402: Musings on Mentorship

Episode 402 · September 19th, 2023 · 37 mins 56 secs

About this Episode

Joël describes an old-school object orientation exercise that involves circling nouns in a business problem description. The purpose is determining which nouns could become entities or objects in a system. Stephanie shares she's working from the Hudson Valley in New York as a trial run for potentially relocating there. She enjoys the rail trails for biking and contrasts it with urban biking in Chicago.

The conversation between Joël and Stephanie revolves around mentorship, both one-on-one and within a group setting. They introduce a new initiative at thoughbot where team members pair up with principal developers for weekly sessions, emphasizing sharing perspectives and experiences.


STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Stephanie Minn.

JOËL: And I'm Joël Quenneville. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way.

STEPHANIE: So, Joël, what's new in your world?

JOËL: I was recently having a conversation with a colleague about some old-school object orientation exercises that people used to do when trying to do more of the analysis phase of software, ones that I haven't seen come up a lot in the past; you know, 5, 10 years.

The particular one that I'm thinking about is an exercise where you write out the sort of business problem, and then you go through and you circle all of the nouns in that paragraph. And then, from there, you have a conversation around which one of these are kind of the same thing and are just synonyms? Which ones might be slight variations on an idea? And which ones should become entities in your system? Because, likely, these things are then going to be objects in the system that you're creating.

STEPHANIE: Wow, that sounds really cool. I'm surprised that it's considered old school or, I guess, I haven't heard of it before. So, it's not something in my toolbox these days. But I really like that idea. I guess, you know if you're doing it on pen and paper, it's obviously kind of timeless to me.

JOËL: And you could easily do it, you know, in a Google Doc and underline, or highlight, or whatever you want to do. But it's not an exercise that I see people really doing even at the larger scale but even at, the smaller scale, where you have maybe a ticket in your ticketing system, and it has a paragraph there kind of describing what needs to be done. We tend to just kind of jump into, oh, we're going to build a story and do the work and maybe not always think about what are the entities that need to happen out of that.

STEPHANIE: I think the other thing that I really like about this idea is the aligning on shared vocabulary. So, if you find yourself using different words for the same idea, is that an opportunity to pick the vocabulary that best represents what this means? Rather than a situation that I often find myself in, where we're all talking about the same things but using different words and sometimes causing a little bit more confusion than I think is necessary.

JOËL: Definitely. It can also be a good opportunity to connect with the product or businesspeople around; hey, here are two words that sound like they're probably meaning the same thing. Is there a distinction in your business? And then, you realize, wait a minute, a shopping cart and an order actually do have some slight differences. And now you can go into those. And that probably sparks some really valuable learning about the problem that you're trying to solve that might not come up otherwise, or maybe that only comes up at code review time, or maybe even during the QA phase rather than during the analysis phase.

STEPHANIE: Yeah. I think that's really important for us as developers because, as we know, naming is often the hardest part of writing code, right? And, you know, at that point, you are making that decision or that distinction between maybe a couple of different terms that you're using to describe an idea and putting that down then will continue on to be read. And just propagating that down the line of, is this name actually what we mean? Or maybe we are using words that, at this lower level, make more sense, but when interacting or communicating with business stakeholders or product folks, they are using a different term.

And I really like the idea of that activity being a cross-functional one where you can kind of agree on how to move forward there. Because lately, I've been finding myself oftentimes using both words where the product folks are describing it this way, and then we've, on the engineering side, have decided that, okay, we're actually going to call our database table this other thing, and now having to type out both [chuckles] meanings each time because I know that my audience is in both camps.

JOËL: Yeah. There's, I think, a lot of value in using the business terms where possible. If you don't use them, there has to be a good reason. There's a slight distinction for the technical term. We're using it to say, hey, it's different from the business idea in interesting ways that only matter to the dev team.

STEPHANIE: Is there a name for this activity?

JOËL: I don't know, just circling nouns or underlining nouns.

