Mentor, mentee, friend: how I learned to code.

Three years ago in the middle of one of our long conversations about life, challenges and goals Craig Pears asked me if I would be interested in working on a side project with him. He explained that I would need to develop my basic coding skills and he was happy to be both my coach and mentor. Craig was clear with me that this wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to happen overnight.

My response; when can we start?

We started right away.

I have learned far more than about coding from my mentor, Craig. Here are a few of the things I have learned along this journey. I said a few because there are so many, I know for sure, I won’t be able to talk about them all here.

  1. Patience: It takes a long time to build skill in doing development work. Keep at it, don’t give up and it does get easier. He were right about that! This one has been hard for me because I was used to doing things I knew how to do well and going back to the beginning was hard on my ego. I wanted to be able to do it now, not a year from now. Craig kept after me and refused to let me have unrealistic expectations.
photo by Viktor Hanacek
  1. Ask for help: Another area I needed a lot of work in and one my ego got in the way of. I remember being in tears, frustrated and almost ready to give up, trying to do it all without asking for help. I didn’t want to be a bother or ask silly questions. What he told me is that I didn’t need to struggle on when I had tried what I knew, and still needed help. Asking for help wasn’t a bad thing.
  2. Details: In coding work it’s the details that will get you. The lowercase letter that needs to be uppercase or the missing double quotes and so many other little things. I can get lost in my thoughts and miss those, not can, I still do. My mentor helped me see why I need to work on that weakness and have helped me know what to look for when I get those pesky error messages.
  3. Why, How, When: Endless hours drawing out diagrams, explaining, answering questions, caring that I understood why it works, not just how. Craig shared so much of his knowledge and time to help me learn and I listened, read and reread the links, and diagrams he sent to me. Without this I wouldn’t be able to understand what I am learning and apply it to new situations.
  4. Take risks: When I get scared you are always there to tell me to go for it. That I can do whatever I set my mind to. Well within reason. The sort of risk I am talking about here is don’t be afraid to fail, and make mistakes. It wasn’t until he got this firmly planted into my head that I really made progress in my coding.
  5. Sharing what he loves: This is my favorite part of spending time learning from Craig. He has a passion and love for development and related areas and it’s contagious. I have grown to love coding in part because of my mentor’s own excitement.
  6. Side Projects: Have projects going to build your skills. Boy have I learned that one. Craig pulled me into a project he wanted to do and we worked on it together. That little idea turned into an incredible learning experience for both of us. We both found ways to contribute and grow in our knowledge and we did it together. At times I think it was a bit overwhelming and seem to overshadow everything else. I have learned to have patience, ask for help, pay attention to details, take risks and share. I have learned the power of working on something with a friend and mentor and how important and difficult balance is.

Thank you Craig Pears for being my mentor, sometime mentee and always my friend.