Mentors and Software Engineering
When working at my first development job, my team leader became my mentor. Not in a formal sense - this company didn't have one of those established mentor programs that I'm reading a lot about these days - but he just took me under his wing. He was a 'pragmatic programmer' and I learned more from him in two years than I ever learned at school, or in any other job.
(1) Two jobs ago, I worked under one of those insanely busy senior developers in a big corp. I did learn a lot from her when we did get a chance to work together and I remember wishing we could do it more. One job ago, I worked at a tiny shop under the founder/lead developer. We both learned quite a lot from one another. Having been there and done that, I don't think I could go back to an environment where mentoring was discouraged.
Mentoring is a fantastic tool to help create developers. We did it at the last place I worked, where it was part of the job description for us senior developers.
Mentoring is one of the most ideal ways to utilize and leverage the skills and experience of senior staff who have the entire ball of wax (code and business) locked away in their brain. Alas, directors are too shortsighted to leverage their Sr. staff's wisdom in that way. Instead, they are worked the hardest, and given the hardest tasks with shortest deadlines. This perpetuates their distance from the rest of the rank amateurs. I feel a seasoned veteran is worth several mid level people. This is especially true as the business domain knowledge becomes increasingly complex. Veterans shuld not be doing front line support, they should be disemminating their knowledge. Of course, that's a conflict of interest of self-preservation, so maybe they prefer that.
Mentoring is something that is either within a person's scope or it isn't. Its very difficult to train into someone. So I wouldn't assume that just because an individual is highly experienced that they would be capable of mentoring someone else.
Sounds like the new tech director needs "office hours" like a college professor.
I've never come across a company that explicitly discouraged mentoring. However, I'm sure that unhealthy cultures can make mentoring impractical.
Brent P. Newhall
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