"Does mentorship matter?"
By Johanna Antonsson | February 21, 2018
Early in my career I landed my dream project as the youngest developer in a team, out to rebuild a large system from scratch with the latest java technologies. I got to work with very experienced colleagues and I was so eager to learn.
The team was nice but when I asked questions I would get answers like ”leave it, I’ll fix it later” or “can’t you ask someone else?”. I was also excluded from architectural discussions because “you don’t need to care about that”. I felt hindered and frustrated, so I tried to figure things out by myself and stopped asking questions. We also had code reviews that could have been great, but instead one senior developer would do it randomly and speak out loud in the room, telling me things I had done wrong. I was embarrassed and my spirit and confidence declined and I thought I needed to switch jobs.
Then a new developer joined the team, straight out of university and eager to learn just as I had been. I didn’t want him to have the same experience as me so I started doing all the things I had lacked. I would take time to introduce him to the system and its architecture. I would encourage him to ask questions and if I couldn’t answer I would facilitate discussions with the senior developers to get answers. If I saw things he could improve on I would have a private discussion with him about it.
I stayed and finished the project and in the end I had gained a very different experience than I first anticipated. I realized that this was my first attempt at mentorship. I also learned that senior doesn’t equal mentor, and that mentorship really matters.