Growing together: reflections on mentoring a junior developer

Tech kitchen

by: Jona Derksen

Mentorship is an essential aspect of the professional growth of any individual, especially in the tech industry. For a junior developer, having a mentor can be the difference between struggling to get by and thriving in their career. As a mentor, you have the power to guide and inspire a junior developer, sharing your knowledge and expertise, and helping them grow both professionally and personally.
I will reflect on the experience of mentoring a junior developer. Exploring the challenges and rewards of mentoring, discuss the qualities of an effective mentor, and provide practical tips for building a successful mentoring relationship. Whether you are a seasoned developer looking to give back to the community or a junior developer seeking guidance, this article is for you.
When I began mentoring there was no internal established program for mentoring a developers. I saw an opportunity to create something meaningful and valuable for our team. I had to gather information on best practices and design a program that would be effective for our unique team dynamic. It was a challenging but rewarding experience that taught me a lot about the importance of mentoring and coaching in the workplace.

Establishing a mentoring program

When starting a mentoring program, it’s essential to create a plan that is tailored to the needs of your team dynamic. One important lesson I learned is that you should be flexible with your plan and be able to deviate from it depending on the pace at which your mentee progresses. My plan consisted of three main goals: onboarding, familiarising the mentee with the team’s way of working and tech stack, and taking ownership of a feature development. For each goal, I set specific approaches and estimated timeframes based on the level of the mentee.
In the onboarding phase, I used the internal onboarding documentation and took extra time to go over the code and the reasoning behind certain processes. For the second goal, I had the mentee work on small task and focused on how the team works and codes. We also reviewed the PR process and deployment to help build confidence and knowledge. Finally, for the third goal, I selected a feature for the mentee to be involved in leading the feature development, getting them close to the business and giving them ownership.
Creating a custom mentoring plan allowed me to provide valuable guidance and support to my mentee while also learning from them. It’s essential to be open to feedback and adjust the plan accordingly to ensure that it remains effective in helping your mentee achieve their goals.