A coding mentor can help you grow as a professional and as an aspiring developer.
While there are many resources on learning how to code, from videos and online courses to advice columns, sometimes the process can be pretty lonely. More troublesome, however, is that it can leave you stuck in a rut when you don’t know who to approach for advice or guidance.
That problem compounds, even more, when you’re using remote resources like online guides and courses, or when you have to stay home because of the pandemic.
You can always join a coding or programming-oriented community, and spark up a discussion, but that doesn’t always result in the best answers.
Another option is to find a coding mentor. It’s relatively easy to do, although it may take some time to find the right person, and it’s an invaluable way to grow your knowledge and experience.
What Is a Coding Mentor?
A coding mentor is generally someone that has more experience and knowledge in programming and development than you do, that is also willing to help you grow.
Mentors can be anyone, including those currently working in the field, or those who were in the past. They can also be teachers or professors, or just people who understand the field well. Sometimes, they’re also peers.
Mentors don’t explicitly teach you, but they will back up your education — no matter what learning method you use.
What Does a Coding Mentor Do?
A reliable coding mentor will be there to answer questions, look over assignments and projects, provide advice or guidance, and may even get your foot in the door through network connections or by providing references.
They are supplementary, or rather should complement other learning methods. You should not rely on a mentor as a direct teacher, whether to provide one-on-one lessons or to accompany you for every task throughout your career.
Remember, most mentors have their own responsibilities, so while they likely enjoy helping you, they can’t be the only resource you have.
Where Can You Find a Coding Mentor?
Some excellent places to find coding mentors are:
- Meet-ups and Events – Although more infrequent now, it’s possible to network with other professionals at in-person meet-ups.
- Bootcamps – Professional boot camps can cost money, but they’re also one of the best ways to get paired up with a mentor.
- Online Communities – From Reddit to community forums like XDA Developers, there are a lot of online discussion boards out there. Just explain that you’re seeking a mentor and you’ll likely find willing candidates.
- Professional Networking – Whether you’re using LinkedIn, or meeting up at career and job fairs, there’s always a possibility you can find a willing mentor and networking events.
- At Work – If you’re already working in the field, you might be able to find a mentor among your colleagues.
You might also consider checking out HackHands, airpair, or codementor. The latter is perfect if you’re interested in a freelance development or coding career.
How Do I Approach Other Professionals?
Now you know coding mentors exist, what they do, and where to find one. But that doesn’t help you reach out and engage with potential candidates. What questions should you be asking? What should you say to them?
The strategy for approaching a potential mentor face-to-face is up-in-the-air, but you should have some idea of what you want to say beforehand. It’s not a job interview and it’s not a solicitation so the important thing to remember is that you cannot fail. Even if a candidate says no, that’s okay, there are plenty more opportunities out there.
Remember to tell them why you’re seeking a mentor and what you hope to gain out of the relationship. But don’t make it all about you! Take some interest in the people you approach, and talk about some of their projects and accomplishments to butter them up!
If you’re reaching out via email, community forums, or online it helps to use a template. Here’s an example (and feel free to use it as a base):
I hope this message finds you well! [Relate the message to their experience, like saying you love their blogs or social updates].
My name is [x] and I’m learning to code. I’m looking for someone to help me as I go, just to bounce questions off of and seek general advice. I’d love it if you could help me, but if you’re too busy please let me know!
Be sure to personalize the message before you send it out, and consider the length. For platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and others, you might consider a more concise message.
Be On the Lookout!
Another way to find a potential mentor, especially someone you jive with, is to pay attention during your daily routines. You might run into someone at the coffee shop, you frequent, for example. Or, maybe someone one of your friends or significant other knows can help. It’s even possible you might meet another coder at a party or social event you go to.
Whatever the case, be mindful that there are experienced professionals everywhere, and that you can find a mentor just as easily while you’re out and about.
Where to Find Coding Help?
In the meantime, where should you go for coding help or resources when you get stuck?
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