Many people who know me one way or the other knows one thing; I work tireless at getting new and upcoming devs to get mentored. This comes from a personal story.
When I began with computers in high school, the only resources I could consult were an old delphi manual, a unix bible, a general purpose programming book and 2 other friends(Sam and Victor). Most of the things I picked up within the next 2 years were all from these resources. Fast forward to university where I was studying computer engineering and I was so happy at the fact that I was in a group where the average person knew more than I did and was ready to learn from my peers. Or so I thought. It turns out, my peers all had exactly the same questions I had. So we hacked until we got answers. And sometimes for days. But we enjoyed the process. That alone was enough to keep us going.
When I got out of uni and saw the outside world, I was immediately enthralled by all these guys who had been doing the things I so much wanted to be doing. They also had what seemed like the right answers to my most burning sofware engineering related questions I had had for years. What blew me away was the realization at the fact that if I had met these “seniors” about a year or two earlier the trajectory of my path would have been completely different. Growth would look more like a hockey stick rather than a drying line. That is also when it dawned on me that, new developers need mentorship and it was the only way through which we could build capable software engineering capacity early enough to cater for the onslaught of sofware engineering roles coming to Africa. 5 years on and this realization has never been truer.
Most new developers I have spoken to know they need mentorship and are often eager to get under the wings of a senior even if their time spent is not paid for. Most of them are often surprised when they realize nobody is willing to take them on even though they are ready to render free service. There is a hard truth about mentoring new devs that nobody really tells you.
I will not talk about what the structure of a mentorship should look like, albeit informal or not. I fear that is a conversation beyond the scope of this essay.
The very thing new devs looking for mentorship fail to understand is that the cost involved in being under someones wing is not only how much you get paid. This is even the least of the problems. The cost involved has more to do with the senior you want to understudy. Seniors are expensive and companies would rather spend money to have then do company work rather than mentor a junior who is not directly employed by the company. This means even if a senior does decide to mentor you, it is going to be on his own time. More often during his downtime, and those hours I reckon are even more expensive. Time spent with a mentee is time not spent with his/her family or loved ones or doing things that he would rather be doing. There are people who are fortunate to find seniors ready and willing to put in the effort to mentor them. If you are ever fortunate to find one who is willing to put in all this effort for you, hold them in high regard, remain forever grateful and never dissapoint them. Remember you are one of the lucky few and don’t forget to pay it forward.
Where does that leave everybody else. The average joe out there will never find a dedicated mentor. That is not to say they should not be mentored. Infact, if you diassociate the notion of finding a mentor from that of being mentored you start to realize that mentorship can come in any shape or form. The onus is on you to be able to effectivly utilize the mentorship channel availed to you.
I believe there are two main reasons DevCongress works as a mentorship channel. The first of which is the excellent community of seniors who remain dedicated to break down complex topics to anyone willing to listen. The second and most important reason is the decentralized way with which we provide help. Anybody at anytime can chip in and answer a question at their own time. It being a 5 min break when an app is compiling or as a way to wind down in the evening. There is never pressure to check work and people can pick their own hours. I have realized this makes is easy for people to help even if the help drags on for a few hours.
If you are a developer within the African ecosystem, i entreat you to join DevCongress and be part of the community. You will be easily astonished at how much it will give back to you. I know because I am still being blown away.
This article was prompted after having a chat with @umfrumf
Thanks to Andrew Smith for editing this piece.