I found myself with a mentee who came from one of those twelve week programs where they teach you to code. I want to reflect on this for a moment, because more and more people are coming out of these schools and there is nothing wrong with that. There are no traditional paths to get into software engineering. Heck, the only reason I ever learned to code was because I hated my computer not working and I liked the movie swordfish. I know a lead architect with a degree in music. I know a VP who never went to college. These things don’t matter. Reflection on that piece over.

So with that said, back to the mentee. This mentee is always bringing questions when we have 1-1 time and is pretty open to discuss and find improvements. I have had plenty of non-traditional mentees over the years, but this is the first formal mentees I have had, so I am trying to help them get their foothold. I asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and they confessed that they did not know. They were enjoying the programming stuff, but did not see themselves as a senior engineer. This took me back for a second, but only because I had never really considered it before. After all SE’s all aspire to be senior SE’s or managers or something else, right? In fairness though, I could kind of see where they were coming from. We look at our senior SE’s workloads and it is all meetings and having people ask for your opinions all while being ignored, because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. It is awful. We comisserated on this a bit and I explained that there is good stuff too. More freedom to design, carrying more weight with management etc. Anyway, so after this conversation, I get a meeting from their manager asking for feedback about them. We talked for a bit about whatever and then the topic of my mentee not knowing what they want to be or aim towards comes up. The manager saw this as a red flag because it meant that he didn’t know if that meant my mentee didn’t have ambition.

Now at this point I need to take a bit of a detour and talk about how I got my first mentor. I got my first dev job and I was ok at it, TBH I was pretty slow at stuff and I was happier working on things that were not work related. I think the only good thing I was doing at the time was writing a webcomic that was internal to the company. Anyway, I was in a meeting about a new product we were going to start developing and I like to make jokes because meetings are just a parody of reality and so they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Anyway, at some point I said something and the architect across the table from me asked if I had a mentor. I said “no” and he said, “Well that is too bad for you, because I am your mentor now.” Anway, shortcut a year forward and I am a PA 1(programmer analyst), but doing the work of a PA 3. I had trained in two PA3s, had two highly successful interns and was architecting a big chunk of our system. I was enjoying these things, but was completely burned out and was getting nowhere. I was at the top of the knowledge pile. Anyway, my mentor finds me one day and asks if I want to join his devops team. I wasn’t exactly sure what that was and said yes anyway, because he is the kind of guy that when he asks you to do something you do it. Not because of some power play, but because he always pays it back tenfold. Anyway I have been doing Devops junk for 6 years, I have done somewhere aound a half million automated deployments. I’ve doubled that in hours saved. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up but my mentor never saw that as a red flag and I don’t think anyone else should either.

The thing that I am slowly realizing is that some of us don’t know what we want to be when we grow up. The only reason I am where I am is because I aspired to be like my mentor, not to be have my mentor’s job. I hope I can do some good by my mentee and provide the same opportunities and challenges. I hope they aspire to better theirself and if they never figure out what they want to be when they grow up that is fine too.

I guess that is all I have to say on the matter.

P.S. Meetings are still stupid and a lie and I’ll be damned if I ever take one seriously.