Mentoring proves to bring professional benefit for individuals as well as organizations that have introduced it into their operations. Increasing the level of expertise through knowledge sharing among colleagues is perceived as one of the best ways to break the ice and boost the company morale. Another positive aspect of mentorship is fostering a culture of open communication and trust.
We talked to our engineers Denys, a seasoned professional in web development, front-end developer experienced in React/Angular2+ with backend skills with Node.js, and Ostap, a front-end developer with a strong background in React.js, React Native, TypeScript and Angular. Both of them joined the Agiliway Mentorship Program to consult and share their expertise to help their colleagues grow and bring the company to a brand-new level.
Why having a mentorship program is making a company successful?
Denys: I think that a mentorship program helps to develop a certain culture within the company. Every person joining the company brings certain value not only in terms of their professionalism but also soft skills. When you become a part of a company with a mentorship program, it can help you learn how things work there. This is like you receive certain guidelines, so to say, on the internal procedures in the given company. As far as I see it, mentors do not only share their knowledge but also distribute the corporate culture and mentality to their mentees.
Ostap: And let’s not forget about the main component of the program — technical skills. Having a mentorship program is crucial as it enables the specialists to improve their knowledge and become stronger in terms of their qualifications, and, hence, get the company more successful.
Could you define the “duties” of mentors as you see them?
Ostap: In my opinion, a mentor shall inspire a mentee and lead the process. Usually, mentees need a little push to get something done. I experienced cases where mentees worked hard and grew within a comparatively short time. Secondly, a mentor defines the strong and weak sides of a mentee, reveals how they can apply their current knowledge and how it could be extended. We are setting both short-term and long-term goals and establish the road map on accomplishing these goals.
Denys: I believe that mentor’s duties are defined by the mentee. If mentees come striving for knowledge, this is what you give them. Be that theory or practice solely, they will not provide them with the spectrum for thinking. These will ensure successful problem-solving in the future, won’t they? Yet, if the mentee comes with a scope of questions, that’s perfect. This shows their preparation as much as a willingness to explore complicated or unknown sides of our job. If there are no questions, it’s still great. Because the mentee can upgrade their qualification level by simply listening to what the mentor decides would be useful to discuss with them. These can be some general technical topics or something very specific as well as soft skills which help grow professionally and bring good communication within the company.
Explain, please, why mentoring is important for personal and career growth?
Ostap: In terms of personal growth, mentors can become more passionate about their job, probably less naïve and practice how to teach. The latter is crucial especially when you are a team player, have daily interactions with your colleagues and are expected to explain and communicate certain aspects of a project. Moreover, mentoring brings people together and creates stronger relationships within the company.
Regarding professional growth, for mentees, it’s a great opportunity not only to learn from the experience of a senior colleague but also to learn how to search for information. A mentor, in their turn, has a chance to share their knowledge as well as grow their expertise whilst teaching since it requires a lot of revision and preparation.
Denys: The way I see it is that you can learn from the person who has already made mistakes. You can ask as many questions as possible regarding the mentor’s past fails: what happened and why. Mentees get the directions on how to pass the same mistakes. You get the experience that an individual has already gone through. It doesn’t necessarily mean that mentors shall help avoid all the mistakes. However, if there are too many of them, people often tend to burn out as facing multiple slipups and hurdles is quite challenging.
Who can become a mentor?
Denys: Anyone who reached a certain level of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields or can solve at least the basic problems by themselves. Knowing the fundamentals, however, may be enough in the event if it is applicable and can bring value to the modern reality of a certain industry or technology. Furthermore, it is crucial to know how to convey that knowledge. This is the starting point when becoming a mentor.
Ostap: I’d like to add that, anyone who is inspired, has time, knows how to teach, or is willing to get to know how to do that can become a mentor.
What skills are crucial for a good mentor?
Ostap: First of all, one shall be patient, extremely patient. Then, I would put making a mentee interested in what’s ahead. For me, a good mentor isn’t all about lecturing but also explaining how to find the necessary information, where you can get it. I can help my mentees to avoid some mistakes but, of course, it’s impossible to make none at all.
Denys: For me, everything is very simple. One should have a younger sibling. If you have experience and skills in communication with kids, you are very likely to become a really good mentor. Philosophy aside, you have to be able to explain complicated things simply. The interaction with kids helps to establish a vast pool of soft skills which further can be utilized in your mentorship. Having technical expertise doesn’t necessarily mean that you can forward that knowledge. A mentor shall know how to do that.
