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Should I continue being a mentee with my assigned team mentor?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [L3] at Google7 months ago

My manager had assigned a mentor for me on my team to help onboard me. My assigned mentor asked me about what timing works best for me and I told them I gave them full discretion around timing and cadence since my calendar was basically completely open compared to theirs. By the time we had our first 1:1, it was a 15 minute time-slot right before our daily standup. We would have these mentoring sessions ~2x a week for a few weeks before these mentoring sessions just fizzled out and stopped completely.

Now my manager is urging me to continue these mentoring sessions with the same assigned mentor citing that the reason they fizzled out was because my mentor "was not sure whether I wanted to continue the sessions and was waiting for me to set up more sessions if I was interested" even though I had expressed enjoyment of the sessions we have had thus far.

Should I be proactive here in reengaging my assigned team mentor and scheduling mentoring meetings with them? I wouldn't mind having a little more time than 15 minutes per session and in a different timeslot than right before standup, but I respect that it is tricky considering the mentor is remote and in a timezone 2 hours behind the rest of the team. I also wouldn't really know what to proactively ask them for during these sessions beyond typical work questions as part of working with them on the same team. How proactive should I be here?

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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [E4] at Meta
    7 months ago

    Hey here's my two cents. When you are starting your career I would recommended you being proactive with any potential mentors and providing gratitude at every step.

    TLDR:

    • Schedule a meeting with your mentor.
    • Show appreciation and that you followed through with their advice
    • Go into every mentoring meeting with a goal. Each meeting you should be asking the most 3 important questions you want answered. Their time is valuable!
    • Ask them if they need help on any projects and how you can make their job easier. Reciprocation goes a long way!

    Ways you can be proactive and topics you can discuss (more fleshed out version of TLDR):

    • Find out about their work schedule and what days are best for them. As SWEs with more experience their time is valuable. Showing a bit more effort will help them know their advice and feedback is having an impact. For example, I would personally be bending backwards to schedule time with a Staff Engineer or Tech Lead to learn more about the team's codebase and improving your technical skills.
    • When people give you advice (especially people pressed for time) they like to see you are following through with their advice and what the impact is. For example, maybe your mentor recommends something like "Hey I would recommend you learn more about git to help improve your workflow" or "Hey I would suggest you build a toy project (like a CLI) in Rust because our next big project will be in Rust", tell them you followed their advice and what the impact is. "Hey I build that CLI app in Rust, the language was really fun, but I'm having a little trouble understanding the concept of Ownership. Does this project involve dealing with this project?"
    • Also, something as simple as going through your team's code could be a huge win for yourself. "Hey X I read our API code and I'm a little confused why we structure our rate limitter like this?"
    • If you are troubleshooting a bug, ask for advice, but before you ask for advice try to figure it out on your own. You don't want your mentor feel like they are holding your hand to solve problems. Instead, by being proactive you show that you respect their time. Example: "Hey X I tried approach 1, 2 and 3 and am still running into issues with our gRPC microservice and latency. Have you encountered this before and how did you approach solving it?"
    • "Rising tides lift all ships". If you mentor is giving great advice and helping your career make sure to tell anyone you can, especially your manager, as it can reflect really nicely on them when you mentor goes to performance review.

    Also, as a closing thought if you ever get stuck on what to ask don't be afraid to ask on here or on reddit the types of questions you should ask your mentor. Following through on an experienced software engineers' and your teammates' advice can help skyrocket your career :)

    Hope this helps and it doesn't sound too ranty! I just learned these lessons the hard way and you have to be the one to take control of your career.

  • 2
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    6 months ago

    Unless you have no time, you absolutely should re-engage this potential mentor. The more people familiar with your work and can provide feedback, the better. (This is especially true earlier in your career)

    Scheduling is only part of deciding whether someone is proactive or not. You did the right thing by letting the more busy person decide when to do the sessions.

    However, it sounds like the failure here was that you the mentor didn't feel like you were engaged in the sessions. Here's what I'd recommend:

    • Keep a running notes doc of what you talked about in each conversation.
    • Seed the doc with a few potential topics.
    • Instead of just asking for feedback about "typical work questions", ask more open-ended questions about your work. e.g. "Do you have thoughts on how I could be more productive based on what I've done in the past week?" or "How are you feeling about this new initiative?"

    When you start to talk about things like priorities and feelings, you'll never run out of things to talk about!

    Some additional resources:

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