STEPHANIE: Cool. Maybe we can come up with something. [laughs] Or someone else can tell us if they know what this kind of exercise is called.

JOËL: Gotta name the naming activity. So, how about you, Stephanie, what's new in your world?

STEPHANIE: So, I have a pretty exciting life development to share. I am currently working from a different location than my home in Chicago. I'm in the Hudson Valley in New York for the next month because my partner and I are considering moving out here. And we are just kind of looking for a different pace of life a little bit. And we are taking this month as a trial run to see if we want to, you know, be out here permanently. And I've been having a great time so far.

One thing that I've really enjoyed is all of the rail trails out here. So, a lot of old railroad tracks have been repurposed for outdoor recreation, and they are great for biking, or running, or even just walking. And I've been able to hop on my bike, you know, and bike a few minutes, and then I'm on the trail and just kind of surrounded by trees and forests. And that's been really nice because I missed having access to nature kind of, like, right outside my door.

JOËL: So, you used to do quite a bit of urban biking in Chicago. But it sounds like now you're getting a chance to do more kind of nature biking.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, it's a big difference for me because urban biking was always pretty rough or a little scary just, you know, having to bike with traffic. And I got a lot better at it. But now I'm, you know, biking completely off the roads. And I don't have to worry too much about cars. And I can, you know, just enjoy the fresh air around me and just be a lot more relaxed, I think, than I was able to when I was commuting in the city.

JOËL: So, here's the real question. At this new location that you're staying at, do you have a bike shed?

STEPHANIE: Not yet. But we now could have a bike shed because there's a lot more space out here, too. So, I could theoretically have my bike shed in my nice, big yard right next to my garden. And these are all [laughs] the hopes and dreams I have for my future life.

JOËL: Before you build the bike shed, you can have six months of discussion about what color you want to paint it.

STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's why I have this podcast, actually. [laughter] So, look out for that in what's new in my world is considering paint colors for a theoretical future bike shed in a place where I yet don't live.

JOËL: You're going to become an expert in the Pantone color palettes.

STEPHANIE: I hope so. That would be a great addition to my title. So, another thing that's new in both of our shared worlds is a new initiative on Boost, the team we're on, that you have been involved in. It's pairing sessions with the principal developer.

JOËL: Yes. So myself and, another principal developer at thoughtbot have been doing weekly pairing sessions, where we take Tuesday afternoons and pair with one of the other members of the team on their client project doing whatever. So, it's not, a, like, pull someone in when you need help or anything that's more kind of targeted in that way. It's more of a you sign up for this ahead of time. And you just know that on this week, you get someone to pair with you who can hopefully bring in a different perspective a lot of experience, and pair with you on your particular project.

STEPHANIE: Yeah. I'm so excited about this initiative because I've not been staffed on a project with you before or the other principal developer who's involved. And I have really wanted to work with you all and be able to learn from you. And I think this is a really cool way to make that expertise more accessible if you just don't happen to be working on a project together.

JOËL: Yeah. One of the challenges I think of the principal role is that we want it to be a role that has a high impact on the team as a whole. But also, we are people who can be staffed on pretty much any client project that gets thrown at us and can easily be staffed on projects that require solo work. Whereas there are some teammates who I think it's the developer position that we guarantee they're never staffed solo.

And so, that can often mean that our principals get staffed on to the really technically challenging problems or the solo problems, but then there's maybe not as much room to have interactions with the rest of the team on a day-to-day basis.

STEPHANIE: Yeah. I think the key word you said that had me nodding my head was impact. And I'm curious what your hopes are for this effort and what kind of impact you want to be having for our team.

JOËL: I think it's impact on a few different levels, definitely some form of knowledge sharing. Myself and the other principal developer have decade plus experience each in the field, have deep knowledge in a lot of different things like test-driven development, object modeling, security, things like that that build on top of kind of more basic developer skills that we all have. And those are all, I think, great ways that we can support our team if there's any interest in those particular skills or if they come up on a particular project.

