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Exploring the Intersection of Software Development, AI Innovation, and Entrepreneurial Success | Mentoring Senior Engineers and Building Deep Connections

Mentoring Senior Engineers and Building Deep Connections

Building deep relationships quickly in the tech industry, or any field, requires a combination of authenticity, active listening, shared interests, and consistent follow-up. Here's a guide to help you establish meaningful connections efficiently. This guidance outlines the roles and attitudes beneficial for both mentors and mentees within the engineering field. Both mentors and mentees play crucial roles in the growth and development process within tech environments. For mentors, it’s about being proactive, supportive, and recognizing achievements. For mentees, it’s about engagement, showing appreciation, and striving for high-quality work. By adhering to these principles, both parties can foster a productive and fulfilling mentor-mentee relationship. Let’s break down the key points

 Mentoring Senior Engineers and Building Deep Connections

If You're Mentoring Other Engineers:

  1. Proactive Mentorship: True mentorship involves more than just answering questions. It requires actively guiding your mentee's development, including setting clear goals and a growth plan to help them level up their skills.

  2. Communication: Ensure both your manager and your mentee’s manager (if different) are aware of the mentorship. This ensures alignment and recognition of your efforts.

  3. Service Mentality: Adopt the mindset of serving your mentee rather than having them serve you. Your priority should be their growth and well-being.

  4. Build Trust: Establish trust by assuring your mentee of your support, stating that you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure their success. This commitment can significantly strengthen your mentor-mentee relationship.

  5. Recognition: Acknowledge and praise your mentee’s achievements, even the small ones. Positive reinforcement, especially in one-on-one settings, can boost trust and morale.

If You're A Mentee Looking For A Mentor:

  1. Express Gratitude: Show appreciation for feedback, particularly on code reviews. Beyond a simple thumbs-up, express genuine thanks, especially for in-depth critiques.

  2. Engage Socially: Don’t isolate yourself. Participate in team activities and informal gatherings to become a recognized and approachable member of the team.

  3. Quality Over Quantity: While it may be tempting to focus on speed and output, prioritize writing quality code. Take extra time to refine your work and clearly explain your thought processes in pull requests.

  4. Seek Quality Feedback: When you receive deeper, constructive feedback, particularly from senior engineers, show appreciation and engage with the feedback to demonstrate your commitment to improvement.

Finding a mentor requires effort and patience. It’s about building relationships based on trust, respect, and mutual benefit. By actively seeking out mentors and demonstrating your commitment to growth, you can gain invaluable guidance and support as you navigate your career path. How to find the best people who would like to be mentored and people who are mentors? 

When it comes to mentorship, my advice is to look at it through the lens of an investor. As a mentor, my goal is to invest time into a mentee, and have them turn that time investment into growth alongside productivity gains for the mentor through delegation. So the question for the mentor is: "Of these people who I can mentor, who will have the greatest return on investment of my time spent providing them guidance?" If you flip this, the question for the mentee becomes: "How can I show to everyone that I am someone who grows lightning fast when provided the proper support?" This all boils down to coachability signal, which is what I cover in-depth in the above resources.

1. Be Authentic:

People gravitate towards genuineness. Be yourself when interacting with others. Authenticity fosters trust and openness, which are crucial for deepening relationships. Share your passions, challenges, and experiences truthfully.

2. Show Genuine Interest:

Take a genuine interest in the other person's work, projects, and challenges. Ask insightful questions that go beyond surface-level topics. This demonstrates that you value their knowledge and perspective, encouraging a deeper connection.

3. Find Common Ground:

Identify shared interests or experiences, whether professional (like coding languages, tech projects, or industry trends) or personal (such as hobbies, books, or sports). Common ground can serve as a strong foundation for building a relationship.

4. Active Listening:

Practice active listening by paying full attention, reflecting on what's been said, and responding thoughtfully. This shows respect for the other person’s ideas and contributions, making them feel valued and understood.

5. Provide Value:

Offer help, advice, or resources without expecting anything in return. Sharing knowledge, making introductions, or providing support on a project can demonstrate your willingness to invest in the relationship.

6. Follow Up:

After your initial interaction, follow up with a message or email to express your appreciation for their time and to recap any points of discussion or agreed actions. Regular, thoughtful follow-ups keep the relationship active and show that you are genuinely interested in keeping in touch.

7. Be Consistent:

Consistency is key to deepening any relationship. Keep in touch regularly, whether through social media, attending the same events, or scheduling catch-up meetings. Consistent interactions help build familiarity and comfort over time.

