Growing next-gen Ninjas

Today I am going to talk about some things to take care of while mentoring your juniors. This blog encapsulates things I learnt from my great mentors at Myntra, Goldman Sachs and now at Kubric. It also covers some of my own experiences mentoring my juniors at these companies.

Be more of a coach and less of a manager

Give them tasks which you can also solve. That’s where you will be able to help them out when they are stuck. Trust is built when they know if they are stuck somewhere they have someone to go to. If they feel you are only instructing them and not guiding them enough, they will not have fun working on the task. They will be motivated to work and innovate when they do not fear to fail.

In a war, the soldiers are the real fighters. Their leaders have experience but it’s the soldiers who win the war. When soldiers know, they have their leader with them, they will fight their hearts out. If the leaders go missing, the whole army comes crumbling down. These are the same soldiers who won the battle when they had the confidence that their leader has their back. The same situation applies to the real-world as well. If you throw your juniors on to a production issue, without them having confidence that if anything fails, you will be able to help them out, they will not be able to give their 100%

Practice until it’s a habit

Humans do not listen, they observe

It’s easy to say I am telling them all the good things but they are not ready to learn! It’s not enough to tell them to use good practices, it’s just as important to tell them why these are good. Often, when you ask your mentees to do something, they will have questions about why it needs to be done. Explain to them how modular code helps in debugging, code is read more than it’s written and it’s important to write code/logic which is easy to understand. Test cases help you to quickly ensure things are not breaking when your code is changed.

The most important thing to do is to follow the same habits as well. Because humans do not listen, they observe. And when they observe good habits, they will inherit those.

  • Help them create a habit to write smaller code
  • To put comments in the code
  • Write test cases

Send them to the war, but stand right behind them with your sword!

As seniors, many of us face this conundrum to whether to put new joiners on to high impact production issues or not. On one hand, if you do not put them on, they will never get to experience the real thrill of working in pressure situations, on the other hand, if you do put them on, there is a high risk if things go wrong. It’s very necessary for them to get hands-on and unless they jump into high priority issues, which has a bigger impact but have to be fixed quickly, they will not be able to get the real feel of working in a high-pressure environment. But typically we do not involve them in these issues because the risk is too high.

Agree but the important part is to have a backup plan. Ask them to figure out the issue and come up with a solution, but as a backup work on the solution yourself as well. They will be in the spotlight but you know even if they screw up, you will have a backup plan. And through these experiences, they will develop the confidence and expertise to deal with these situations and believe me, after a few such experiences, they will be ready to deal with it. You won’t have to worry about a backup plan or fear of things going wrong.

Don’t tell them to fish, teach them how to fish

Give meaningful comments and explain why the change is required. If asked to change the code, explain to them how changing the code is going to help them. They are not used to thinking long term and it’s your responsibility to explain it to them. If you just ask them to change the code, they may do it for now, but they will not be able to incorporate similar changes by themselves in future code changes

There’s always more than one way to way to skin a cat

There are many situations where you will find a variety of ways of solving a problem. If you find, your mentee has come up with a solution but you have an alternate solution which is similar, always encourage them to go with their solution instead of you imposing your own just because it’s slightly better. This will boost up their confidence and they will be able to contribute even more going forward.

At Kubric, we are reinventing the creative stack for modern design and content teams. Join us if you are in love with pixels and data. You can reach me at [email protected]

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