And knowledge sharing works both ways, right? I think anytime you're pairing with someone else, there's an opportunity to learn on both sides. And so, I think a really important thing when you're pairing with someone, even if you're kind of maybe more explicitly the mentor figure, is to kind of keep that open mind and look for not only what can I give, how can I teach, but what can I learn from this other person?

STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. I guess I'm wondering...and I know this is a pretty new programming so far, but is there anything you've learned or anything that surprised you that you weren't expecting when you, you know, first conceived of the idea based on how it's been going?

JOËL: Something that really surprised me, there's some feedback I got after one of the pairing sessions, where this colleague who we'd paired together...and I felt like I hadn't contributed a ton, like, this colleague just really had it and was just kind of going through and doing things. So, I was kind of, like, leaving that pairing session being like, oh, I don't know if I added a ton of value here.

And then, this colleague reached out to me and said, "Oh, you know, I felt, like, this huge boost of confidence because we were pairing together, and you were just kind of nodding along and basically saying yes to all of my choices." And I hadn't really considered that that can be a really valuable aspect of this sort of pairing. Sometimes you know the right thing to do, like, you've got it. But it's really easy to second-guess yourself. And just having someone along to, you know, give you that thumbs of like, yeah, this is the thing to do, can give you that confidence boost and kind of keep you moving in a way that feels really positive.

STEPHANIE: Wow. I love that. That's really powerful, and I get that. Because, you know, obviously, it's very valuable to have your colleagues help generate different ideas that you might not have considered. But that validation can be really useful. And, you know, that's just not something you get when with a rubber duck. [laughs] The rubber duck can't respond, and [laughs] nod along.

So, I think that's really cool that you were able to provide some of that confidence. And, in fact, I think that is contributing to their growth, right? In terms of helping identify, you know, those aspects that they're already really strong at, as well as developing that relationship so they know you're available to them next time if they do need someone to either do that invalidating or validating of an idea.

JOËL: Yeah, there's a lot of power, I think, in kind of calling out people's strength and providing validation in a way that can really help someone get to the next level in their career. And it feels like such a simple thing. But yeah, sometimes you can have the biggest impact not by kind of going in and helping but just kind of maybe, like, standing back a little bit and giving someone a thumbs up. So, definitely one of the biggest surprises or, I think, one of the biggest lessons learned for me in the past few weeks of doing this.

STEPHANIE: That's very cool.

JOËL: So, Stephanie, you've also been doing some pairing or some mentoring from what I hear.

STEPHANIE: Yeah. So, on my current client work, I have been pairing with a new hire on my client team who recently graduated from college. And this is his first job in software development. And I have been thinking and learning a lot through this experience because one of my goals was to get better at coaching, specifically the idea of asking guiding questions to help someone, you know, arrive at their own solution instead of, you know, making the suggestions myself or kind of dictating where to go.

And this has kind of been a progression for me of kind of starting from, well, you know, I have the way that I want to do it. And the person I'm working with who maybe has less experience, like, they might not know where to go. So, we're just going to go along with my idea. And then the next step was offering a few different ideas, like a menu of options and kind of having that discussion about which way to go.

And now, I really wanting to practice letting someone else lead entirely and helping them start thinking about the right things but ultimately not giving them the answer. But hopefully, like, the questions I've been asking means that they are able to get to a well-informed answer where they've thought through some of the things that I would think about if I were in the position of making the decision or figuring out how to implement.

JOËL: Is this mostly asking questions to get them to think about edge cases, or is this, like, a Socratic approach to teaching?

STEPHANIE: Could you describe Socratic approach for me?

JOËL: So, the Socratic approach is a teaching approach that is question-based, where you kind of help the student come to the conclusions themselves by answering questions rather than by telling them the answer.

STEPHANIE: Oh, interesting. I think a little bit of both. Where it's true, I am able to see some edge cases that folks with less experience might not consider because they just haven't had to run into them before or fight the fires when [laughs] their code in production ends up being a big issue or causes a bug.

