Chapter 2. Mentoring

The first act of people management for many engineers is often unofficial. They find themselves, through the luck of the draw, mentoring someone.

The Importance of Mentoring to Junior Team Members

Mentors are commonly assigned to junior members of a team, such as new hires straight out of school or student interns. Many organizations use mentors as part of their onboarding process for all new hires. Sometimes the mentor is another junior person on the team, perhaps herself only a year or two into the organization; someone who can still clearly remember the onboarding or internship process herself, and can closely relate to the new person. Other times the mentor is a senior engineer who can act as a technical mentor in addition to helping the new hire get up to speed on the process. In a healthy organization, this onboarding mentorship role is used as an opportunity for both parties. The mentor gets the chance to see what it is like to have responsibility for another person, and the mentee gets an overseer who is focused on him alone, without other reports clamoring for his mentor’s attention.

I remember my first mentor, who guided me through my first serious taste of working as a software engineer. I was an intern at Sun Microsystems, working on a team that wrote JVM tools. This was the first job where I had a real software project to build, and I was lucky enough to have a great mentor, a senior engineer named Kevin. Kevin was a memorable mentor because, ...

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