I've wrapped up a successful mentorship on Dev.to - AMA

recursivefaults profile image Ryan Latta ・1 min read

Some time ago, Dev.to launched an experiment to pair people who were willing to mentor with those what wanted mentorship.

I signed up as a mentor and was quickly paired with someone. My mentee accomplished their goals, and our formal mentorship has ended.

What questions do you have? My mentee and I are thinking about writing an article for the site about our experiences together, but I'd love to know what questions you have that we can answer?

PS: Ask anything you want, but I won't disclose any information about my mentee.


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Hi, Ryan! Thanks for the interesting topic.
As I understood from the other answers, you had first figured out the goals of your mentee and then adjusted the mentoring process to the goals, am I right?

  • Have you provided specific tasks for your mentee for the week?
  • Have you made a plan for your mentee after figuring out the initial goals?

Thanks for the interest and questions Anna!

Your understanding is absolutely correct. I will say that I did have a strategy that we would talk though as well, but even though at a high level we had steps we were working to, we adjusted every time to the circumstances.

  1. This question about tasks is really great and very important to the mentoring process as I do it. At the end of each session I try very hard to negotiate a next step that they will tell me about before or at our next session. What makes a good next step is one that clearly relates to the goals, is relevant to their current situation, and also stretches them a little as well. The stretch is an interesting thing, because a good next step needs to be a little uncomfortable so that learning and change happen. To accomplish that I'd quite literally haggle about options and confirm that it'd be a stretch. Cautiously optimistic sums it up.

  2. I alluded above that I had a strategy in mind for my mentee. This was possible because we were paired together because I had previous experience in the areas they wanted help with. Having said that, we did talk several times through the process about if that strategy makes sense or not at any given moment.

What other questions do you have?


Thanks for the answer! A couple of more questions if that's possible:

  • Were you using coding exercising while teaching? (like exercism exercises or similar)
  • Did you pair-program with your mentee?
  1. We did do some coding exercises together. We'd use various tools to do that, but the problems would be either ones I gave or ones that they brought to noodle over.

  2. Yes. Towards the end of our time, we'd pair almost every week. I think pairing is a vital technique for any developer to be comfortable with, and when it comes to mentoring its the best way to provide immediate feedback to not only the code but what different approaches exist to the problem.

Thanks again ) One last question: how much time were you spending a week on mentoring (including preparing/planning)?

Most weeks were not much more than a 30-45 minute phone call and an occasional email here and there.

Towards the end, we'd have more than one session a week so we'd get closer to 2-3 hours a week across two calls/pairing.

In terms of prep, the only prep that I would do regularly was review notes from our last conversation so I could pick up the conversation where we left off. So maybe a 2-3 minutes of prep on that end.

I think I easily could have and maybe should think about how much better I could have been if I set more time aside to prepare. At the same time, I've mentored people previously that wanted nearly the exact same goals, so the territory was pretty familiar almost the entire time.

For people who are getting used to mentoring I'd recommend something a bit more specific. First, I'd recommend mentors intentionally create a, "Mentoring Stance." This is isn't anything magical, but its the version of you that is closer to an ideal mentor while remaining genuine. Spend time before each session looking at your stance and learn enough about yourself so that you can adopt that stance prior to the conversation. Also, review the goals, relationship, and past few sessions of notes. Look for trends or common things. The last thing before the conversation starts is to make their agenda the only one that matters.

Thanks for the detailed answers, Ryan.


Thank you, looking forward to read your article!

  1. Did you prepare some plan in advance for your mentee? Or did the mentee come up with their own goals?
  2. Did your mentee asked questions you weren't ready for or didn't expect? What were they?
  3. Did everything go as you planned/expected? If not, was were the changes?
  4. Did you talk more about tech topics or soft skills?
  5. How did you evaluate the goals accomplishment?
  6. Would you recommend to other people to participate in such kind of activity?

Some of these questions may be already answered in other comments, so I may be a little brief here.

  1. They came up with their goals and I would provide input to help form a goal that was both reasonable and also one that would be a little bit of a stretch at the same time.

  2. I consider mentoring a deeply personal endeavor. It isn't the kind of thing where I teach specific things and expect them to learn. They bring their struggles, passions, fears and all of that. So they absolutely bring me things I didn't expect. I can't go into specifics with my particular mentee though.

  3. I was able to lay out a broad strategy with my mentee early on and set a timeline just to give gut-checks around our expectations. I was a little off on that timeline, but not drastically so. Every conversation we were re-evaluating what the next step was and if we were on the right path.