8. Share and Celebrate Successes:

Celebrate their achievements and share your own successes. This mutual support contributes to a positive and encouraging relationship dynamic.

9. Respect Boundaries:

Recognize and respect personal and professional boundaries. Avoid being overly persistent or intrusive, especially when it comes to their time and commitments.

10. Seek Feedback:

Ask for feedback on your ideas or work, and be open to their suggestions. This indicates that you value their opinion and are keen to grow, which can deepen mutual respect.

11. Be Vulnerable:

When appropriate, share your challenges or areas where you're seeking improvement. Vulnerability can lead to stronger connections, as it invites others to share their experiences and advice.

12. Networking Events and Tech Meetups:

Attend industry events, workshops, and meetups. These are great opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and initiate meaningful conversations.

13. Use Social Media Wisely:

Engage with individuals you want to build relationships with on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Share, comment, and engage with their content in a meaningful way.

How to find the group of mentees? By combining these strategies with patience and persistence, you can build deep and meaningful relationships in the tech industry more quickly. Remember, the quality of relationships often outweighs the quantity, so focus on cultivating a few strong connections rather than spreading yourself too thin.

1. Embrace Rejection and Move Forward:

Key Takeaway: Not every networking attempt will result in a positive connection. It's natural in the process of building relationships. If an interaction doesn't lead to the expected outcome, consider it a learning experience rather than a failure. Persist in reaching out to new people and expanding your network.

2. Personalize Your Interactions:

Key Takeaway: When reaching out, especially for the first time, personalize your message. Explain why you are reaching out to them specifically, what you admire about their work or achievements, and how this relates to your background or goals. Personalized messages show respect and genuine interest, significantly increasing the likelihood of a positive response.

3. Offer Mutual Value:

Key Takeaway: Successful networking is based on mutual benefit. Understand what the other person values or needs and think about how you can help them achieve it. This could be through sharing knowledge, providing support, or connecting them with someone else. By focusing on how you can add value to their professional life, you create a foundation for a reciprocal relationship.

4. Practice Kindness and Generosity:

Key Takeaway: Acts of kindness and generosity can significantly strengthen professional relationships. Offer your help and support without immediately expecting anything in return. This approach can foster goodwill and make others more inclined to support you in the future. Genuine kindness often leads to stronger and more lasting connections.

5. Be Persistent but Respectful:

Key Takeaway: While persistence is key in networking, it's crucial to maintain respect for others' time and boundaries. If someone doesn't respond to your outreach, it's acceptable to follow up once or twice, but always be mindful and respectful. Over-persistence can be off-putting and damage potential relationships.


By incorporating these strategies into your networking efforts, you can build more meaningful and productive professional connections, even if you naturally lean towards introversion. Networking is a skill that can be developed over time, and each interaction is an opportunity to improve. Remember, the goal is to build relationships, not just contacts. So how can you get that feedback? Well first, you need to "expose" your mentor to mediums where they can come up with ideas for your feedback:

  • Put them on your pull requests as a code reviewer
  • Have them in meetings where you're an active participant, especially if you are leading the meeting
  • Have a recurring 1:1 meeting with them (I generally recommend bi-weekly or weekly)
  • cc them on technical writing that you do (project updates, technical design documents)
  • cc them when you are reviewing the code of others. Example: "I feel like this code could be cleaner if it were refactored into a utility method, does this also make sense to you @mentor?"

After that, 2 scenarios can happen. The mentor can either give you feedback proactively without you prompting it (ideal, but may not happen) or you will need to ask them for the feedback and they will react with it. For the 2nd scenario, here are some thoughts:

  • The recurring 1:1 meeting is the best time to ask for feedback
  • Make it clear to your mentor that you treat all feedback as a gift and really value their honesty. This will allow you to have awkward, but effective, 1 on 1s (more context in a link below).
  • Make your asks for feedback as specific as possible - Don't just ask "Do you have any feedback for me?". That's such a broad question that it's super easy for someone to just zone out and just reply with the easy response of "Nope, you're doing great!". I personally self-deprecate a little bit when probing for feedback to make getting it easier. Example: "I feel like the way I approached building this interface was pretty janky, but I couldn't find a cleaner way - What do you think?"

Another core aspect behind an effective mentor <-> mentee relationship (like with any relationship) is the level of trust between the 2 of you. I could write a whole book about building trust, but something tactical you can do is spend non-work/tactical time with your mentor. The simplest thing to do is to go out to lunch together (though this is admittedly way harder if you're both remote). If you really want to get to know your mentor, try spending time after work with them. 

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