Anyone can mentor!

Regardless of your experience, knowledge, and time, if you're not mentoring already, you can. It starts with sharing what you can, when you can, and how you can.

Mentorship simultaneously helps the mentee, the mentor and our community as a whole.

However, despite its benefits and progress made, mentorship is still not accessible to all.

If you're already mentoring, thanks! Please encourage a friend to get started as well and help guide them.

To help make mentorship more accessible, I open sourced the Mentorship Guide, which provides strategies, advice, and community support. Feedback and contributions are greatly appreciated.

Similarly, I gave a talk at JSConf US 2018 about this idea (a great community!). As well as a talk at the Linux Open Source Summit Europe 2019 on applying open source principles and technologies to mentorship.

Below is a written up, expanded version of the JSConf US talk.

First, thank you mentors

Untitled b52f256a 2bc9 4f68 bed7 11add6b63705

I’ve experienced firsthand the importance of having mentors. After all, I

  • Wouldn’t have majored in Computer Science had it not been for mentors
  • Wouldn’t be a developer had it not been for mentors
  • And much more

Their guidance, encouragement, and resources were invaluable. I’m here thanks to them.

"A candles loses nothing by lighting another candle" (James Keller)

Untitled 5d3ba696 35b8 439c 9d20 c3f8a8df657b

They taught me that a “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” (James Keller)

For our community to be more inclusive, collaborative, and innovative, we need more mentorship.

There is good progress being made with formal programs, like when you are an intern or a new hire and your paired with someone and meet on a regular basis.

Those programs are important. That said, I’m here to talk about a mentorship that is more organic and fluid.

What are the obstacles to mentoring?

Untitled 7df7b664 a2da 4598 8983 3ce7e3f6c114

Do you consider yourself a mentor?

As for me, I didn’t at first, I thought to myself …

  • Don’t have the time
  • Not part of a formal program
  • Not an expert
  • Those are big shoes to fill (a bit intimidating)
  • Am I giving the wrong advice? Too much advice?
  • Why do I even need to/have to?

Why is mentorship important?

Untitled ff9c547d 57a6 43ff a1f5 141fd82335c8

It helps them

Untitled a3d3c5f9 2250 41ec b40f 353e2359c155

It helps them. Imagine the fulfillment knowing that you helped someone with their career, even if a tiny bit. Or that you helped someone with an issue at work.

Or that you provided that ‘aha moment’ when they were learning a new framework/tool/concept.

It helps you

Untitled dbf379d6 5902 4c82 b1de 3f5696d618cc

Paying it forward benefits you as well. Learn more about yourself and expand your world view.

I remember explaining a concept to someone and they kept asking questions and I realized, “Wow, I there's much more to learn.” So I gladly went to fill those knowledge gaps.

Hearing other people’s stories and perspectives on life has made my own that much more richer and dynamic.

Other times, you make a new friend, ally, supporter, and you help each other with your respective goals.

There are valuable feelings and experiences that money cannot buy, but that only mentorship can provide.

Helps the broader community

Untitled 4b9aedcc c3ca 4c37 9047 fc04c9ab7c42

What we put in, we get out. Imagine a community that is more inclusive, collaborative, innovative.

We’re raising the waters so that we’re all uplifted. It’s a ripple effect. We help someone and they someone and it continues.

And before you know it, it’s a boomerang of help which returns to you.

"To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world” (Dr. Seuss)

Untitled e1cd7878 c911 48dd bf63 a0d09736ece5

One of my goals is to make the world a better place. This quote reassures me that I can at least affect 1 person, today, and it’s equally important.

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world” (Dr Seuss).

Throughout the course of my life, I will forget a lot of things. In fact, I’ve forgotten many already. But the type of things I will remember, is the help I received from others.

Anyone can mentor: share what you can, when you can, how you can

Untitled da0e1ff9 6746 46c2 9c7d b5ac1b35c912

People need your help, you can help them, and your can make their life better. And you benefit as well.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, stressful, or time-consuming. I’m talking about mentorship that is more organic and fluid.

It’s about … sharing what you can, when you can, how you can.

Untitled 28fc7705 96a9 41e9 a4e1 faed0c70ade6

Mentorship is like watering a garden

Untitled a436e41d 9066 4022 bd69 43c28ee4f19c

Mentorship is like walking through a garden with a watering jug.

