The fastest way to level up as an aspiring developer is through 1-on-1 mentorship. There’s a reason why the largest companies like Google, Microsoft, Airbnb, and the like assign mentors to the junior developers they hire. It’s because it’s a highly effective way to learn.

The best developers seek out coding mentors who can challenge them and lift them beyond their limits. Programming isn’t the only thing you’ll learn faster and better directly from someone you respect. In almost every career track, working among more experienced people will inevitably help you level up and learn new things.

The fastest way to learn programming is through pair programming.

In the real world, pair programming– when two people work on the same code to add the same feature together– happens all the time.

Pair programming is generally split into two separate roles. One person “drives,” meaning they use the keyboard to type code. The other person– the one not in control of the keyboard– is responsible for keeping the person using the keyboard on the right track.

The absolute fastest way to learn is to pair program with someone who has more experience than you. It is also important that you drive the process, while the more experienced person helps you navigate.

The reason is pretty simple. As the driver, it’s your job to write and understand the code. It is the passenger’s job to make sure the right code gets written the right way. Having someone teach you one-on-one through live instruction, you’ll have the opportunity to get personalized instruction on-the-go, which is the best possible way to learn.

Pair programming can happen in person, where the two people look at the same monitor, or virtually, with tools like Google Hangouts, ScreenHero, or tmate. Amazing technology exists, and it’s never been easier to pair program with people, even if you’re on different sides of the country!

Mentors are able to customize the fastest path for you to achieve your goals.

Anyone who has been programming professionally for a number of years has a wealth of knowledge and can quickly determine and articulate the fastest path to achieve a particular goal.

An experienced mentor will keep you on track and help you refocus when you deviate from what really matters. People who are learning how to code by themselves often waste a ton of time investigating things that aren’t necessary for what they want to achieve. Remember, it’s not always about what your mentor tells you to do. Sometimes, what’s more important is for a mentor to tell you when not to do something.

Mentors are able to course-correct very quickly when they see someone going down the wrong path. This means that you’ll waste less time worrying about what you’re doing and more time developing the skills you need to help you achieve your goals.

The best coding mentors challenge their protege’s work.

Don’t expect your mentor to do all the work for you. Rather, expect them to push and encourage you to go beyond your expectations.

The best mentors spend their time working with their proteges in a specific sweet spot: right on the edge of what they understand and what they don’t. By working on this fine line, you give yourself the opportunity to bridge the gap. This is where breakthroughs happen.

When you’re at this point with your mentor, they will come to you with other questions instead of simple answers to your existing questions. The best mentors follow the Socratic method, and they encourage their students to arrive at conclusions on their own.

One of the fastest ways to learn how to do something is to find someone who has already achieved your goal and get the inside scoop.

If your goal is to land a job as a developer, working directly with someone who has already achieved that goal is the best way to learn. Working 1-on-1 with someone who has already navigated the waters is a great way to gain the right mentality that you need to achieve your goals.

Not only can a mentor help you learn the hard skills of development, but they can also serve as a source of inspiration when times get tough.

You’re going to struggle to solve complex coding challenges. So you need to know that someone has your back and can walk you through things if you get stuck.

The relationship between a coding mentor and student is rewarding for everyone involved. As a mentee, you get expert advice and personalized solutions. As a mentor, you get the opportunity to change someone’s life and play a significant role in their path to a new career.

Find a mentor and continue to find mentors throughout your career.

You don’t need to focus on having a single mentor for your whole career. Instead, you should continuously seek out more and more experienced mentors as you progress throughout the course of your career.

Since the fastest way to level up is to pair program with someone more experienced than you, find senior developers to code with you any chance you get. After you get your first job, continue to find people who you respect and try to pair program with them. Whether it’s an official title of “mentor,” or just pair programming with co-workers, the result it the same: an incredible wealth of knowledge.

So find someone amazing and pair program with them. With the right mentor, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your coding goals.

Even as a senior developer, I look up to engineers with more experience. I ask them to review my code, pick it apart, and tell me about any flaws. Programming is all about the art of learning because there’s always so much to learn. Learning how to learn in the most effective way possible is an incredibly important skill to develop.

Coding mentorship is more than just getting help with your error messages. It’s about having someone who can help you level up and take your coding skills to the next level.

Ready to pair up with an awesome mentor and take your skills to the next level? Take the first step and apply to our free Software Engineer Intro Course.

AuthorKen Mazaika

Ken Mazaika is the CTO and co-founder at Firehose. Previously, he was a tech lead at (acquired by PayPal) and a member of the PayPal/eBay development team in Boston.

One thought on “Why Coding Mentorship Matters

  1. Thanks for very thorough article. You are right, the learning with mentor is the fastest way how to gather knowledge. As I am pretty established developer (8 years of professional experience) I am always happy to be on the driver side and let someone more experienced to learn me something new – and there is always something to learn.

    After all, it’s beneficial for both sides as you stated in one of the last paragraphs.

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