Cursor Text

Ultimate Guide on How to Start a Mentorship Program at Work

March 29, 2023


min read

Valentine Steph

Ultimate Guide on How to Start a Mentorship Program at Work

A step-by-step guide on how to implement a mentorship program for a tech team, and how to hack mentoring with AI.

In the dynamic and ever-changing tech industry, knowledge becomes outdated very fast. With new programming languages and technologies appearing every day, there is no other option but to stay up-to-date with trends and look for ways to develop and expand your team’s skillset. Leading companies invest huge amounts of resources in talent development, as they understand that this is one of the main factors for the successful development of their business.

One of the best and most effective strategies to grow the skills of a tech team is implementing a mentorship program, which allows managers to develop their employees inside the team.

In this blog post, you will get a step-by-step framework to start a mentorship program for your engineering team and learn how to hack mentoring of developers with Ace AI.

What is mentorship?

Mentorship is a relationship between two people, in which a person with more experience, knowledge, and connections (a mentor) can transfer what they have learned to a less experienced specialist (a mentee) in a particular field.

The activities of a mentor are aimed at maximizing the personal and professional potential of the mentee. However, it is important to note that mentoring is not focused on a person's problems, but is aimed at developing and teaching, so that a junior specialist can solve their problems and face challenges on their own.

Ideal mentoring is a two-way road, where both the mentor and the mentee benefit. Although at first glance, it seems that the mentee gets the main benefit — this is only one side of the coin. By helping a junior employee become better, the mentor not only gains the satisfaction of helping and developing someone, but also achieves success in management and takes their career to the next level.

Why is mentorship important?

According to a recent report on software development trends, the tech talent shortage continues to be a major issue for engineering managers. In fact, 86% of companies struggle to find and hire skilled tech professionals.

Moreover, retention has become a serious issue for tech companies, as 72% of IT employees were considering quitting their jobs in the next 12 months. While the #1 reason for employees to quit their jobs is lack of professional development.

To attract and retain top talent, companies are investing in the professional development and training of their engineers by implementing mentoring for their tech teams.

Tips for mentees

It's worth taking the time for software developers to find a good mentor, because it's one of the best ways to accelerate your professional growth. We will tell you more about what goals you should strive for with a mentor and how to find a suitable mentor for yourself in this section.

Why do developers need a mentor?

The skills of knowledge workers, especially software engineers, become obsolete very quickly, which is why developers need to constantly level up and learn. An experienced mentor can help you with this.

A good mentor will not only help you see growth points in your skill development, but also how to stay on top of the latest industry trends, join a community of like-minded people and build a development plan with appropriate learning activities.

How does a software developer benefit from mentorship? Let's find out:

  • Learn about best practices and tools. Your mentor can teach you advanced programming techniques. Of course, it is useful to gain general knowledge about universal tools for a developer: programming languages, frameworks, etc. But it is especially helpful to learn how to tailor your programming skills to the needs of a particular team.
  • Find a better solution to a challenging problem. If you can't cope with a difficult task, the mentor can give a broader view of the problem and suggest a different angle or faster solutions. It is important to understand that, if the mentor solves the problem for you, this is the wrong way to go about it. It is better if the mentor can competently suggest which books, courses, and other resources can be studied on this topic. This will help you deal with difficult tasks on your own in the future.
  • Identify areas of growth. The mentor can honestly point out areas where you need to work on improving. It is absolutely normal that we do not notice our weaknesses, because it is human nature to avoid difficult tasks. And working on your weaknesses is one of the most difficult tasks that can stand in the way of achieving high results in your career.
  • Career development advice. A mentor can help you find the area of ​​development that suits you best and that you like. Help from a senior colleague will make your career path easier and help you avoid mistakes. Perhaps thanks to the timely advice of a mentor, you can create a career path and achieve your goals more quickly.
  • Support during remote work. How can you gain a rewarding experience when you work alone? A mentor will come to the rescue, immerse you in the culture of the company and help you build friendships with colleagues, from whom you can gain experience and with whom you will create successful projects. Remote work will not take you away from reality, if there is a specialist next to you, who is interested in integrating you into the development team.

How to find a mentor

Finding the right mentor is not an easy task. Firstly, he or she must be qualified in the area in which you want to develop; and secondly, you must have a match and the desire to trust your mentor.

Here are the ways you can find a mentor:

Mentorship programs at the workplace

Often, employers organize mentoring programs, where more experienced developers train and mentor junior employees. It is a very good indicator if the company has such programs. This means that the company cares about the development of its employees. Developers should use this opportunity, if the company involves them in such an onboarding process.

Professional communities

There are many professional communities, in which developers share knowledge, experience, and information. You can become a member of such a community, take an active part there, follow the specialists you are interested in and ask them for help. Many experienced developers, CTOs, or engineering managers are happy to share their experience and provide advice.

Mentorship platforms

There are also specialized resources, where mentors and mentees can meet. You can find a list of such databases in our blog post.

