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How do I help my manager (who is also my mentor) be a better manager and mentor?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Series B Startup2 years ago

Context: I work as a Entry Level SWE at Series B Startup with 25 people; the SWE team is 7 people total. I am the only person currently under my manager & my coworkers are fairly clear about what I am building & why. Also, the SWE team morale is strong and productivity seems to be at a sustainable rate.

In general, I think my manager & mentor is an incredible engineer & empathetic person open to feedback/trying new things. He’s personable, highly knowledgable, is available to answer my questions, & answers all my noobie questions. While I love these aspects, I do feel he is a bit reactive as a manager. When I asked him if he wanted to be my mentor, he agreed but I think he interprets it as being available to answering more of my questions. I don't think he is used to being a mentor or a manager and would like to see a more proactive effort from his side to help me level up as a engineer (right now I am mostly bringing up the ideas for 1:1 meetings, and creating a growth plan, etc).

So how do I help him?

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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago

    I love the huge amount of empathy here, and I'm glad you're so appreciative of all the things your manager is currently doing correctly. There was actually another question from an engineer at Apple with a similar question, so I highly recommend checking that out here.

    The first thing I'll say that is it's totally okay if a mentor is very good at being highly reactive instead of proactive. Being proactive as a mentor is extremely difficult, and that muscle takes many months to build, if not over a year. If someone is really good at being reactive, that means that you, as the mentee, simply need to be diligent putting in inputs to get the insight you want.

    In terms of some ideas to switch their mentorship style to being more proactive, here's some ideas:

    1. Before a specific work scenario, ask them to be more vigilant as it unfolds, so you can get feedback afterwards - Let's say that you're going to drive your first meeting next week. Tell your manager that you're nervous and would love to get better at this skill quickly. Then let them know you would really appreciate it if they would observe you extra closely during that meeting, so you can talk about areas of improvement in your 1:1 afterwards.

    2. Tell them that you want to be more like some role model engineers on your team, so they can start "computing deltas" - If there are mid-level and senior engineers on your team that you respect a lot, let your manager know. A lot of the times with junior engineers, they know an engineer on their team is great but don't fully understand why. A more senior person, like an engineering manager, can help bridge that point. You can say something like, "I really respect X engineer, but I'm not sure how to get to that level - Do you any ideas on how to bridge that gap? Also, if you notice something that they do well that I don't in the future, can you let me know?"

    Also, long-shot advice here, but maybe you can recommend him to join Taro Premium? 😉 From there, he can check out my deep-dive on effective mentorship, or you can just share with him the text summary and slides directly.