Tomorrow “Learn IT, Girl” will finally start its second edition. After months of hard volunteering work, we are both moved and excited about this achievement. More than 150 pairs of mentors and mentees will start a wonderful journey into coding and creating. And for some, this may be their first mentoring experience. We want to let you know you are not alone. In November 2014, when the first edition of “Learn IT, Girl” started, a group of mentors started a similar journey being as excited as you are now. Here are some of their experiences, along with others from Google Code-In or Google Summer of Code. We hope their advice guides you and inspires you through the journey you will start tomorrow.
Katerina Trajchevska is a Software Engineer and web-enthusiast who co-founded Adeva IT. She was a PHP mentor during the first edition of “Learn IT, Girl”.
Have to say, mentoring someone online can be quite a challenge. You can’t use the common techniques and have to find alternative and creative ways to explain something. There was some drawing, code snapshots and lots of draining skype sessions. But, it was fun! Trying to get the best out of someone, and the best out of yourself actually, when you face different limitations can really boost your creativeness. And there’s that feeling of pride and satisfaction when everything ends and you know you helped a young girl find her place out there. I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than knowing you made a difference in someone’s life.
You can read her entire experience here.
Pramiti Goel is a Software Engineer and tech-enthusiast from India interested in algorithms, data structures and machine learning. She was an Android mentor during the first edition of “Learn IT, Girl”.
My experience last year was stimulating. I initially got to know she wanted to revise java before jumping into any framework, so in my first week I gave few coding quests to get her hands on java. In the following 3 months, I learnt a lot about mentoring. If she finds her task difficult, split it into smaller doable tasks. If she is a beginner, be patient, as she will take time to figure out things. If she loses hope, give her some assignments and keep praising for her good work, which will boost her confidence in that language. Keep talking to your mentee if she hesitates to tell you where she is going wrong
Alma Castillo Antolin is a final year master student focusing on user interfaces and mobile development. She was a Java mentor during the first edition of “Learn IT, Girl”. She has also been an Android mentor at Google Summer of Code.
My advice is: tasks should be short, as there will always be things to improve, especially in the beginning. Addressing these as soon as possible will avoid making the mentee feel frustrated when having to rework on something big. Setting a deadline is a great way to tell your mentees what you exactly expect from them, so they can easily assess if they are meeting it. Regular meetings will help review the current state of things and create an open environment for all sorts of seemingly stupid questions, making everything run much more smoothly. It is also great to open some informal communication channel to reply to quick questions and unblock mentees.
Video meetings are essential. The amount of information that can be transmitted in an email is not even close to what can be said during a video meeting. They are the greatest tool to explain things clearly and quickly and they are also the best way to get to know each other better and trust each other more, making communication much more fluid.
You can read her entire advice here.
Tapasweni Pathak is a Software Developer at SAP Labs in India. She is involved in Open Source and writes on her blog and Quora. She has been a Django mentor for Google Summer of Code and Google Code-In.
My tips are: be nice, be respectful, be patient. Encourage questions. Be responsive. Get to know your mentee. Help them in the way they need to. Plan things early. Help them to stick with it.
Being a mentor, I learnt managing different things at the same time. My personality improved. I didn’t realise I could lose my patience easily until I was tested. I learnt how important it is to be polite with your mentee when they are asking questions. Helping someone learn something easily made me happy. When teaching my mentees, I refreshed my concepts and that also helped me understand them better.
Dinu Kumarasiri is a Software Engineer from Sri Lanka. She writes on her blog. She was a mentee during the first edition of “Learn IT, Girl” and has been an Android mentor for Google Summer of Code and Google Code-In.
There is no more satisfaction than your mentee figuring out a concept with your help, which she/he didn’t understood earlier. Mentoring is not doing your mentee’s work. It is to show the mentee how to do a certain thing. If your mentee didn’t understood anything or faced some trouble, first teach him/her how to Google. If the issue is still there find out some great articles/videos yourself and send them to your mentee. If the problem is not still solved, then tell in your own words how to do it. You can chat or video call for better results.
Different people will have different learning methods. You have to understand what suits your mentee and suggest learning material according to it. Always expect the unexpected. Something very easy to you may be very difficult for your mentee. Have patience and spend some time on the topic until your mentee gets that. If you do not know what your mentee is asking, be truthful about it. Then you can both look for a solution. When you review your mentee’s work be objective. Give your feedback with positive and negative points. Always give her/him chance to improve.
Jigyasa Grover is an Open source crusader, feminist by heart. She is the Director of Women Who Code Delhi and she is pursuing a Bachelor in Computer Science and Engineering at Delhi Technological University. She has been a SmallTalk mentor for Google Code-In.
My past experience tells me that mentoring is a rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. One gains a new perspective of thinking and gets to advance technical skills by learning together with the mentee. I never knew my answers and feedback to simple questions could be the cause of someone’s high spirits.
The journey in this field will urge one to shed all the inhibitions, keep pride aside and dive into this worthy mission of building a powerful community. I am also of the view that by being a mentor to a newbie, we pay our regards to the computing sphere and its fraternity. Helping the mentee have a smooth transition into the tech world helps make long-lasting associations and ensure a better future.