4 min. read

December 15, 2020

Mentorship & Learning

Being a junior developer should not be about staring intensely into Stackoverflow to find all the solutions to your problems. It’s about understanding your working environment, the tools you use, but most importantly being surrounded by colleagues who want you to succeed and grow.

Agathe

Agathe Badia, Junior Developer

Back in February 2020, I was struggling with learning a framework. I honestly had no idea on where to start, and I was stagnating with very basic understanding. This is when I realized I needed a mentor to help in my learning journey! 

Luckily, I had the chance to partner with a colleague who had been a mentor before and he immediately took me under his wing. Thank you, Ronnie — if you read this article :)

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, or a mentee interested in bringing more structure to your mutual project, here are a few tips from my personal experience: 

Your goals and priorities 

My personal and main goal is to learn and be more comfortable using a specific framework. My mentor, as a Senior Frontend Developer, suggested creating a common project from scratch, using only this framework. I decided my project would be to create a forum. A forum has a lot of functionalities and enough material to dig deeper into the framework and its mysteries.

But there are a bunch of different ideas you can also check out if you want to start your own project from scratch :)

How much time can you spend working together

We spend two hours per week pair programming. For me, I find it’s just enough time to learn, ask questions while staying focused. But also not too much time out of our work-related tasks.

Learning time is something you can discuss with your manager. The more, the better. The minimum in my opinion would be 1h30 per week, to be effective.

How do you want to reach these goals? How do you want to structure it?

Finally, the structure. I guess your mentor will talk you through it, but keep in mind that your sessions need to have their own goal:

→ At the end of the session, we have worked on data models, form validations, etc.

For example, a typical session for me is a recap from the last session, my mentor will then share the main goals of today’s session: e.g. Ember Data Model & Create your first model. He will lead the first part of the session, to introduce the topic, and then we will pair program to implement what we just learned.

Benefits of having a mentor

Asking any question, anytime

Of course, having a mentor is also an amazing opportunity to ask ALL THE THINGS!

If you have to be at ease with one developer, ideally it would be this person. You shouldn’t feel stupid or embarassed to ask a question or need them to repeat something. It’s part of the learning process, we all have been through it, your mentor first ;)

Broaden your understanding outside of company codebase

Working on this side project helped me so much when it came to understanding concepts I did not get from the company codebase. By creating something from scratch, you and your mentor go through the most basic to the most advanced parts of the codebase. The codebase is more familiar and less impressive than a company’s one :)

This project takes time, but it’s perfect to learn at a moderate pace. It won’t spam your brain with too much information and gives more room for questions and discussions.

Gain confidence with your own skills!

After working on my first project with my mentor, I went through all the commits we did since the beginning, to see all the concepts we went through. That was a lot. I felt so proud to see how much I learned, and I can see how impactful it is in my everyday work. Mentorship is not only about learning, but also about becoming confident in yourself, what you learn, and all the things you will learn. 

Conclusion

Give yourself time, be patient when it comes to learning. You are not in a race, you don’t have to understand everything and be an expert in 6 months. Nobody will expect that from you, so don’t pressure yourself in your journey.

There will be small steps, there will be bigger ones. Keep learning, even if it requires more time and effort. Do it slowly. You are building your own foundation in software development. Today is probably the most important part of your learning journey. 

Do it slowly, but surely.

Here are resources to start your network and find mentors:

Here are resources to find project ideas