Sure, you can choose one plant and return every morning to water it. Which is fine. Or you can also walk through a garden, picking and choosing. Here’s some for you. Here’s a lot for you gulp gulp. Spend an entire day. Or just spend the morning.

In fact, go to a different garden next time.

If you think it’s a good thing, do it. You don’t have to define it, justify or reason about it. If there are good, genuine, sincere intentions to better someone’s life, do it.

What to share

Untitled 197cea84 3b0f 4c10 9dd7 669823d82e90

I used to asked myself, how can I mentor if I’m not an “expert” at something? And you don’t need to be. It doesn’t even have to be related to tech.

What if you could condense and share whatever took you 3 years to figure so that the other person doesn’t have to take 3 years as well. Which allows them to refocus their time and energy on something else.

Knowledge & experiences

Untitled ba8f87eb 1fc0 4227 975b c99b99e63852

One of my favorite things I’ve done is speak at organizations like Girls Who Code, sharing my experience in how in my journey to tech, there were times when I asked myself, do I belong, am I good enough, passionate enough. Receiving positive feedback that some felt the same way too, made it worthwhile.

Perhaps you know a thing or two about a framework, tool, concept.

Or you share about the obstacles you faced and want to give others a heads up of what lies ahead.

General & specific

Untitled c1dad5b2 c02d 47cc af1a e3cfe970b227

I personally enjoy mentoring those entering/switching to the tech industry. And about applying psychology to our daily day. While I have a friend who can talk for hours on anything related to serverless. Another friend makes herself available to new joiners when they’re learning our codebase.

Maybe you went from developer to manager. Or developer to team lead.

I even saw someone tweeting advice about performance reviews.

Challenges & encouragement

Untitled 64d51b7f e7a8 4358 af8c fbfb75fde714

I used to underestimate the power of encouragement, active listening, and just being there.

Several months ago, I was helping someone apply to jobs. She felt apprehensive because she thought her background in music would be looked down upon. We brainstormed strategies and I reminded her that her skills would speak for themselves. And that her background was actually a big plus.

Really, I was just listening, providing encouragement, and help build her confidence. She did all the hard stuff. She’s now happily employed at a company’s innovation lab.

Questions and connections

Untitled 047245ac edc1 4690 ba3d 7289c996855f

Another time, I was asked for advice on deciding between to job offers. I connected him with a friend who previously worked at one of the companies he was looking at.

The intention of trying to help is important and valuable as well. I was asked if I knew any people in Berlin tech industry, I didn’t, so I reached out to friends of friends. Unfortunately, I haven’t found someone yet, but the intention was there.

When someone joins your organization or team, you can connect them with others.

Connections are not limited to people. It can be resources too. It can be articles, videos, books and more.

Similarly, I know of some who mentor by replying with questions, instead of giving straight answers and opinions.

To learn about different forms and styles of mentoring, read the Mentorship Guide.

When you can share

Untitled 4a869a05 b5c4 4aa6 9e80 228a4bcb5c5c

We have families, friends, hobbies, and other responsibilities. How do you fit mentorship in too?

Mentorship doesn’t have to be time consuming. It’s an ongoing process. It can be an hour a month. Or just 10 minutes. Be mindful of when you can help, and then do it.

The email

Untitled 7880c6e0 0bd4 4c69 84f2 1cf7e3f57d78

I enjoy business, product, data, psychology, tech and people. Awhile back, I reached out to an alumnus for career advice. He’s a busy individual, a co founder of a SaaS company. He replied with a lengthy email. There were follow-up questions, his opinions, and assumptions, and insights from his experience.

We never had a phone call. Or met in person. But that email exchange had an impact.

Time is not equal

Untitled 515c5bb7 a989 47ed b7d1 bbace1e1eb57

Time is not equal. I estimate that it took him about an hour to write that email. But at the same time, it easily saved me a few weeks worth of mine.

Think about when you’re debugging a problem. You’ve been at it for longer than you’d like to admit. So you ask for help.

It’s the same with mentorship.

Leverage async/sync communication

Untitled 04257b05 d202 4a0c b8b0 91d4e73b73f5

There are weeks when I have less time. So I leverage asynchronous forms of communication, like email, message boards, etc.

When I have more time, I am more than happy to hop on a phone call, video chat or meet in person. Stay flexible and adaptable.