  4. It varied quite a bit. This is pretty common. Sometimes the people I work with have things going well enough that what we talk about is something along the lines of a pure skill to practice. Other times life is a little more messy and we talk about the people side of things.

  5. When I work to establish goals with my mentees we work to make them crystal clear and obvious to know if they're accomplished or not.

  6. I think everyone benefits from having someone they consider a mentor. Not everyone will be a good mentor. For someone who desires mentoring I'd recommend thinking about times when you worked with someone and you found yourself considering new ideas that you may not have in the past. Think beyond that as to what qualities do they have that enabled that to happen. Look for people that have those traits and start talking to them. It may not need to be formal, but that also may be a quality you find helpful.


How did you establish initial conversation? How deep did you discuss details? What was it like in the beginning? Did you have expectations?

What was your idea about mentorship before going in? Did it change?


Thanks for the questions Anton!

I think some of the questions I've answered already so I'll only add more specific answers here. Just to clarify, I was the mentor helping someone else.

  1. In terms of who reached out to who first, I think we were sent an email by Dev.To to paired us together. From there I don't remember if I reached out first or they did. Eventually, we had our first call and designed our relationship and established the goals they were interested in pursuing.

  2. We spoke to whatever depth my mentee was comfortable. Mentoring works best when trust, respect, and people can be honest. That all means that mentoring is personal, even if it is about skills.

  3. I'll try to answer the last 3 questions all at once. I've done this before. I have training to help me do this. When I begin to coach or mentor it follows the same basic set of things around designing our relationship and establishing goals. That can happen in one conversation, or it may take several. In terms of expectations, I think that I can only say the expectations I had of myself which were to stay focused on their goals, respect the relationship that we have, and let my mentee show up in whatever condition they happen to be in. Great day for them? Cool. Terrible day? That's fine too.


Thanks for doing this! I'd love to learn from you. I just have a few questions:

  1. How is your weekly meeting with your mentee structured?
  2. Is there a list of questions you ask each other to guide the meeting?
  3. How do you set goals for your mentee?

Thanks for the questions.

  1. Generally, we had 30-45 minute talks once a week (Sometimes more depending on the circumstances). The basic structure was to hear about the week and how they were able to work towards their goals and talk through the struggles that are inevitable. We'd try to end each call with a new step to take.

  2. This opens up to a few larger topics. Yes, there is a list of questions I use. The category of question is known as an Open Question and more specifically Powerful Questions. Here is the "Impossible Dream," question: "Imagine you wake up tomorrow and X is perfect, what is different?" I use these kinds of questions to allow the people I work with to explore their situation, understanding, perspective, and actions. Then I can give specific advice or ask more specific questions.

  3. This is highly related to number 2, but I will use questions like the Impossible Dream question to discover their goals beyond the one they state. I'll ask questions to gain a deeper and more personal understanding of that goal. Then I'll ask questions to set boundaries to know if their goal is accomplished or not. I may give advice on what is reasonable, what is a stretch, what is them taking it too easy. Throughout my engagement, I'll check in and see if that goal is still the goal.


Hi ! I'm Lucas, a french fullstack developer
I'd like to ask you some questions about it !
How would you describe your level as a developer ? What technologies were you able to mentor on, and what potentially non-technical subjects did you used to talk about ? What were the goals of your mentee ?
Also did you mentored before ? Nobody ever talks about how to share knowledge at the beginning and I'm pretty interested !



Thanks for the questions! As I mentioned above, I won't disclose anything about my mentee. Some of my answers may be limited by that, but should we both write together these questions can definitely be fuel for that.

  1. My level as a developer: I've been writing code professionally for 10 years. I've worked on everything except a .NET stack. I pride myself in my lack of cleverness and I've been told I'm uniquely gifted at solving problems that make most engineers hide. Outside of that, I've been building software teams that entire time and have training in facilitation, life coaching, and I speak nationally at conferences around building teams.

  2. Without disclosing anything about my mentee things I've helped people with are of course picking up technologies (Not .NET) I have a pretty deep (Though it's fading) background in iOS. I've helped people navigate their careers from reading job postings to negotiating raises. I taught people different programming techniques, devops tools, how to communicate more effectively.

  3. Yes, I have been a mentor before. I consider it a specific function and set of skills in my career path.

Keep the questions coming!


Hi! Are you co-located with your mentee? What did you use for communication? How often did you speak? Did you have any lulls in the relationship?


Thanks for the questions!

We used a combination of hangouts, email, and phone calls. We've never met and we live in different time zones.

We spoke once a week. Some weeks we'd speak more frequently. It was pretty rare that we'd be unable to talk one time in a week.

What other questions do you have?