Mentoring is important across all industries, but can be particularly impactful in the ever-changing landscape of software engineering.
I interviewed Berlin-based software developer Dragos Nedelcu about the importance of mentorship in software engineering, his passion for mentoring, and how all tech companies should be jumping on the trend.
[Dragos and I having this conversation over Zoom between Berlin and London]
Hello Dragos, please introduce yourself...
Hi, I am Dragos. I am a Software Engineer and Mentor at Mister Spex. As a mentor I share my passion for software at ReDI School and the Mentoring Club. I've mentored 20+ incredible software developers so far, and I just love it!
What was your first experience of mentoring, and how did it impact you?
I first came in touch with mentoring as a mentee. As a young professional I was hungry for knowledge. Early on in my career I sought mentorship from individuals who I aspired to be like. My personal mantra ever since has been “work with people you admire".
It wasn't until I joined the Mentorship Program at Redi School in Berlin that I became a mentor myself. I started there with a few mentees, some of whom became lifelong friends.
My mentoring experience continued during my engagement in a Coding Bootcamp, and when I joined the Mentoring Club during the COVID-19 pandemic. I've had so many fantastic memories since my first mentoring session.
You've become quite the advocate of mentoring on social media, why is it important to you?
I believe mentoring is crucial and critical to individual and organizational success.
At individual level, we live in a complex and fast-moving world: new technology, constant change, and a multitude of career choices make the tech space exciting, yet at the same time sometimes scary. It is impossible to keep up with all the changes on your own, mentoring can help you navigate this complex landscape more easily.
At an industry level, software is living a massive change. The new generation of software developers is highly diverse. It is in this context that I see mentoring becoming a "bridge" between the new generation of software professionals and the current leadership in the industry. I see it as a possible solution to employee retention issues, which are increasingly common in tech companies.
A mentorship program creates emotional deposits and connections inside the company. It has huge impacts on employee satisfaction, resulting in higher commitment from both leadership and employees to each other's success.
For me, mentorship is the commitment from leadership to this new and diverse workforce.
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So specifically as a software engineer, what do you think are the main benefits of mentoring?
I will be really honest: I've had a tough time in tech making my way up as a software engineer – and I have a background in Engineering and a few years of experience already!
Tech is a fast paced industry, making software development a rewarding but complex job. In all difficult situations I told myself, hey as I gain more experience, I will make sure I make this industry a better place. Because I've been there and I know how hard it is.
Being a mentor gave me the chance to expand my understanding and to widen my perspective as a future leader. It taught me how to be more mindful, to listen, and to take things less for granted. Being close to a person navigating the learning curves of such a complex world is a unique experience. You soon realize that for your mentees, you are more than a mentor. You are almost a superhero.
And when you see people achieving that goal they have been working so hard for, the satisfaction you get goes beyond financial reward or success. Knowing that you have played a role in that, and that their life will be now different is incomparably rewarding.
Many people still see mentoring as only benefiting the mentee. Having been on both sides of the relationship, what do you think mentors gain besides the rewarding feeling you mentioned?
Mentoring someone is the chance to boil down all the passion and knowledge you have for what you have learned so far. And then share that with someone who is seeing it for the first time. You don't get that opportunity many times in your life.
I would go even further and say that as an executive, your most important job is doing exactly that. It is inspiring and helps prepare the leaders of tomorrow. It is a memorable experience and something that I feel lucky to have experienced early in my life.
Summing up, two things make mentoring special as a mentor: One is the opportunity to develop empathy, active listening and a bit of humility. The other is introducing someone to your area of expertise for the first time and transmitting the passion that gets you up every morning to future generations.
What do you see as the main challenges surrounding mentoring in industry?
I am quite optimistic, yet I still see a lot of work to do. Most mentoring initiatives I’m a part of started in a non-profit environment. I am confident we will see this kind of development gain traction inside companies as well.
I also believe that the connection between mentorship programs and financial metrics that corporate managers are pushed to care about is still not so clear to many. I do consider myself lucky to work for a company such as Mister Spex, which believes strongly in the power of mentorship.
Mentorship will happen, whether we want to pioneer that change or just witness it is up to us. I see a huge opportunity there for companies to show they are able to innovate and make these programs a reality faster!
So what do you think organisations can be doing to make mentoring more commonplace?
Mentorship is already happening across most organizations. It happens in the shape of informal relationships between executives and other employees. It happens across hierarchies, across teams, and across departments.
What companies can do as a first step is to make these informal relationships official and to enable them in a proactive way. To track results, to create awareness of such initiatives across the company and to incorporate them to their processes. I am certain most professionals want to see this happening. It is a win-win.
It is in this process that companies like Guider can play a major role in helping to manage this process and use technology to make it smooth. You are doing a fantastic job in that area, keep it up!
Interested in mentoring and don't know where to start?