As I wrote about in my last post it’s extremely important when working with someone new to technology to create an honest and open relationship with them where they feel free and even supported to tell you that they don’t know something. I really love it when I try my best to explain something and the person I’m working with is free enough to tell me that they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. A part of me comes alive whenever that happens because I know that honesty is the basis for growth.
It’s easy in a technical context to focus on the technical journey that someone needs to make in order to be effective. Do they know proper source control, how to interact with a good coding editor in an efficient way, a great coding editor, and how to write tests? These are all important topics and ones that Annie and I covered extensively in the early days of her journey into technology.
That’s the easy part.
Here’s the hard part: are they able to create a plan and internalize it? I think that’s the true test to make sure we’re on the right path.
It’s always horrible when I go over a plan with someone and they look at me enthusiastically, nodding, then at the end they can’t articulate the plan to get there. If that happens, then we have to work a bit more on honestly. What I work on early on in any mentoring relationship is that we have an honest conversation back and forth about where we are and where we are going, and break things down at the level that the person understands.
Sometimes this means we create a list of things to do in the next few hours that covers exact files to change and relate them to a diagram on the whiteboard we just drew. That’s fine with me as long as (1) they know what they need to do, for real, and aren’t faking it, and (2) they can internalize it.
If you can’t internalize a plan enough to tell someone about it, you don’t know what you’re doing. No amount of googling is going to change that. You have to plan ahead, and at a level that you understand. Never let a mentor plan above your understanding, and, if you’re mentoring someone, seek to find out where they are and ensure there is a solid plan at that level.