But I think that's just part of the work where there is kind of, like, a default dynamic that might be fallen into when two people are working together, and their experience levels differ, where the person who has less experience is wanting to lean on the more senior person to tell them where to go, or to expect to be in that position of just learning from them and not necessarily doing as much of the active thinking. But I was really interested in flipping that and doing a bit of a role reversal because I think it can be really impactful and, you know, help folks earlier in their career, like, really level up even more quickly than just watching, but actually doing.

And so, the questions I've been asking have been a lot more open-ended in terms of, like, asking, "What do you think about this code that we're looking at?" Or, like, "Where do you want to go next?" And based on, you know, their answers, digging in a little more, and, at the end, maybe, like, giving that validation that we were talking about earlier. I was like, "Great. Like, I think that's a great path forward," or, "I think that's a good idea to spend our time on right now."

But the open-ended questions, I think, are also ones that I also would have liked when I was in that position of learning, where having someone trust that I could draw on my past experience but, like, also knowing that they were there to support and maybe orient me if I ended up straying too far off the path.

JOËL: How have you navigated situations where maybe you're asking a question about "What do you want to do next?" and they pick something that maybe would work but is not your sort of preferred approach, or maybe something that seems like it would work well enough but, you know, there's maybe a better approach? How do you navigate that? Do you let them take their approach and maybe kind of let them run into some of the edge cases and problems and then say, "Hey, let me show you something new"? Do you probe a little bit earlier? Or do you say, "Hey, that's good, but why don't we try my way"? How do you navigate that kind of situation?

STEPHANIE: That is so hard. It's really challenging. Because if you kind of know that there's maybe a more effective way, or a cleaner way, or whatever, and you're seeing your pair or your mentee kind of go down a different path, you know, it's so easy to just kind of jump in and be like, "Oh, actually, like, let me save you some time, and effort, and pain and just kind of tell you that there's something else we could try."

But I think I've been trying to sit on my hands a little bit and let them go down that path or at least let them finish explaining kind of what their thought process is and giving them the opportunity to do that act of thinking to see it through without interrupting them because I think it's really important to, you know, just honor the process that they're going through.

I will say, though, that I also try to keep an eye on the time. And I am also, like, holding in my head a bit of a higher level, like, the project status, any deadlines, what's on our plate for the sprint. And so, if I'm seeing that maybe the path they want to go down might end up taking a while or we don't quite have enough time for that, to then come back and revisit and adjust and reiterate on, like, their first solution. Then that is usually an opportunity where I might offer them another way or say, like, "Hey, like, this is what I'm thinking," because of those things I mentioned before with deadlines or something I'm considering.

But I generally try not to impose any of that as, like, this is what we will do so much as saying, "This is what I think we should do." Because I really want to hone in on the idea that, like, everyone just has opinions [laughs] about how they want to do things. And I'm not claiming mine is the perfect way or even the best way, but just what I'm thinking in this moment.

JOËL: Yeah, time permitting, I've really appreciated scenarios where you give people a chance to do the non-optimal solution and run into edge cases that kind of show why that solution is not optimal and then backtrack out of it and then go to the optimal path. I think that's a lesson that really sticks much longer. So, I've even done that in scenarios where I'm building some training material. And I'll kind of purposely have the group go down the sort of obvious path, but that turns out to be non-optimal.

And then, you hit a wall where things don't work, and then you have to backtrack. And it's like, okay, so that's why we don't do it that way that may have seemed obvious. Because then everybody remembers as opposed to...I mean, you could just go down this other path, and somebody asks you a question, "Why don't we go down this thing?" And then, they just...maybe they have to remember it, or it becomes a thing where it's like, oh, but, like, we were told that's a bad way to do it. And now you have this sort of, like, weird, like, absolutism about, like, oh, but, you know, Joël said that was bad. So, we just got to remember that's the bad thing.

And it's not about the morality of that choice that I think can come through when you're kind of declaring a path good and a path bad, but instead, having experienced, hey, we went down this path. There were some drawbacks to it, which is why we prefer this other path. And I think that tends to stick a lot more with students.