How you can share

Untitled c1c6b376 5595 464f 903d 0a117548099a

Mentor can be both formal and informal.

Up to you

Untitled b17e98ab eed4 4fed 93c7 4ee916cf72a8

Sometime you mentor people without even knowing it and vice-versa

I’m not saying to go out and find a mentee, and schedule every Wednesday at 6pm for the next 8 weeks. You can if you want. But you don’t have to. It doesn’t have to be a formal commitment, just take it one conversation at a time.

Maybe you like to write blog posts, make videos, stream, or speak at events. Those are all good.

In fact, it doesn’t have to be about your job either. It can be about your hobbies and other interests.

It’s about taking the time to answer a question and leaving the door open for a future conversation and relationship. It's about helping.

To learn about different ways to mentor, read the Mentorship Guide.

Mentorship onion

Untitled 9719d773 8fd6 45d5 b918 8db451e8b3b0

Mentorship can take place in your organization, your local community, even online.

Here’s the mentorship onion. It can happen anywhere.

self > team > department > org > industry | outside | physical/digital

Finding mentees

Untitled 07012405 57a5 4fc0 9a83 c989362d9885

I go to them

Untitled a4a80854 53ad 4f3e b49a ab84b8758dcb

One of the best $10 I ever spent was on business cards. They just have my email. So when I meet someone, I hand one out, and encouraging them to contact me if there’s anything I can help with. Or we exchange contact information that moment.

This is inspired from when I was told, sometimes people want to reach out but feel uncomfortable/shy or don’t want to inconvenience anybody. Or they may not even know whom to reach out to.

We can be the ones to take the first step and initiative.

  • schools (via emails and speaking to career counselors)
  • meetups/conferences/hackathons/intern events
  • organizations (Tech Jobs Tour, Code2040)

They come to me

Untitled e1735172 1c68 48b0 a7ba 010d5e50d08e

Similarly, others may not know whom to reach out to.

You can be like a lighthouse, signaling to others, ‘Hey, I’m here, feel free to reach out.’

For example:

  • posting a welcoming message that you can be contacted (with what type of info to ask)
  • it can be on your LinkedIn summary, Twitter pinned tweet/bio, or your personal site/blog

For those of you with large followings, there are ways to manage with filters/email alias.

Mentorship is a communal effort

Untitled 1caaef0d 4a28 434d a2dc 45a86dd6acef

Mentorship is a communal effort. I have certain opinions and ideas. As do you, and that's great! Together, we're stronger.

The goal is to collect and organize:

  • strategies
  • resources
  • best practices
  • things to consider
  • advice
  • caveats, edge cases
  • experiences
  • and more

In doing, we can empower mentors and mentees, from those just starting out, to the experienced. We help make mentorship accessible to all.

I highly encourage you to read, share, and contribute to the Mentorship Guide.

Please see the contributing guidelines. Feel free to make a pull request. If it's your first, we're happy to help.

For a quicker experience, you can also fill out a form (no coding involved). Whichever is more convenient for you.

We're like clay

Untitled 6dbfdab7 7e33 4467 86c0 1746c47f841c

We are like clay. Being molded by other people, our environment and experiences. Let’s say someone wants to become a plane.

When its your turn, help add one of the wings. Don’t make them a boat. We have different destinations/end goals. Help them accomplish theirs.

Let’s create a culture/community in which this is commonplace. Helping one another become better versions of ourselves, accomplish our goals, fulfill our dreams, and make an impact.

Thank you

Untitled ae17446d 369c 4031 baa1 a2a5f10ff549

Thank you to all mentors, mentees, and those who don't consider them neither, but I believe are.

Images from Freepik, Unsplash, and Pexels (thank you for the great resources)!

What about from a mentee's perspective?

I acknowledge that mentorship is a two way street, there’s a responsibility on the mentee as well. The Mentorship Guide provides more information.

What about sponsorship?

Sponsorship is equally important. We're working on that as well. See the guide and please help contribute!

Additional resources

Learn about strategies, resources, advice, and community support at the Mentorship Guide.


Anyone can be a mentor, share what you can, when you can, how you can.

The more mentorship we have, the more inclusive, collaborative, and innovative our community becomes.

If you're already mentoring, encourage a friend to get started as well and help guide them.