Who can become a mentee?
Denys: I think it is rather complicated to become a mentee. You have to find the questions that you need answers to, i.e. face a certain problem and acknowledge that you need someone’s help in solving that particular problem. I see a mentee as a person who sets self-development as a goal and seeks solutions to the problems arising in their work. I can’t see myself as a mentee, for example. There are people that I follow in social media who are having huge expertise in programming and whose posts I read to get myself new information and experience.
What does a mentee have to do to get the best from communication with a mentor?
Denys: Ask questions. It’s useless to go to a mentor hoping to be taught something. It’s a blind alley. If you are expecting to be taught something, you shall know what exactly do you want to learn. There shall be questions to ask and goals to pursue. Mentorship shall not be viewed as babysitting. Of course, a mentor can prepare some sort of program and tasks, however, this will not drive mentee as much as their problems and questions.
Ostap: It’s important to also remember that we all value our time. We can show directions and explain where it is necessary. Maximum devotion and individual work, I believe, are also the drivers for fruitful cooperation in the mentor-mentee relationship.
How to make mentee-mentor cooperation most successful?
Ostap: To start with, we should check out the technical expertise a mentee has so that we could define their strong and weak sides. Secondly, we should make arrangements regarding the meetings, their agenda, schedule, etc. based on the results of the check and goals we are setting. With me, these are weekly meetings where we analyze all the issues arising from the tasks, review the progress, discuss the next steps for a mentee. So, for me, to get the best from the mentorship, there should be communication and openness. A mentee should always remember that they can address me when there is something they don’t know and can’t solve by themselves. Also, it is significant to remember that you are not developing a teacher-student relationship. Mentoring helps to empower junior specialists and those targeted at success. We are establishing a reliable and friendly environment within the company.
Denys: Moreover, it shall be all a voluntary process. As soon as it becomes “belt system production”, it’s no longer working. When people are interested in that process, they devote their time and efforts, then it makes sense. The most important thing in the mentorship process is the freedom of actions. The only thing that may be arranged is introducing people to each other. The rest is on them. The process indeed has to have certain reporting and feedback, however, it’s not a strictly regulated situation where you fill in the bulk of documents and stuff like that.
Can you describe the mentorship program in Agiliway? What are its advantages?
Denys: As the program is still in its early stages, we are getting people together and introduce them. In their turn, our mentors and mentees define the scope of work and prepare for asking questions and giving answers to these questions.
Amidst the main advantages of the program, I will define knowledge sharing and communication. As we have several offices and many people continue working from home, it’s a great opportunity to finally get to know more of your colleagues personally. I see the latter as the establishment of something larger than just boosting the level of communication or expanding the list of your contacts. This helps to create a certain culture of correlation when the company’s technical side polishes and we try to bring our specialists to the same level by growing their expertise.
How to choose a good mentor?
Denys: if a mentee has a chance to communicate and try different mentors, then I guess that’s great. The best thing is to compare, however, it’s not always possible. If I were to look for a mentor, I would like to have someone, whose professional views and ideas appeal to me. As I mentioned before, there are several people that I follow on their social media, hence, I can picture how my mentor might look like, what his style is and how the whole process s going to look like.
Ostap: if we consider the Agiliway Mentorship Program, then we usually go and talk to our PMs, Team Leads, or HRs regardless if you want to be a mentor or a mentee. However, I also recommend try and see if you click with your mentor, if their mindset and work approach suit you and you’d like to spend time and learn from that person. A mentor should have enough time, knowledge of the technology to be improved or learned, how social is the mentor. You shouldn’t be scared to talk and ask questions; a good father can be a good mentor.
Becoming a mentor or a mentee is equally responsible as either party has certain expectations and plans. It is extremely important to fully comprehend the importance of getting into the mentorship relationship and find the devotion, persistence and time to fulfill your part of the deal.
The Mentorship Program is part of Agiliway Knowledge Center which is an educational initiative aiming at bringing together professional growth and the establishment of interpersonal relationships within the company. Our senior team members, TOP management and invited speakers share their expertise with everyone in Agiliway striving for developing and moving forward in their careers.