"The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now, I am the master." - Darth Vader.
Avoid being a master of evil; in the last months, I had the opportunity of being the mentor of two incredible women.
The trip started with my participation in a training program in the company I work for; the company invited people with seniority experience to be mentors of junior and mid-levels. I created my profile following the recommendations of the program team. In the beginning, the truth is I was putting some limitations on myself, such as:
- "I don't know what to share"
- "I'm not sure if my experience is useful for anybody."
- "Maybe, I don't have a mentor profile."
- "What can I teach them that they don't already know?"
Luckily, I got my match with an excellent QA Engineer. She helped me break those limits because we created a solid mentee-mentor bond from the beginning. Sharing with her mentoring sessions, listening to her situations, trying to share recommendations, or sharing my experience was an excellent opportunity for me.
Almost at the same time, a member from a women's tech community where I have participated contacted me and asked me to be a mentor of another woman with a different profile, this time most similar to mine (backend engineer), and again, I was like
- "Oh... I don't know if I can do it."
But thank God I accepted, and luckily one more time, we also built a robust mentee-mentor bond, and it was a pretty cool feeling.
I was supporting and sharing stuff with two fantastic engineers. Today I do not regret anything; on the contrary, my two new friends gave me very positive feedback about my performance as a mentor. Also, another great win, during this time, one of them decided to take a new job offer, and I could enjoy the process with her.
(Images source: Hercules 1997 Disney film)
My first mentees are women, and I'm proud because I'm still working on engineering teams where there is a 10% of female presence. However, I do not limit mentoring by gender; I constantly try to share my knowledge by giving talks, writing articles or offering my help. I think the first step to collaborating with the community is definitely "start" do not let yourself stop you from sharing your knowledge. Trust me; you have something to share.
- We all have insecurities; help mentees to identify and manage theirs.
- When our mentee shares something, we must be active listeners and ask for details. That means building a safe environment.
- Help our mentees to be conscious of their capabilities; they must be able to recognize and compare how far they have come.
- Usually, people do not need knowledge; they already have it or know where to obtain it. What they need is inspiration.
- Being open and sharing vulnerable moments in life can help others to identify and pass their difficult moments faster.
- Helping them to be visible in what they do on their team or job. Visibility can boost a career very quickly.
- An informal talk can be more valuable than a formal one. However, do not lose the fact that in professional mentoring careers, the relationship, as the name says, is professional, and engineers are not psychologists. If you consider it proper, you can redirect to a specialist.
- Share experience related to interview processes with your mentee; what you have already thought can speed up the mentee process.
- Do not forget to provide and ask for feedback constantly. Everyone is continually growing as professionals, do not be blocked from that, and listen/share the areas of opportunity.
- Share sources, books, posts, podcasts, etc., that can be helpful for your mentee, but remember it is not homework; if they have the chance, they can use those resources.
There might be other things that I could list here. But, I preferred to limit it to these ten because, in the end, we are different people, and there is no zero to a hero for being a good mentor. I can only tell you that if you want to try, take the risk and be open to constantly improving as a professional.
I identify the following.
- Confidence increased
- Had the chance to go over the knowledge
- Practiced the interview process
- Improvements in communication
- Learned from other areas
- Increased networking
- Experienced good feelings (fun, happiness, I felt proud)
- Increased discipline
Last but not least. I want to thank my mentees for everything you taught me during this time; today, thanks to you, I am a better Senior Engineer than yesterday.