The Importance of Being An Earnest Mentor

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I would not be where I am today without mentors. I am lucky that I get to do what I love for work and I am lucky I get to do it at Centresource. I am not one of those uber-geeks you hear about. I wasn’t building an intranet at 11 or cracking government databases in my early twenties. I played sports (badly), I played guitar (badly), and I chased girls (even worse). I didn’t know anything about development until nearly my thirtieth birthday.

One night, not long ago, I bought an old friend a beer. I told him about this idea I had to build a website to help audio engineers and producers make more money. Ever the pragmatist, my friend sat there and listened to me talk for a while before completely tearing my idea to shreds. It really wasn’t even that the idea was that bad, but it was pretty clear from question one that I had no idea how to build a website. Like many would-be entrepreneurs, I thought the web stuff was for someone else to build. Being a good friend, however, my pal decided to talk me through some basics. By a few beers later, he had laid the foundation for what would become my career. He now sits in the office next door to mine.

After those beers wore off, I found myself thinking more and more about development. I thought I’d give it a shot. I Googled and Googled. I bought a subscription to Lynda.com and tore through tutorials like it was my job. I thought I was the bee’s knees. Increasingly proud of myself, I told another old friend about my progress in my new hobby and he suggested I look into something called the Nashville Software School. It turns out he and some people he knows decided to do something about the shortage of tech workers in Nashville; so they started a school to teach people development and I (with a little help from my friend, I would imagine) got accepted into the first class. That friend is now my boss.

The Nashville Software School was a great opportunity for me. I got a chance to get extensive, hands-on training in a number of web development technologies while not going completely broke. More than the hands-on-keyboard stuff though, the best part of Nashville Software School was the access to mentors. I couldn’t believe it; developers (and tech people of all kinds for that matter) donated their time to fledgling developers like me. Looking back at it, it wasn’t even the troubleshooting that was the best part of the all– it was the sense that there are kind-hearted people out there who are willing to help out that really made the whole thing great. I got to gain experience from and befriend people who work for companies like Mozilla and Github (not to mention Centresource) and so many more. Even as a total novice, the developer community embraced me as one of its own.

I drink beer every Thursday with a group of developers and tech folk whose combined years of experience in the field must be somewhere in the triple digits. Whether they know it or not, I consider them all mentors of mine and I’m lucky to know them. I look around that table and see what I hope I can one day become.

Now I am a working developer in Nashville. I get to write code all day, solve problems, and create things. I actually love what I get paid to do. Here at Centresource, I am surrounded by a number of senior developers who offer their mentorship everyday (with a healthy dose of sarcasm, mind you). I’m not sure they know how much I appreciate it– even the sarcasm. And so I am tasked to go out and pay it forward. There’s been a new cohort at Nashville Software School. There’s been a new group of people like me, only on a six-month delay. Though I may not be an experienced-enough developer to have been a great asset on the technical side, I hope I taught them something. For them, for future developers,  and even non-developers I hope I can give what I have been so fortunate to receive:

A mentor (or twenty).

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