STEPHANIE: Yeah. I really like what you said about not wanting to inject that, like, morality argument or even kind of deny them the opportunity to decide for themselves how they thought that path went or, like, how they thought the solution was. If you just tell them like, "No, don't go there," you're kind of closing the door on it. And, yeah, they might spend a lot of time afterwards thinking that, like, that will always be a bad option without really forming an opinion for themselves, which I think is really important. Because, you know, once you do get more experience, that is pretty much, like, the work [laughs] that we're doing all of the time.

But another thing that I think is also such a skill is assessing your own work, like, after you go down the path or, like, once you have something working, being able to come back to it and look at it and be like, oh, like, can this be better, right? And I think that can only happen once you have something to look at, once you have, like, a first draft, if you will, or do the less optimal implementation or naive implementation.

JOËL: So, when you're trying to prompt someone to kind of build that skill of self-review or self-reflection on some of the work that they've done, how do you as a pair or a mentor help stimulate that?

STEPHANIE: Yeah. I think with early career folks, one thing that is an easy way to start the conversation is asking, "Are there any places that could be more readable?" Because that's, I think, an aspect that often gets forgotten because they're trying to hold so much in their heads that they are really just getting the code to work. And I think readability is something that we all kind of understand. It doesn't include any jargon about design patterns that they might not have learned yet. You know, even asking about extracting or refactoring might be not where they are at yet.

And so, starting with readability, for example, often gets you some of those techniques that we've learned that have, you know, specialized vocabulary. But I have found that it helps meet them where they're at. And then, in time, when they do learn about those things, they can kind of apply what they've already been doing when kind of prompted with that question as, like, oh, it turns out that I was already kind of considering this in just a different form.

JOËL: And I think one thing that you gain with experience is that you have kind of a live compiler or interpreter of the language in your head. And so, sometimes for more complex code, I, as an experienced developer, can look at it and immediately be like, oh yeah, here's some edge cases where this code isn't going to work that someone newer to the language would not have thought of.

And so, sometimes the way I like to approach that is either ask about, "Oh, what happens in this scenario?" Or sometimes it's something along the lines of, "Hey, now that we've kind of done the main workflow, there's a couple of edge cases that I want to make sure also work. Let's write out a couple of test cases." So, I'll write a couple of unit tests for edge cases that I know will break the code.

But even when we write the unit tests, my pair might assume that these tests will pass. And so, we'll write them; we'll run them and be like, "Oh no, look at that. They're red. I wonder why." And, you know, you don't want to do it in a patronizing way. But there's a way to do that that is, I think, really helpful. And then you can talk about, okay, well, why are these things failing? And what do we need to change about the code to make sure that we correctly handle those edge cases?

STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's really great. And now, they also have learned a technique for figuring out how to move forward when they think there might be some edge cases. They're like, oh, I could write a test, and they end up [laughs] maybe learning how to do TDD along the way. But yeah, offering that strategy, I think, as a supplement to having supported them in their workflow, I think, is a really cool way to both help them learn a different strategy or tactic while also not asking them to, like, completely change the way that they do their development.

JOËL: So, we've talked about ways that we can coach and mentor in a more of a one-on-one setting. But it can also happen in more of a group setting. And an initiative that I've been involved in recently is, once a quarter, the principals on thoughtbot's Boost team are running a training session on a topic that we choose.

And we chose this month to make it really interactive. We created an exercise. We talked a little bit about it, had people break out into breakout rooms for a pretty short time—it was like 20 minutes—and come up with a solution. And then brought it back to the big group to talk through some of the solutions. All of that within 45 minutes, so it's a very kind of dense-packed thing. And I think it went really well.

STEPHANIE: Yeah. So, hearing that makes me think that the group wasn't actually going to get to a solution in necessarily that short amount of time. But I'm wondering if that was maybe intentional. Like it was never really about coming to the optimal solution but just the act of thinking about it or practicing how you would do that problem-solving without as much of a focus on the outcome.

