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1-on-1 with Junior Developers

miccheng profile image Michael Cheng ・3 min read

Just to share my experience mentoring junior developers via 1-on-1.

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Recently, I did another experiment on doing things that doesn’t scale & filling gaps in the tech industry - adhoc 1-on-1 with junior developers. I first opened this up to the junior devs participating in the JuniorDevSG Mentoring Program.

Why?

As the organizer of the JuniorDevSG mentoring program, I was happy to help facilitate the mentoring groups and handle administrative things. But I had a nagging feeling that I needed to get in touch with the ground and see for myself if our efforts are making any impact.

And since I recently became a Reporting Officer (RO) at work, I needed some practice in doing 1-on-1.

Format

Essentially, I created a Calendly schedule and shared the link with the mentoring group. I only allocated Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoons. I typically meet 2 persons per day.

I also opened this up to the mentors & the JuniorDevSG leadership team as I wanted to get to know them better too.

We met at StarBucks and just chatted for an hour on whatever they wish to talk about - their career advancement, advise on interview prep, or just chit chat.

In the sign-up form, I did ask about what they wish to talk about and their LinkedIn profile. The profile was so that I can familiarize myself with them before meeting them face to face.

Results

So broadly, here’s the groups of people I met:

Early Stage Junior Devs

Generally, most of the junior devs in this group needed advise on their career path. What it would look like going forward, how to move up the career ladder - becoming a better technical Individual Contributor (IC) and/or what’s beyond IC.

For this group, I assure them that there are companies who has Technical Tracks all the way to the top. But one thing common is that going beyond IC, one needs to take on more mentoring and coaching roles (either positionally or peer coaching of junior devs).

Mid-Career Switchers & Fresh Grads (or students about to graduate)

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For this group, they needed advise on interview prep.

I reviewed their resumes and gave specific advice like highlighting their side projects / practice projects on GitHub. The GitHub link is more important than the live demo app link as interviewers want to see code they did rather than the “pretty visuals” of their app.

I also told them about the type of questions that they could ask in interviews:

  • How is the company’s onboarding process for new hires?
  • What is a typical day like for a dev in the company?
  • What is the dev workflow like? Do they do TDD, BDD, agile, retrospectives, use a project management tool, pair programming, etc.
  • Will there be a onboarding buddy/ mentor to help get familiar with things in the company?

These questions are highly important for teasing out details about the company culture. It also informs you about their readiness to mentor a new hire. If they don’t have a good answer to any of these, it might be a red flag.

As much as the face to face interview is the company checking if the candidate is a good fit, the candidate also needs to check if the company is suitable for them at their current stage of software engineering.

Intermediate Stage Developers

For these folks, it was more a catch up and sharing on practices that will help sharpen their skills.

My advise was doing code katas, side projects, and become more T-shaped in their skills.

Conclusion

It was definitely tiring to do this. I was actually on the verge of burn out before starting on this. But I needed to resolve the inner doubt about the impact of my work in the dev community. As such, I took a week to rest up before I started as I wanted to be centered before helping others.

For me, it was immensely satisfying to know of the impact of what I was doing in JuniorDevSG and Engineers.SG. And the 1-on-1 served as an opportunity to provide specific help for the individuals I met.

It was also an opportunity to catch up with the JuniorDevSG Leadership team on their motivations and goals for the group going forward.

Highly recommend doing 1-on-1s as an exercise in helping coach individuals with their software engineering journey.

Discussion (1)

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Cristina Ruth

1:1 mentoring really is best for anyone!

I'm envious at all the time you have for these. I can only manage organizing a local meetup to connect mentors with mentees for in-person events.

Would love to see more of these pairings happening worldwide! 🙂