5 min. read

August 26, 2022

The Best Engineers are Great Mentors: Why You Should Become One

"A mentor walks alongside us to show us what we can do." - Simon Sinek

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Yasas Sri Wickramasinghe, Lead Software Engineer (Past), Lecturer

Remember the first day you stepped into your workplace as a new employee? Probably you were super excited to build fantastic software products but nervous due to the enormous number of tech stacks, design patterns, industry standards, and processes available for you to explore.

Mentoring programs come in handy for beginners stepping into the industry, and having a mentoring program at a workplace encourages potential candidates to apply for employment. However, the benefits of mentoring programs are not just for mentees. There are many benefits for mentors and the organisation. This article explores what those are and sheds light on some proven ways to become a great mentor if you want to become one in the near future.

Benefits of Mentoring Programs


Most software engineering companies have already established mentoring programs facilitating their employees to grow in their career paths. According to Forbes, 100% of U.S. Fortune 50 companies, and 84% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs.

It is proven that the investment return in mentoring programs is much higher than most marketing campaigns and promotional activities to attract and retain talent. Also, mentoring programs help build great software engineers loyal to the company, and those engineers tend to stay in the company for a longer time. Therefore, companies increasingly promote mentoring programs, and most senior engineers are volunteering for these initiatives. 

Below are some of the benefits you may cherish as a mentor.

Opportunity to Improve Leadership Skills

When you know that there are people who look up to you to improve themselves, it encourages you to perform better. It gives you a great chance to become a leader and inspire your employees to achieve the best outcome.

Practice Communication Skills

Mentoring someone requires great communication skills and high emotional intelligence. The opportunity to practice these skills also helps your professional and personal life.

The Feeling of Fulfillment

When you mentor a beginner and see them move into an excellent position in the industry it's a great feeling, something you can be proud of.

Getting Exposed to New Perspectives

When you get the opportunity to work closely with young developers, you hear many new ideas. You can witness how they apply their experiences to solving computational problems in a way that you would never have thought. It can really spark your creativity and give you entirely new perspectives.

Great mentors are mostly skilled developers, and they have highly appraised portfolios. They genuinely enjoy their day-to-day work, while benefiting from their mentoring work. Next, we'll see how you can become a great mentor.

Top 5 Tips to Become a Great Mentor

1. Establish Trust Between You and Your Mentee

It's not easy to establish trust between two people. It takes time, and it requires a lot of effort. However, when you trust someone, you openly share your success and failure without hesitation. This is important for any relationship, including the mentor-mentee bond.

If your mentee shares the real issues and challenges, you can be a great mentor by putting yourself into your mentee's shoes. As long as you understand what your mentee is going through and the blockers ahead, you can support them at your best capacity.

You need to genuinely care for your mentee and give them attention and time to make them feel you're trustworthy. That's why I wouldn't recommend you take multiple mentees at once. You need a reasonable amount of time to establish a dedicated connection between you two and proceed with an effective mentoring role.

2. Always Maintain A Frequent Communication

Invite your mentee for a coffee, and talk with them freely. It's not expected to talk only about technical, work-related stuff. Your mentees are on their path, and you are there to encourage and cheer them.

A proper communication method is the root of any successful mentoring program. It can be slack, email, skype, or any other instant messaging platform. However, I would like to emphasize the value of "real talk" whenever possible. You can arrange face-to-face meetings so that your mentee/mentor relationship can create a fruitful bond.

3. Don't Control Your Mentees, Inspire Them

"A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us to show us how they did it. A mentor walks alongside us to show us what we can do." - Simon Sinek

It isn't expected to be a programming teacher, or to be a great mentor in the software engineering field. But you are expected to inspire your mentee to learn more. A few years ago, you were going through the same journey they are now on. So, you can help them push their boundaries and achieve more. But don't destroy the fun of "uncertainty" ahead of their journey. Let them figure it out. Let them explore the journey while you're there to hold them when they're down.

4. Introduce Your Mentee to Your Network

As an experienced person in the industry, you know how important it is to be in contact with other great individuals in the industry. You might have spent many years getting to know some of the great people you have around today. But you can make your mentees' careers a little easier by introducing them to your peers and leaders. In addition, it will allow your mentees to find more opportunities and grow even further in the future.

5. Provide Contructive Critisism

Criticism is very much needed for growth as long as it is constructive, not destructive. As beginners, sometimes your mentees could make some huge mistakes. For example, they might even drop the production database, or they might even forget to terminate the AWS EC2 instance they just created for learning purposes.

However, it's essential to know that failures are great moments to learn something. Therefore, highlight their mistakes, not in a hurtful way, but allow them to understand what went wrong and how to not repeat it in the future.

Final Thoughts

Mentoring is a win-win situation for mentees and mentors, but the benefits for mentors are grossly underrated. This could be one of the main reasons why many senior engineers are not accepting mentoring roles.

However, great mentors genuinely enjoy looking at their mentees' growth. After a particular period, your mentee may stop meeting you at the same workplace. But the bond you've created will always be in both your hearts. You'll truly cherish the results of the mentoring process.

I hope this article inspires you to become a great mentor and inspire young minds while harvesting the benefits for your individual growth.

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