How To Be A Mentor

James Hickey on April 16, 2019

In one of my previous posts, we looked at the career stage of being an intermediate developer. Becoming An ... [Read Full]
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One of the most valuable skills a mentor has is the ability to actively listen. Mentoring is not all about dictation, but rather having impactful conversations.

You touched on this a little James, but I think a mentor who asks questions to his/her mentee is going to have a higher impact than one who just answers them. It shows that you care and also challenges the mentee to think a little bit.

Any chance a mentor gets to help anybody grow should be taken. We should all be on a path of daily growth, and it's clear that everyone reading this article wants to do that to some degree.

Great article!


a mentor who asks questions to his/her mentee is going to have a higher impact than one who just answers them

I want to jump in and second this. When I was working as a tutor in college, I could usually get a pretty good feel for which students had a chance at earning high marks because they were almost always the ones that were OK with me asking a question back to guide their thought process instead of spoonfeeding them an answer.


One thing that I really like about the back and forth is that it shows that both people fully understand what they are talking about.

It's easy to nod your head while someone is talking even if you don't understand what they are saying. But the dialogue between both parties is what ensures that knowledge transfer.


This is a pretty great observation. I wonder what it was about the being open to further questions - maybe confidence, being present and interested in learning vs. just getting through the assignment? Now you've got me thinking....

I highly suspect so. I mostly tutored Calc I and it all builds off of previous lessons, meaning that those that were just getting through weren't prepared for the next piece while those that actually learned the information were able to recall it later on.

Yeah that makes a lot of sense. It's kind of elemental that you can't be ready for the next level if you didn't master the current level. (I was terrible in math - probably would have asked for the easy answer!)

I have gradations in the skills for tech leads that I coach. I should really emphasize this point: master each level before moving on to the next... feel a podcast coming for that one!


Awesome comment. Asking questions is def. more in line with the idea of a mentor being a guide rather than a jukebox that plays all the answers for you 😋


Great post James! I really liked your encouraging tone :) I, myself, am trying to become more educated in the world of mentorship and would love some feedback on my guidelines! I also discuss the different types of mentorship relationships (career, technical, etc.)

Feel free to check it out! docs.google.com/document/d/1zKCxmI...


Thanks Emma! I, for one, will def. check out your guidelines and try to give you some helpful feedback 🤔


Feel free to contribute! I'd love to add a contributor note at the bottom as well to give credit where credit is due. Any feedback would be appreciated :)


Great article, I was thinking of developing a mentor-mentee website just to make it easy for people to find mentors. I am trying to find a mentor, but I can't find a proper way to say it to the person, it sounds weird or even scary if I just told someone that "can you be my mentor?"
With the mentor-mentee app/website, it would be just really normal to ask that question.
P.S: I have searched on the internet for a website to find a mentor, but couldn't find a straightforward one, something like facebook or linkedin features and UI


Thanks for the kind words!

@emmawedekind has started Coding Coach - which might be something similar to what you had in mind?


Yes, it is exactly what I was searching for. Thanks


Lovely post James! I'm hoping to mentor more folks as I'm progressing through the intermediate stage of my career and I'm getting my first intern this summer, so having documentation like this article as a guide is very valuable. Thank you!


Awesome! It's great to hear that you'll have the opportunity to help others grow 👍


Thanks for your insights on mentoring; I'm sure they will help with an upcoming speech I have to deliver about this topic at my Toastmasters club. The speech needs to tell a personal story so it is going to be from an IT developer point of view without getting too technical.

PS: I agree that that one of the best steps you can take in your career, for your own personal development, is to help and mentor others so I would encourage people to give it a go.



Thanks for reading it Douglas!


Awesome detail and guidance James. Nice. 👍

I write and talk a lot about coaching (specifically for tech leads @ the Tech Lead Coaching Network) and I wanted to point out a distinction to see what you think:

You mention that mentor is (roughly) about provided guidance and advice.

In the coaching network, I specifically guide our coaches to NOT provide advice about the problem, but instead focus all their energy on the person who needs to solve it. This difference may prove to be a way that I distinguish mentoring and coaching (to the extent it even needs to be distinguished, of course).

But yeah, I think of mentoring as particularly useful for people who are new in the role (not just junior devs -- even if people are new in senior roles) and sometimes it's useful to just get some clear pointers on what specifically to do.

Maybe, then, coaching is more useful for experienced folks and mentoring is more appropriate for juniors.

IDK, just thinking out loud!

Thanks for taking the time to post this!!


Awesome article on being a mentor :) For me mentoring is just a form of giving back to the support I had gotten while I was on way in embarking on my career as a developer.

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