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It’s likely that throughout your career you’ve been paired up with a mentor. Mentors offer their professional experience to guide how a new employee may develop in their role. Their main strength is helping the employee navigate their own career and the organization, which is crucial for someone new to the company.

What Would a Developer Mentor Do?

In addition to helping new employees get up-to-speed on the ins and outs of the company, developer mentors often participate in pair programming or code reviews. This allows the new hire to start checking in code as early into their new job as possible and ask important questions along the way. Additionally, the developer’s mentor can help them create (and eventually hit) their career goals. 

What Types of Mentoring Programs Are There?

Before you start thinking about finding the right mentorship program for developers, it's important to understand what the most common options are right now.

  • One-on-one mentoring, in which the participant is assigned one mentor who they work with over a specified period of time. This is traditionally done face-to-face and involves members on the same team.
  • E-mentoring, in which participants are mentored through a virtual relationship. This is great for remote developers who don’t have the luxury of working face-to-face with their peers in the same office.
  • Flash mentoring, in which participants are shopped around to a variety of mentors, reminiscent of speed dating.
  • Group mentoring, in which one expert is shared among four participants.
  • Team mentoring, in which one participant has access to a panel of experts.

Not every one of these developer mentoring ideas will work for your team, so explore the different options and ask for feedback to find one that works. Also, be open to changing your plans along the way to give your developers the types of programs they need.

How Do You Find the Right Mentor for Each Developer?

It’s extremely important that the mentor and the developer are a good fit. At Stack Overflow, we try to choose a more senior developer who has a good perspective on the history of the projects and general practices of the team. We think of this mentor as the go-to person for any new hire. They should answer technical questions, introduce them to the team, and even walk them through some code or pair programming.

In an interview with Fog Creek, Rachel Ober, Senior Developer at Paperless Post, advises against having an employee’s mentor be their manager, and prefers for an independent party to take on the role. She says, “They’re not necessarily involved in the review process of you and your team, but they’re there to help focus on your happiness and the growth of your career.” 

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