plan is purely based on the step 1 meaning, if you are planning to become a product engineer, you should focus on building the product mindset, without too much focus on technical details.

A helping template you can use is here


Step 0: Gather inputs such as existing feedback & guidelines on promotion.

Step 1: Assess your current and desired states.

Step 2: Prioritize 3-5 skills/competencies to focus on.

Step 3: Set a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goal for each focus area.

Step 4: Identify dependencies and support. What or who might be key to achieving your goals? Write down any resources, tools, or individuals you might need:

Credit to Omar Halabieh for the template.

  1. Scheduled 1:1

After setting up the Growth Plan, you’ll want to meet 1:1

The 3 things I have top of mind are:

  1. Challenges: What is difficult right now or recently?
  2. Reflections: Anything they wish went better recently?
  3. Relationships: How are things going with their manager or the people they are working with?

Credit to JORDAN CUTLER for the template

You can even go even further and treat is as if it is a retro session

I leave the mentee to express their feelings, their ideas and current situation behind the questions, and then we drive a healthy conversation that leaves the mentee with a lot of ideas to process, related to what they should have done better in regard the situation. They’re great for priming your mentee to share what’s going on and how you can help.

Remember here you must listen a lot to be heard later, for the next point

  1. Ruthlessly give them a DOs & DON’Ts but with a the why behind it

I said you need to be ruthless, because there should be no hard feelings when getting a feedback as a mentee, if you are not able to accept DON’T you won’t be able to progress forward Like:

  • DON’T read part of the problem and start coding
  • DON’T write code based on non written or assumptions, related to business

and more of a redirection DOs like:

  • Listen carefully when you get some requirements and ask clarifying questions

Again you only can do that when you listen carefully and give them their space to express in step 3

How can you give the why behind the advices?

The magical way is to share similar stories and once shared you need to get mentee’s judgement on the situation and then give them your solution to the situation, this way you would leave them in a thought process into how to related to your experience while they are in a different situation.

Note that your solution mostly will not tailor made to their situations, (check solution building methodolgy)

Sometimes you might not have a story related to the mentee situation, and that’s the beauty of mentorship is to expose you to different situations and leave you thinking about it.

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