We’ve made over 800 mentoring connections now at MAM (go us!), but we really want to understand what makes certain mentoring relationships work better than others. Is there a magic formula? Or at least some top tips we can share?
With this in mind, we caught up with mentor Ignacio, a Front End Developer at PlainConcepts and mentee Osania, who has just completed a degree in Computing, I.T. and Design. Ignacio and Osania have been working together since March so we were keen to find out how they’ve made the first 7 months a success.
With their shared areas of interest Osania and Ignacio were a great match on paper, but how have they actually made the relationship a success?
Whilst Osania didn’t have any expectations for how the mentee/mentor relationship might work, she did come into the process with a rough idea of the areas within tech that she wanted to get to grips with. If you’ve read our other blogs, you’ll know that this has been a theme across all of our interviews with mentors so far; that it’s not important for a mentee to know exactly what their end point is, but that it’s absolutely imperative to have a goal of some kind and to be able to articulate it. For specific examples, check out our blogs with Steve Giles, VP Engineering at Topia and Liliana Ziolek, a software engineer with over 10 years’ Java experience.
As you’d expect in our industry, Ignacio and Osania have built their mentoring relationship primarily via technology. They started out communicating through Slack, and then moved on to Skype where they screen share to work on exercises, solve queries and provide examples.
This mentoring relationship, is a first for both parties. Osania puts their success down to Ignacio pointing her towards tools, resources and front-end development knowledge and insights that likely would have taken her longer to pick up on her own. For example, she’s learnt about progressively enhancing the user experience, so essential content is accessible on all browsers.
Their schedule is fluid, they work with each other as much or as little as they need to, but always set up their next catch up at the end of each meeting so that time doesn’t drift.
They’re off to a storming start but what does the future hold for this mentoring team, do they have a plan? Ignacio told us, ‘we haven’t talked about it other than the fact that I’d like Osania to start making simple interfaces (where she has a couple of weeks to do them) and then review them’.
Based on the great insight we’ve been given into how Osania and Ignacio have launched their mentoring relationship, this is our summary of what a makes a fledgling mentoring relationship work:
- A common area of interest, with a mentor who is confident in their area(s) of expertise
- The mentee needs to have ‘a’ goal and to be able to articulate it
- A fluid schedule is fine, but make sure that you set up your next meeting at the end of each catch up to avoid it drifting
- Make the most of technology to mitigate geographical and time constraints
- Have a plan for what you’re going to work on next e.g Osania’s next step is to build simple interfaces.
But enough from us, what did the experts have to say? Firstly, starting with Ignacio’s mentor perspective:
- I don’t think you have to teach; the important thing is to be a guide and help the mentee to follow a route.
- Doing things out of your comfort zone helps.
- Don’t be paternalistic.
- Think about what it is you want to know, have an idea of the topics or areas you want help with or would like to learn more about. It’s easier for someone to help or point you to the right information, if you can narrow things down a bit.
- Be yourself.
- If you don’t understand something ask. No question is a stupid one.
If you’re not already signed up to MAM, but this has tempted you, click here to get involved. We’ve got a whole host of friendly, experienced mentors waiting to help, so whether you’re a CTO, grad, or career changer we’ll find you the right match.
And best of all, it’s completely free.