The easiest way to find the right mentor (and most effective!) within your team or on other platforms is to use Ace AI. It analyzes the working activity of developers in Git, catches the skill gaps, and gives a recommendation on the most suitable mentor.

See how Ace AI personalized recommendations work in practice:

Personalized recommendations on mentors in Ace AI
Personalized recommendations on mentors in Ace AI

Tips for mentors

In this section, we will talk about why it is useful to become a mentor and give tips for mentoring.

What are the benefits of becoming a mentor?

Ideal mentoring is a win-win story, where each side benefits from the interaction. Mentors also get benefits from conducting sessions with young professionals. This is new knowledge, and a new impetus in a career, and an opportunity to influence the future.

Let's take a closer look. These are the benefits that mentors can get when they start working with mentees:

  • Next step in their career. Often, developers who have taken a senior position or become team leads do not see a further career path for themselves. Becoming a mentor is one of the roads a developer can grow into. Mentoring can be perceived as the highest career point, because a person grows from a specialist into an expert and influencer in their field.
  • Opportunity to make a contribution to the community. With their expertise, a mentor can influence the future of a field of activity that they are passionate about. It is an honor for every developer who truly loves what they do to oversee the transfer of best practices to future generations and to make sure the industry develops.
  • New knowledge from young professionals. Although beginners do not have much experience in development, they have a lot of ideas and think broadly, while their everyday life is not busy with routine tasks. Plus, the mentor develops as a manager, planning and controlling tasks for a young specialist.

How to become a great mentor

To become a good mentor, you need to adhere to a certain ideology and order of actions in your work. Let's share a few behaviors, which mostly speak for themselves.

Mentor tips

Tip #1: The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way. Be ready to learn from your mentee.

Tip #2: Listen. Put the focus on the other person, his/her needs and difficulties.

Tip #3: Guide, don’t control. Mentees must make their own decisions, so direct and support, rather than dictating to them.

Tip #4: Give specific, actionable advice. Don’t be vague.

Tip #5: Be authentic; practice what you preach. Ask questions that encourage, inspire, and stimulate.

Tip #6: Be direct and tell the truth, however hard. Your mentee expects you to be objective and constructive.

Steps to start mentorship program

Being a mentor is an essential part of the role of an engineering manager. As an engineering manager, it is crucial to provide guidance and support to your software engineers as they develop professionally and improve their skills. To do this effectively, engineering managers need to have a framework on how to build a mentorship program for their engineers.

Step-by-step guide on how to start a mentorship program

Step #1. Identify career path level

Step #2. Create PDP

Step #3. Monitor progress

As a bonus, we’ll explain to you how an engineering manager can implement AI at each step and hack the mentoring process.

Let’s dive into each step.

Step #1. Identify career path level

The first step is to assess an employee’s skills, find potential skill gaps, and identify the career path level (or a grade) of each developer. To do this, you should hold a skills review for the whole team and then analyze the review report.

To identify career path levels easily and fast, we recommend using AI tools that can do it for you.

Ace AI uses Git data to define the career path level of a software engineer. See how it works in practice:

Ace AI identifies career level based on Git data
Ace AI identifies career level based on Git data

Step #2. Create PDP

After a manager identified skill gaps and the grade of developers, a professional development plan (or PDP) should be created.

A good professional development plan should contain learning activities and working tasks to develop focus skills.

To save time on the search for personalized learning activities for each developer, you can use Ace AI which gives personalized recommendations on mentors and learning activities such as courses, books, etc. based on their skill gaps.

See how Ace AI recommendations work in practice:

Personalized recommendations in Ace AI
Personalized recommendations in Ace AI

Step #3. Monitor progress

In order to make the process of professional development effective and implement continuous learning in your tech team’s workflow, an engineering manager should hold regular 1-on-1 meetings with team members to track the progress and adjust their growth plans if necessary, as well as provide feedback on their skill development.

To help you with that, Ace AI writes automatic feedback for specific skills for you to save time.

Automatic feedback for skills in Ace AI
Automatic feedback for skills in Ace AI

Also, Ace AI builds automatic agenda for your 1-on-1 meeting to discuss growth plan progress based on developer updates from Git and growth plan initiatives.

Automatic agenda for 1-on-1 meeting in Ace AI
Automatic agenda for 1-on-1 meeting in Ace AI

This is how you can build a mentorship program for your engineering team and automate this process with the help of AI.

BONUS! Popular mentorship platforms for tech team

Read: 13 Popular Mentorship Platforms For Software Developers, Product Managers, Product Designers

Key ideas

  • In the tech industry, knowledge becomes outdated very fast, and staying up-to-date with trends is essential for business success.
  • Implementing a mentorship program is an effective way to grow the skills of a tech team, as well as attract and retain top talent.
  • To start a mentorship program, engineering managers should follow a step-by-step framework: identify career path levels, create a professional development plan, and monitor progress regularly.
  • AI tools like Ace AI can help automate the mentorship process, assess employee skills, identify skill gaps, provide personalized learning recommendations, and give automatic feedback for specific skills.
Well done, check your email
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Join 5000+ engineering managers