Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mentoring

Recently I got involved with a new initiative from our local universities. The initiative was to enable young under-graduates to take part in mentoring sessions carried out by industry people. I was part of this programme as a mentor for computer eng & information technology under grads. Although the mentoring programme was designed and executed so that the under grads would learn and be more
prepared to their industrial roles in the future, I my self learnt/realized a lot from these sessions. I'd like to share a few things on that.

The course designed by the University includes study areas such as organizational behaviour and attitudes, importance of communication, presentation skills, Team Work, Leadership skills and career skills etc... But during the session I carried out I was more inclined to start with a particular subject area and the take the discussion according to the natural flow. I discovered that the students were very interested to know about different career paths available in the software/IT industry. Also the skills and attributes the industry is looking for in each of these different career paths.

So back to the things I learnt part....

1. Realizing how much more we have learnt during our 3 years of work after the degree

Sometimes during the discussions we keep on talking about very common things which we encounter in our day to day work without realizing that the students don't have the slightest of clue about what it is. This is actually a fault or negligence on our part to go back to the days when we were at the university. I'm pretty confident that the current students are much more knowledgeable about the industry than we were at the same age. Still someone who had worked for a couple of years will learn/hear about very many things and we should be careful enough not to overwhelm the students with such learning's, yet make sure that they actually get some of it in to their minds.

2. Learning the fact that we can actually ignite a spark which can make a difference

I have seen several students improve during the several weeks I've been able to spend with them. And some of them asking the kind of questions that they never asked in the initial phases. Most of them actually have won 50% of the battle. i.e having the right kind of questions. That will surely lead them to finding the answers them selves. I guess our job as mentors is to ignite the right questions in the minds of students and let them find the answers appropriate to each and every one of them.

3. Realizing that we ourselves haven't actually learnt some important skills yet

One of the most important lessons I have learnt is the fact that we actually don't posses many of the important skills we should have in the first place. For example there were sessions in this course to discuss about communication skills. Although we know that it's very important to have good communication skills, I can safely say that most of us never really studied enough about proper communication skills and how to grow them. In that sense I've learnt about several areas which I should do some studying and improve on.

As a final note I want to say that I really enjoy these sessions with students. It make me feel that we're actually doing something important which could make a little change (albeit atomic) in somebody Else's lives. This feeling of importance or satisfaction is very important and I feel it's something lacking in Software Engineers. We rarely get the real satisfaction that we have actually helped another human being and taken them to another level. Ya..we do take our customers (business men/ corporations) to another level, but that's not the kind of satisfaction I'm talking about. This is the feeling of selflessness, joy you get after helping out someone on one to one basis. I'd like to recommend any one who had a few years of work experience behind them to share what ever they have learnt with the next level of people who will take our places in near future.

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