Mentorship: a two sided coin header image

Mentorship is often discussed from the perspective of the mentor—how to guide, inspire, and elevate the mentee. However, there's another side to this relationship, equally significant and dynamic: the mentee’s role. At its best, mentorship is a collaborative journey where both mentor and mentee grow together.

Technical Lead, Stian Le Roux, and Software Engineer, Taylor Penrith, respective mentor and mentee, presented their thoughts on the nature and dynamic of mentorship at DevDay – Entelect’s biannual internal conference.The below article is inspired by their talk.

Mentorship is not a one-way street. It’s a partnership where the mentee’s role is active and vital. Mentees must steer the direction of their learning, taking charge of their development while pushing themselves and their mentors for guidance.

Mentor Archetypes to Admire

There are various mentor archetypes, each playing a unique role in the mentee's growth:

  • Yoda the Advisor: This mentor shares wisdom from personal experiences, acting as a relatable soundboard.
  • Morpheus as Developer: Here, mentors encourage mentees to solve problems independently, guiding them through struggles.
  • Lorelai the Protector: This role ensures a safe learning environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities.
  • Tony Stark the Broker: This mentor helps navigate professional networks, opening doors to new opportunities.
  • Harvey the Challenger: Acting as a devil’s advocate, this mentor pushes the mentee to find solutions instead of focusing on problems.
  • Grandmaster Oogway the Affirmer: Providing empathetic listening, this mentor helps mentees articulate their challenges and thoughts.

These archetypes emphasise the importance of adapting mentorship styles to suit the mentee’s unique needs.

The Casting Call: Finding the Right Mentor or Mentee

Finding a mentor or mentee can be as challenging as it is rewarding. The key is visibility and engagement. Whether you're starting a new project or attending a workshop, make yourself known. Show eagerness to learn, ask questions, and actively participate. Sometimes, the best way to find a mentor is simply to ask—most people are willing to help if you show genuine interest.

Similarly, finding a mentee can happen organically. Look for individuals with whom you share common interests or career goals. Sometimes, identifying a gap in someone's knowledge or skills can spark a mentorship relationship. Entelect’s one-on-one system is an excellent built-in mechanism for fostering these connections.

“A good tip I can give you as a mentor is to make sure to set the scene upfront. Discuss expectations on both sides and make it clear that you might point out growth areas,” said Stian. “This fosters a safe space that will allow for difficult or slightly uncomfortable conversations at a later point in time.”

The Journey Together

Once you find your mentor or mentee, the journey begins. For mentees, taking initiative is crucial. Communicate your interests, fears, and goals openly with your mentor.

"As someone in the very early years of their career, delegation can be intimidating. I didn't know how to approach it, so I went to Stian for advice. He not only responded with resources and support, but gave me a real-world opportunity to practice, helping me to move past my discomfort with delegation."

From the mentor's perspective, authenticity and understanding the mentee’s personality are key. Knowing their strengths, weaknesses, and preferred learning styles allows for a more personalised and effective mentorship experience.

“Show genuine authenticity towards your mentee - don’t be fake,” added Stian. “When a mentee comes for help on a certain topic like delegation, use the different roles we outlined and see how you can help in a way that will foster growth.”

Practical Tips: The 3 C’s (or 2 C’s and a G)

Practical tips for effective mentorship:

  • Connection: Understand your personality and that of your mentee. Use tools like 16 personalities or personal maps to find common interests and build genuine connections. Balance your energy levels to ensure productive and engaging sessions.
  • Collaboration: Create a space to track your collaborative efforts. Focus on growth areas, skill trees, and personal maps to foster accountability and reflection.
  • Goals: As a mentee, respect your mentor’s time by setting clear goals for each session. This helps maintain focus and ensures productive discussions.

“Before each session with Stian, I’ll set some concrete goals related to a few of my focus areas,” added Taylor. “This allows us to focus our discussions and learnings on things that I’m actively working on and interested in and ensures that we don’t just rock up to session, chat for a while and then go home. It also increases accountability – am I putting in the work to grow and improve, working on my blind spots and implementing what I’ve learned?”

Trust and Feedback

Trust is the cornerstone of mentorship. Creating a safe space for honest feedback and open communication is essential. Mentees must actively seek feedback and implement it, while mentors should be open about their mentees’ blind spots and provide constructive guidance.

“When I did my very first client demo, I was pretty nervous,” added Taylor. “The demo went well, but I was rookie. Right when it had ended, I got a message from Stian. It was supportive – but there was a ‘but.’ He told me to go and watch the recording and see how many times I had said ‘um’ or used a filler word. It was a lot. The next time we had a client demo, I had these words in my mind. I did vocal exercises before we started and dove in, full of focus. I watched the recording afterwards and I was down from five ‘ums’ a minute to one. Without Stian’s feedback, I wouldn’t have known about that blind spot.”

“Linking this back to the upfront discussion a mentor should have with their mentee about expectations around honest feedback. You should be open to sharing blind spots that your mentee may have, whether it be technical or soft skill-related,” added Stian. “Blind spots are one of the most important things to discuss and guide your mentee through. Of course, this must be done tactfully, and is only effective once you’ve built trust and a safe space.”

Beyond the Checkboxes

Mentorship is not a mere checkbox on a to-do list but a meaningful journey. Stay connected even when life events intervene, showing genuine care and celebrating milestones together. Strive to be the mentor or mentee you never had, and always aim to be better.

In conclusion

In conclusion, mentorship is a two-sided coin that thrives on mutual effort, trust, and respect. Both mentor and mentee play vital roles in each other’s growth, creating a dynamic and enriching experience for both parties.

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