Mentors provide a one on one relationship that you can’t find in other online communities, classrooms, or forums, and provide dedicated, detailed advice that’s catered to your individual needs.
While there are some free options for finding a mentor, many are paid. Some courses, like Thinkful, also incorporate a one-on-one mentorship approach into their programming tracks as a whole.
This investment is well worth it, since it will help you get you through any obstacles you might face, focus your path and learning style, and improve your understanding of key concepts.
The Secret Questions
To me, the most valuable part of having a mentor is that they help you formulate your thinking in a way that’s consistent with the rest of the programming world.
As a beginner, the unfortunate fact is that many times, you don’t even know enough about coding to know which questions to ask. Uncovering these secret questions, and translating layman terms into technical jargon, is one of the mentor’s main roles.
Getting through this barrier is integral to being able to learn to program, and inability to overcome it leads to frustration and, unfortunately, burnout among many new programmers.
Like asking questions, many new programmers find it difficult to focus their learning.
One of the most frustrating aspects of coding is that when you’re first starting out, every single paragraph you read or concept you learn just opens the door to a new multitude of questions.
Some of those new questions are important to learn quickly, while others aren’t. As a beginner, however, you don’t know how to separate the essential from the accessory.
A good mentor will be able to help guide you through this process and find the learning path that’s right for you.
Is Your Code Good?
While as a beginner you might be focused simply on getting your first programs to do what you intend, software development is about way more than having a program that “works.”
There’s good coding habits and bad coding habits, messy, long, verbose code and short, concise code. Unless you’re a rare genius, you’re first pieces of working code will be fairly messy.
A mentor will help you clean up that code (a process known as “refactoring”) and make it better. With each pass (and each exercise) you’ll gradually learn what it means to write good, clear code.