Once you’ve mastered the skills you need to become a professional coder, you can still stand to benefit from learning from others. Technology is such a fast-changing field that it is vital to software developers to have someone they can share ideas with and who they can learn from. Mentors are the answer to making sure that you stay on the cutting edge of your field, for ensuring you learn about areas of specialization within developing, and for forming professional contacts that can lead to freelance projects and job offers.
One way to find a mentor as a coder is to attend meetings, such as Meetups for coding, hackathons, conferences, seminars, and other public events where coding is the main topic of conversation, according to AppendTo.com. Casual conversation at these events can lead to an invitation to lunch or coffee. You can also do the inviting! Take the initiative to get the knowledge to succeed as a coder by asking others to meet with you for a chat or two.
As a relationship develops with someone you meet at one of these events, you may find that the person has more experience in a particular area of developing than you. That experience and knowledge can benefit you in a number of ways. For example, you may learn a new skill, programming language, or maybe about a new area where coding is making a big impact.
A mentor can expose you to new ideas, areas of development, and to different ways of doing things than you previously considered. A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone with twenty years of experience in the field. It could be someone with just as much experience in general as you, but who has a better grasp of a particular industry. Older and more experienced developers are perfect to have as mentors as well. Their broad exposure to the industry in general as well as their niche-specific knowledge can help you learn about new areas you hadn’t considered working in.
Another benefit of having a mentor is that mentors often have professional connections that can boost your career. For instance, if your mentor knows of a job opening that might be of interest to you, he or she may be able to put in a good word for you to the manager. That manager might be a person that your mentor already knows from having worked with him or her ten years ago.
Once you have a job, don’t just ditch your mentor. Remain in contact with that person as he or she can help you integrate into the company faster by perhaps providing some helpful advice about the particular organization you’re working for or just general settling-in tips.
When you have the experience necessary to be a mentor yourself someday, return the favors your mentor did for you by seeking out someone who is interested in learning from you. In this way, coding and developing knowledge moves seamlessly between each generation of coders.