woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

The importance of mentoring: Lifting up junior developers

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Article by Pauliina Paynter, Software Developer at Reaktor

It’s no secret software development is fast becoming one of the most attractive and lucrative career paths in modern industry right now.

Having the chance to be creative and make a valuable impact to a business is a huge draw – but in recent times there’s a paradox surfacing which needs to be addressed.

The tech industry’s biggest catch 22 is that all companies are in desperate need of skilled and experienced developers to help them bring their products and vision to life, but they aren’t willing to train people from scratch. With the mighty corporate giants able to tempt engineers away with big rewards and salaries, the brain drain and subsequent skills gap is large. That being said – those firms in need of skills will still shy away from raw talent in the form of juniors in their recruitment search. This isn’t a wise move; we can’t forget that every developer has to start somewhere, and training them from the ground up through mentoring can bridge the skills gap over time. The key is to look for someone possessing core skills and character attributes which can signal someone has the right personality to potentially succeed at the job.

I started my career as a software developer five years ago, following a successful stint as a communications consultant. It was working with a tech company that piqued my interest in this field, and led me to attend the Australian bootcamp, General Assembly, to kickstart my new career.

Whichever way you choose to start your journey in software engineering, there are many different routes to train up. What’s key, however, is the need for mentoring so that all team members – juniors and seniors alike – can grow and thrive in the industry.

Why mentoring shouldn’t be overlooked

Mentoring is an incredibly important part of anyone’s professional career, yet it can be so easily overlooked. Having only been in this industry for 5 years, I can distinctly remember the panic at the beginning of my first job and working with senior developers helped quash my imposter syndrome. Of course, many people experience this and for me it’s important to remember how hard it is in the beginning and reach out to offer that support to those who are starting out too.

Having mentors gives junior employees a confidence boost. It creates environments that allow for free conversations and open communication – and ultimately, psychological safety so that everyone can voice their opinions freely, without fear of being judged. Starting a career in coding is a huge wake-up call, in terms of your confidence and resilience. You are constantly being knocked down and pushed back to the starting square. You’re not going to get the code right every single time, there will be bugs, and it will break. But having someone there to help you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and continue on helps tremendously. You need to be resilient as a coder, and mentoring provides that support.

How senior developers can lift up juniors

Having mentors-mentees benefits both parties greatly, especially when it comes to boosting less experienced members of the team and providing that extra layer of counsel. For junior employees, working with a more senior developer opens up many new doors. They instantly have an expert in the field showing them what they can improve upon, new ways of problem solving and different ways of thinking. It’s a wealth of knowledge right at their side, able to give fresh insights and advice whenever it’s needed.

By stretching junior developers with more difficult projects, paired with expert guidance from their senior peers, they will learn as much as possible in the shortest space of time and continue to grow. And the benefits are twofold – not only are the less experienced developers growing, but the mentor team learn how to explain complex topics in a simple, easy to digest way as well as having an extra pair of eyes to check work and create smoother processes.

I’m incredibly lucky to have had amazing mentors throughout my career so far and I wouldn’t be here without them. Companies need to continue to invest in providing mentorship programmes across teams so that developers continue to be inspired, challenged and nurtured. It’s important to invest in potential and put in place the right structures to allow our junior team mates to thrive in this exciting, fast-paced world of software development.

Pauliina PaynterAbout the author

Pauliina Paynter is a software developer at Reaktor and also a former communications professional. Her mission is to share her enthusiasm about coding and to encourage everyone to dive in to the world of programming despite their background or field.