Who Do You Look Up To?

As software engineers, we have the blessing of a vast peer network we can tap into. While many other industries also have great peer networks they can interact with, we as engineers get to interact in places like Stack Overflow, and we get to find other people that love doing work in code as much as we do. Though this kind of network provides us with a collective knowledge base, one of the things that it doesn’t provide really needs to come from something more interactive and direct. I recently started reading Soft Skills by John Sonmez, and on a whimsy reached out to him on Twitter. As it turns out, John likes interacting with fellow geeks quite a bit, so I like interacting with him personally.
 Yet, even still — while John’s advice provides me great value, he doesn’t fill a critical role that I think every engineer (or, really, anyone who works for a living) needs. While it’s great to have interactive peers and people smarter than you influencing your forward career path, I think having a someone to call a mentor makes a huge difference as you through your professional growth. In my case, I consider my professional mentor this man: Jack Bader. As far as technology professionals go, if you measure success as loving your job and getting paid really well to do it, Jack has quite a bit of it. So, in that regard I feel like Jack can teach me a great many things about the path I’m on for my career. And, as far as I define mentors, a mentor is someone that you can email, or send and IM, or a text message, and likely get a favorable response within the next several hours. A smart colleague is someone you can tweet or email and hear back from in a few days. A mentor is someone that basically sits on retainer and does so willingly and excitedly because they like interacting with you, and feel like your success is their success.
 Not only do I feel like it’s important to have a professional mentor, but I also feel like the another crucial way to advance your career is to also act as a professional mentor. Though relatively early in my career (I’ve only been a professional for 8 years) — I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to mentor a current (almost) graduate from my alma mater, Drury University. He was gracious enough to write about it and give me some major props. (OK, so I’m bragging a little, but seriously if someone wrote about you the way that Zach wrote about me, you might brag a little too.) Here’s what Zach Glossip had to say about mentorship — and I think he said it more eloquently than I ever could.
 I think we have a responsibility as professionals to the future generations of professionals that come after us. While we may not necessarily worry about what happens to our past employers or our last employer once we retire, as responsible global citizens we can teach other professionals how to be responsible global citizens too. For engineers, I think this means raising other engineers to want to interact with their peers, and to want to write their code so that anyone can understand it later (hopefully by following some of the design patterns that our industry relies so heavily on).
 Mentoring the future generation of engineers contains a significant number of topics, some of which I’m really not going to be the best equipped to act as the teacher on. What do you think we need to teach the engineers of the future? Software and technology are perched to take a strong social, political, and economical foothold, growing rapidly as we move into the future. How can we engage future generations to use it in the best ways we can?

Originally published at jsonjason.blogspot.com on May 7, 2015.