Mentoring

Currently I’m working in a team where almost everyone has fewer experience than me regarding .NET technologies and Web development. I have to recognize that I have been programming in .NET for about ten years by now (not all the time, I hate when I’m asked this question when applying for a job position because I consider it plain stupid: no one does the same thing for more than a couple of months).

But I still have little experience in web, just a couple of years of ASP.NET development and a couple of years more in PHP when I started to work as a professional developer… and I really remember little of PHP programming.

So, at the very beginning we had to get things done and we were little experienced. I put in the senior developer shoes and started studying ORMs, Dependency Injection tools, the new stuff in ASP.NET MVC 5, jQuery, Bootstrap, AngularJS, SharePoint…

And started to train the rest of the people in the things I read and learnt on weekends. Did that made my an expert in something? Absolutely not, I just wanted to share what I was learning with my pals.

Eventually I had the opportunity to do some speech in a software event. Several of my colleagues were invited to participate as well, but they were a little bit reluctant at the very beginning:

– What if there’s someone who knows more than me and corrects me or fools me in public?

I haven’t talked in public more than just a few times, but I’ve never found someone that rude. People go to events with a positive feeling of learning something or sharing some insights or knowledge about the topics covered in the talk; it rarely happens that some expert in something goes to some talk just to fool someone… and I think that the audience would not have fun with such a troll.

If that eventually happens, there are ways to workaround uncomfortable situations:

– Hum, I’m not sure about that; maybe you’re right.

– I agree with you at some extent, but…

– I don’t have the answer right now; lemme check it and I’ll come back to you then; could you give me your e-mail address after the talk, please?

– I see your point but you have to consider that…

– If you don’t mind I’ll be glad to discuss this issue with you after the talk, now let’s move on to the next topic so that the audience don’t get bored and we don’t run out of time, I hope you understand, d’you agree?

And don’t be afraid of saying that you’re wrong. Be humble upfront. If you feel that you know a little bit about a topic then share it! You can just start being humble: “hey guys, I’ve worked with this some time but I don’t know yet all the gory details about it, you know”. Besides, realizing that you’re wrong some time after you wrote or said something is ok, it means you’ve continued working on that, it means that you’ve learnt, you have a deeper understanding on the topic. That’s an improvement, good for you!

Please, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that it’s good to talk about something by merely reading about it. It’s good to train, to play, to research a little bit further and then talk about it or teach other people about it.

To give an example I was asking my workmates to avoid conversions such as “.ToList()” just to iterate on a collection with a foreach loop because it’s non-sense, but then I was introduced to EntityFramework and the problem of buffering a query in EF to avoid keeping connections open, so I had to go back and say: “Hey dude, when I said: don’t use .ToList() never, ever… ok, when it’s about EF things are not that easy…”.

So, I’d like to emphasize: share your knowledge with others. If eventually someone finds a mistake in something you said or wrote that’s cool, you can learn from your mistakes. If you don’t share your insights there’s little room for improvement and learning. No-one will blame you for being wrong. All of us are eventually wrong about something, and that’s okay.

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