The USACS Mentor Manifesto

Mentorship can be a very rewarding experience because mentors can provide new knowledge and opportunities to people new to computer science, while mentees can enjoy a bright and fruitful journey to improve their skills with their mentors.

But there is great amount of effort required by both the mentor and mentee to get the most out of the relationship. With inspiration from “The Mentor Manifesto” by David Cohen, here are some guidelines to follow to become an excellent mentor for your pupils:

  • Attend hackathons — Get involved in the community with your mentee. Opening up the world outside the textbook is essential in development. Real life is more than just words on a page.
  • Be Socratic — Encourage critical thinking. Ask questions instead of feeding answers, foster the initiative in your mentees to come up with creative ideas instead of feeding ideas to them.
  • Expect nothing in return — This is pretty much self-explanatory, you’ll be delighted just to know how your mentee has grown as a computer scientist.
  • Be authentic — Practice what you preach.
  • Be direct — Tell the truth, but remember to be constructive for a purpose.
  • Experience counts — Take on projects often and together, especially if you both have interest in the topic. You can learn a lot in the building process.
  • Separate advice and fact — Your opinion for something may be valuable to the mentee, but at the end they should be making their decisions. And on a similar note…
  • Guide, don’t control — While they may rely on you early on, mentees must make their own decisions at some point.
  • Know what you don’t know — There is no harm in not knowing something. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado. If possible, redirect them to someone who may know more. Learn together.
  • Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved. No mentor owns the path of his or her mentees.
  • Have empathy and be optimistic. Life (and CS) is hard.

Remember, the best mentor relationships eventually become two-way.