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Mayden Tech Breakfast: Mentoring New and Upcoming Developers

As part of Bath Digital Festival last week, Mayden’s Mike Oram, software developer and Academy trainer gave a Tech Breakfast talk over coffee and pastries, and shared his advice on mentoring upcoming developers.
Mike opened by describing how Mayden has responded to the high demand for skilled developers by establishing Mayden Academy – a 6 month training programme offering aspiring software engineers the chance to learn the fundamentals of coding, software design and project management alongside experienced mentors and on commercial projects.
Over the past six months, Mike has been training and mentoring six Academy trainees. In his talk, he shared his ten top tips from the experience.

  1. Help trainees to teach themselves Rather than directly helping them, point trainees to resources, or share practical examples that could help them.
  2. Questions not answers It’s tempting to respond to a question with an answer, but infinitely more valuable to ask leading questions helping them find their own answer.
  3. Osmosis New and less experienced developers will pick up a great deal about projects and ways of working by sitting in on sprint meetings.
  4. Be honest Better to admit that you don’t have all the answers and instead share your ideas about how you might try approaching a challenge.
  5. Take a break However engaged or enthusiastic your trainee, they need time to absorb and reflect on what they’re learning.
  6. Rubber ducking This one isn’t about taking a bath! Mike shared a technique many coders use when they are stuck with a programming bug.
  7. Let them drive It’s tempting to demonstrate to your trainee when pair programming, but it is the perfect opportunity for them to learn under your guidance.
  8. Make it relatable Sometimes explaining concepts using analogies from everyday life will help a new developer to make links and get clear on new technical concepts.
  9. Let them teach you Fresh blood brings new perspectives and alternative approaches which can be of huge benefit to even the most experienced developer.
  10. Set goals We all need something to aim for. Setting short and long term goals, and reviewing progress with your trainee provides motivation and a chance to check in.

The session closed with a lively Q&A with the Mayden Academy trainees sharing their experiences of starting out and what has been most helpful to them. View Mike’s slides here.