JOËL: So, yes and no. I think, as you said, the discussion, the journey is more important than the outcome. But also, because we wanted people to have a realistic chance at coming up with some kind of solution, we specifically said, "We don't want code. Don't write a code solution to this." Instead, we suggested people come up with some kind of diagram.

So, the problem was, we have some sort of business process where you start by...you have an endpoint that needs to receive some kind of shopping cart JSON and then goes through a few different steps. You have to validate it. You have to attempt to charge their card, and then eventually, it has to be sent off to a warehouse to be fulfilled.

And so, we're asking them to diagram this while thinking a little bit about data modeling and a little bit about potential edge cases and errors. People came up with some really interesting diagrams for this because there's multiple different lenses from which you could approach that problem.

STEPHANIE: That's cool. I really like that you left it up to the groups to figure out, you know, what kind of tools they wanted to use and the how. You mentioned different lenses. So, I'm taking it that you didn't necessarily share what the steps of starting to consider the data modeling would be. Did you prompt the group in any way? How did you set them up before they broke out?

JOËL: So, we had a document that had a problem definition; part of this involved talking to a few external services, so things like attempting to charge their card. I think there was a user service they needed to do to pull some user information. And then, there's that fulfillment center that we submit to the warehouse with your completed order. And so, we had sample JSONs for all of these. Again, the goal is not for them to write any code that deals with it but more to think about: okay, we need information from this payload to plug into this one. And then, if they want to add any sort of intermediate steps, they can do that.

And I think sort of two common lenses that you could look at this is from more of an action standpoint, so to say, okay, well, first, we receive this payload, and then we make a call to this endpoint, and we try to do a thing and then success or failure, and then kind of go down this path and success or failure, and kind of keep going down that path until you finally reach that fulfillment endpoint.

So, it's almost like a control flow diagram. But you could also take more of a data-centered approach and talk about how the data evolves as it goes through this process. And so, you start with, like, a raw JSON payload. And maybe that gets parsed into a shopping cart object, which then gets turned into a temporary order, which then gets turned into a validated order, which then is combined with a credit card charge to create a fulfillment order, which can then be sent off to the warehouse. And that perspective will completely change the way you think about what the code actually needs to be when you create it.

STEPHANIE: Got it. That's cool. So, I'm curious, you know, what went into figuring out what the prompt would look like? I guess, like, where did you start? Did you already know that there would be these two different ways of thinking about or lenses to data modeling that you're, like, oh, like, maybe these groups will go down this route? Or was it, I guess, a bit of a surprise that when you came together, you found out kind of the different approaches?

JOËL: We already knew that there would be multiple approaches, and we chose not to specify which one to take. I think now this is getting into almost like curriculum design and more kind of the pedagogy side of things, which I'm, you know, excited and passionate about. I don't know, is that something that you've done at all for some of your projects or areas where you've been coaching people?

STEPHANIE: It's not been. But I actually do think it's a bit of a goal of mine to lead a workshop at some point at a conference because I really like the hands-on stuff that I get to do day-to-day, you know, working one-on-one with people. And, you know, I also am on the conference circuit. [laughs] And I was thinking that maybe workshops could be a really cool way to bring together those two things of like, well, I am enjoying that experience of working one-on-one, but it is, oftentimes, you know, just on our regular day-to-day work. And so, I would be really curious about how to develop that kind of curriculum for teaching purposes.

Do you find yourself starting with problems you see on client work and kind of stripping that down into something maybe a little more general, or do these problems kind of just come up spontaneously? [chuckles]

JOËL: So, workshop design is, I think, its own really fascinating topic, and honestly, we could probably do a whole episode on it. But the short of it is I typically work backwards from an end goal. So, just like when I'm writing a blog post, I have one big thing I want people to learn from a workshop, and then everything works backwards from there. Anything that is part of the workshop has to be building towards that big goal, that one thing I want people to learn. Otherwise, I strip it out.

