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A look inside mentorship programs for developers

If you take a look at some of the most successful engineering teams, you’ll likely notice they have implemented some type of training or mentorship program. Developers want to constantly be learning new things and improving their skills. Having these types of programs within an organization is a great way to allow them to do just that.

Mentorship programs for technology roles are typically broken up into categories: mentorships for students or new programmers looking to enter their first development job and developers starting at a new company/learning a new language. The programs can vary greatly if the mentee is a more established developer than a newbie, but the main principles of the mentorship will be the same. If you’re considering implementing one of these developer mentorship programs at your company, here are some real-life examples to draw inspiration from.

Mentoring undergraduates

Excella, an IT consulting firm, runs a training and mentorship program for undergraduates. The program is aimed at teaching early-career technical talent about software development best practices. In this program, the students work part-time in a paid role, under the direct supervision of software development experts. Students work on real and active client projects, developing software and growing their skills in C#, .NET, Java, Python, and Ruby. Students also learn database skills, Agile software development practices, and test-driven development principles. To prepare their students for their future job, Excella also offers training in soft skills.

After completing the mentorship program, graduating seniors can interview for full-time roles at Excella preceding their graduation. During 2015, Excella offered eight graduating seniors full-time roles with a 100% acceptance rate.

Quote from Mentee: “The experience I gained through this mentorship enriched my college career more than I could have imagined. The work we did on a daily basis supplemented the analytical skills I was learning as an Engineering major, and taught me technical skills I would have had to learn on my own, otherwise. I felt like I was making a difference on client projects while also discovering my own passion for building IT solutions. The transition to working full-time for Excella was an easy and smooth one thanks to the guidance I received during my time at the mentorship.” - Lindsay B.

Mentoring more experienced developers

ReadyTalk, a company that sells meeting and webinar software, runs a mentorship program for their own engineering team. Mentees volunteer to participate in the program by reaching out to their manager or their “HR Sponsor.” Mentors, on the other hand, must have a variety of qualifications to be considered for the program, including “exhibiting a proven track record of success in their field and an interest in listening and sharing those experiences with others,” receiving a nomination from another employee, and having strong leadership skills.

From there, HR works with the Engineering Managers to set up the appropriate mentor for each mentee. The first event that really launches the mentorship is the Kickoff Meeting, where the two developers meet each other, share expectations, and introduce a suggested framework for the mentorship. Developer mentors and mentees often meet more frequently when the relationship is new (once a week or once every-other week).

“The structure of this program is very open-ended, allowing each mentor and mentee to find what works best for them. As we have conversed, it has become more and more evident to me that I am just scratching the surface of what my mentor can provide to me both professionally and personally. One minute we are discussing high-level software architecture strategy, allowing me to gain insight into how he applies his years of experience to problems. The next minute, we are talking about our families and interests outside of work. I think this synergy between work and life-related topics is what really gives the mentoring relationship the opportunity to shine. My mentor’s experience-based insights have already provided me with new perspectives on a variety of topics, and the relationship will continue to become more mutually valuable as we spend more time getting to know each other.”

Ryan Langewisch, Software Developer

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