Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I got my start in programming from typing lines of BASIC in the backs of magazines into my Commodore 64.  I didn’t really understand what each line did at first, but I dutifully typed in the lines, just to see the finished product in action.

I got my professional start in programming when I was a student at Georgia Tech.  When I enrolled at Tech, I indicated that I wanted to be part of the cooperative education plan, which meant that I would attend classes for one quarter, then work at a  company for one quarter, then repeat.  It took me a little over a year to find a company that would hire me as a “co-op student”, but once I did I stayed with that company until I graduated from college.  In fact, that company hired me when I graduated, and I went to work for them full-time.

But while I was still a co-op student, I often felt that I learned more while I was on the job rather than when I was in school.  I think the reason for this is that I was very fortunate to have found a job where there were many people eager to share their knowledge of programming with me.

In a nutshell, I was surrounded by mentors.

I have very fond memories of those days—people smarter than myself showing me how things got done in the “real world”.  As a result, I often take the time to teach others things that I have learned, now that I’ve been a professional developer for nearly 20 years.

I guess that’s where this blog is coming from.

In my current role as a consultant, my coworkers are all very knowledgeable about software development, so I don’t often get to mentor them.  But on the rare occasion that I get to explain something, or show something that I know, it really gives me a sense of satisfaction when I can see that I’ve made a difference—when the other person has that “a-ha” moment and has learned something.

I think we can all learn from each other, and I think that there is great value in continually learning new things.  My company doesn’t currently have a mentoring program, but I’m considering suggesting that they start one.

What about your company?  Do you have a mentoring program of sorts?  If so, what’s it like?  Can you quantify the value of it?  Is it company-supported?

I’d be willing to collaborate with you (Google Wave, anyone?) on a “Mentoring Charter” of sorts if you want to start a similar program at your company.

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