Mentoring is brilliant
Reasons why I think you should take it up
Up until I started my current job, I had never officially mentored someone or been mentored. I had taken part in PR reviews and I'd paired with people, but I had never been part of an official mentoring process. That feels wild to me now because in the last three years, I've had the absolute honour and joy of mentoring several people as well as being mentored and I can honestly say that I have grown and learned an unimaginable amount from everyone. I would highly recommend having a go if you're given the opportunity and this article explains why I think you should do so.
You grow, I grow, we all grow!
Obviously, becoming a mentee helps you grow, that goes without saying. Having someone whose sole purpose it is to feed you new learning opportunities and materials will level up your progress like nobody's business. Less obvious though, is the fact that it's not just mentees that benefit from this relationship. When I started mentoring, I never thought I'd learn new technical skills by doing it, but I absolutely did. Finding new ways of explaining things when someone is struggling to understand a concept will improve your communication skills, sure, but you might just brush up some of your technical skills too. For example, I love doing CSS art with my mentees because it's fun and they end up learning without even really realising it. In the process, I've learned some new CSS tricks myself and I've cemented my working knowledge of flexbox, grid and other advanced topics.
Giving back feels good
Remember when you were a junior engineer, just starting out? I don't know about you, but I was naive and young and inexperienced and itching to make my mark. Unfortunately, I mostly worked at very small companies where I was the only software engineer and I had nobody to learn from. I would have loved to have a mentor guide me in my career because I had zero clue what on earth I was doing. I had to make many mistakes and learn the hard way. Perhaps you had a different start to your career and you did have mentors, in which case it feels good to be able to do what they did for you, but for others, right? Either way, being able to support and empower others who are earlier on in their journey is very rewarding.
Teaching others is an important skill
Honing your teaching skills is super important, especially when it comes to Senior Engineer level and above. A lot of companies will expect Senior+ engineers to do some form of teaching, whether it's mentoring juniors or giving talks to share knowledge. This keeps everyone's skills current and makes sure nobody gets left behind. The earlier you can get comfortable with teaching others, the better prepared you will be for this requirement. Mentoring is a really gentle introduction to it too - teaching one-on-one is much less intimidating than teaching a whole room full of people, but once you've mastered that, teaching in general gets exponentially easier.
You'll get to boost someone's career
Sponsoring is one of my favourite things to do - it isn't giving someone money in this context, it just means dropping their name into conversations and giving them opportunities that they might not otherwise have had. If someone mentions a project I think my mentee is a good fit for, I'll mention their name. If a topic for a talk comes up that I think my mentee would do great at, I'll talk to them about it and encourage them to contribute. It's all about increasing visibility and impact for your mentee and letting them run with it. Of course, it's totally okay if they don't want to do that and it's important to respect people's decisions, but being able to give people those opportunities in the first place is what makes me feel like I'm doing something valuable.
You'll get to know new people
This is a simple one, but I do think it's really important. Getting to know people with other perspectives from yours is both extremely valuable and also, it's fun! We spend a lot of time at work doing a lot of serious things and I find that part of mentoring is just having a nice chat with my mentee to see how they're getting on and just getting to know each other a bit. This is really nice from a personal perspective but can also give you insight into someone else's world, which might just teach you a thing or to about seeing things from someone else's perspective. And in my opinion, being able to do that will make you a more empathetic and person and colleague.
Do you mentor? If so, what are your reasons? Share them in the comments!