I have experienced both having and being a mentor. Both roles require a lot of energy to get great results. But when the energy to support the collaboration is maintained by both the mentor and the mentee, magic can happen.
The union for engineers in Denmark IDA has a mentor program where members can be matched with a mentor. As part of the mentor program, I have been interviewed which resulted in the video below(in danish).
I have been part of the mentor program at Aalborg University and IDA for a number of years. Mentoring is in my experience one of the best ways to give experience back to other people. It allows both the mentor and the mentee to gain unique experiences that normally require a lot of failing before figuring it out.
Sharing experience for mutual benefits has always been top of mind for me. And mentoring creates a place where experiences can be harnessed in a safe setting.
So when IDA approached me to be part of their campaign for their mentor program it was a no-brainer to say yes. It resulted in the interview below.
Already while studying, I started my own company, Tiger Media. We started the company with four founders, and we built it up to 13 people before I sold my stake in 2018. My mentor Per supported part of that journey. Since the company was started while I was studying, I never experienced having a “real” job before starting my own company. I think it provided both advantages and disadvantages.
Starting a company requires a very broad range of skills much wider than if you were to “only” fill a technical role. As part of Tiger Media, I had three primary roles
I felt comfortable in my role as a technical lead, which is also the area where I have the most experience as my formal education is in Computer Science. But the two other roles gave me quite some challenges, where having a mentor helped me quite a lot.
One of the difficulties for me was how to fill my role as a staff manager. As the company was started while I was studying I never experienced having a leader I could use as a role model. Staff management puts you in many diverse situations that can be quite difficult to find the best response for. Without having experienced how another leader handled the situations I was forced to come up with my own way of handling it. Which of course required some trial and error.
In this situation, having a mentor was a great asset. Being able to discuss my approach as a leader with another person made it possible to make some of the best decisions I have made. Collaborating in a setting where difficult situations can be discussed without any repercussions is a gift.
The curious thing is that as the mentor got to know me, he was able to see problems with my approach that I was not able to see and acknowledge before years later. Which I think is amazing.
I can’t recommend getting a mentor high enough, it can open both doors and your mind in ways you can’t imagine.
Seeing how mentoring can give so much to another person I have strived to be accessible as a mentor as well. I have mostly been active as part of Aalborg University’s Mentor program where I mentored a handful of people.
Their focus has been ranging from figuring out what to do after graduation. How to start a company and figuring out the next step in a professional career.
One of the mentor relations resulted in this article from Aalborg University: Download
One of the things that’s really lacking in software engineering today is mentoring.
We have a lot of new people coming into the industry, so the amount of experience is not really picking up at the speed it probably should be.
I think it was Robert C Martin that mentioned at a keynote some years back that we have perpetual inexperience in software engineering because the amount of developers are growing that fast.
So I think he said that the cutoff is like half of the people have less than five years of experience.
And I think that’s true. And because of that I think it really sad to see that mentoring is not a larger concept in the industry in general.
We really need more tech mentors to make sure that we bring everybody up in experience, because it’s very difficult to see from when you’re inexperienced what is the path you actually supposed to go before you can become good at software engineering.
And likewise, it’s very difficult in a work setting for someone that’s experienced to look at a junior developer and see what is it that they need to move forward.
So we have to create a space where the mentee and the mentor can communicate in on equal footings, and the mentee can set the agenda with some guidance from the mentor.
And I think that’s key to enabling everybody to progress much faster.
I feel it will also make the junior developers more secure in how they actually develop software, because I see a lot of choices that are based on the fear that either the solutions that they come up with are bad, or that approach is wrong, or something like that.
And then they end up actually making a worse job than they could have.
One of the ways I’m trying to help out is that I’m an active mentor in the engineering union in Denmark where they have a mentoring program for people who are new at the job market, and try to help them bridge some of the experience gaps,
really make sure that they can progress fully in a faster way than they could otherwise.
I’ve also previously been active in the university that I graduated from. They also have a mentoring program.
I also participated in that and helped a lot of people move forward from just being finished with their education to now they’re supposed to enter the job market, and how does that work.
So if you have any experience you would benefit a lot from helping other people, both benefiting yourself, because you will gain some insights that you couldn’t gain by yourself, but at the same time you will help other people.
So if you’re just a little bit curious about how to start up mentoring, you can reach out to me, or reach out to other unions or universities, or some of the online mentoring programs, because I definitely see a lot of value in going that direction.