So, it's an exercise in ruthlessly cutting to make sure that I'm not overwhelming people and, you know, that we can fit in the time that we have because there's always not enough time in a workshop. And people can very easily get sidetracked or overwhelmed. So, as much as possible, have everything focusing in towards one goal.

Circling back to the mentoring side of things, I'm curious what you see is maybe some of the biggest challenges as a mentor or a coach.

STEPHANIE: Well, I think, for me, it was, in some ways, like, seeing myself in that role as mentor. Like, oftentimes, that was decided for me by someone else as, like, "Oh, hey. We have a new hire, and, like, would you be their onboarding buddy?" Or, you know, a manager kind of identifying, like, oh, like, Stephanie has been in this role for, you know, a few years now. She's surely ready to mentor [laughs] new folks or people joining the team.

And that was really hard for me because I was like, well, I still have so much to learn [laughs], you know, like, how could I possibly be in that position now? You know, I am still learning from all these other people who are mentors to me.

So, one thing that took me a long time was learning that I did have things that I knew that other people didn't. And I started to think of it more as this, like, ring of overlapping circles where, you know, we all probably do share some common knowledge. But we all are also experts in different things, and everyone always has something to teach. Even if you're just, like, a few months or, like, a year ahead of someone else, that is actually a really powerful spot to cultivate peer mentorship, and where I think learning can really thrive.

There's a really great talk about this by Adam Cuppy called Mentorship in Three Acts, where he talks about that peer mentorship, where someone just knows, like, a little more than someone else. That can be really powerful and can be a good entry point for people who are interested in getting into mentorship but are kind of worried that, like, oh, they are, you know, not a senior yet.

You know, when you're at a similar experience level as who you're working with, there is a little bit less of what we were describing earlier of, like, that dynamic of knowing what to do but kind of wanting to hold back and let them discover for themselves. In that peer mentorship dynamic, you know, both people are, like, really deep in it, kind of trying things out, experimenting, learning, and that ends up being really fruitful time for both of them.

JOËL: Based on your experience, would you say that maybe that's the best place to start for someone who's looking to get into mentorship, so kind of pursue more of a peer mentorship scenario?

STEPHANIE: Yeah. I would definitely say that it has helped me a lot. I've had a lot of peer mentorship relationships in the past, where maybe there just wasn't someone on the team who could mentor me at the time. Or maybe I was wanting to collaborate a little bit more and feeling like I did have some ideas and opinions that I wanted to talk about, or share, or get some feedback on. Reaching across my level was really helpful in starting to create that space.

Yeah, I was really surprised by all the things that I was learning and all the things that the other person was learning from me that I think was a good wealth of experience for me to then bring to the next step when I found myself kind of in that position of supporting others who were more junior.

JOËL: I'd like to also shout out Exercism.io as a great place to get started with mentoring. For those who are not aware, Exercism is a platform where they have a bunch of exercises that you can go through to learn a language. And you can go through them on your own, but you can also go through them with a mentor. Somebody will basically give you a little mini code review on your exercise or maybe help you out if you're stuck. And this all happens asynchronously.

And it's volunteer-run. So, they just have people from the community who volunteer to be mentors on there to help coach people through the exercises. We'll put a link in the show notes to the page they have, kind of explaining how the mentorship works and how to sign up. But I did that for a while. And it was a really rewarding experience for me. I thought that I'd be mostly helping and teaching, but honestly, I learned so much as part of the process.

So, I would strongly recommend that to anybody who wants to maybe dip their toe a little bit in the mentoring coaching world but maybe feels like they're not quite ready for it. I think it's a great way to start.

STEPHANIE: Ooh, that sounds really cool. Yeah, I know that, especially for folks who maybe are working a little bit more independently, or are a bit isolated, or don't have a lot of people on a team that they're able to access; that sounds like a really great solution for folks who are looking for that kind of support outside of their immediate circle.

On that note, shall we wrap up?

JOËL: Let's wrap up.

STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm.

JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show.

JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter.

STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at hosts@bikeshed.fm via email.

JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week.

ALL: Byeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

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