My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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This week I've decided to cover my progress in two chapters of Chad Fowler's book, My Job Went to India, because they go hand in hand with the motivation behind much of my career management in the time since I've read the book.

I already had one semester of graduate school under my belt by the time I read the book, so when I got to these two chapters - Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor - I realized I was in a great position, especially for finding a mentor. I hadn't decided whether or not to graduate under the thesis option, or just take extra classes and do the non-thesis option. Choosing the thesis option would be a great way to get into a relationship with a mentor, so I decided to go that route after reading the book.

Unfortunately, I quickly found out that the one professor I wanted as an advisor would be leaving soon and was not taking any new students. But I didn't let that stop me. Sure, a formal relationship with a mentor is nice, but as Chad mentions in the book, you can have mentors who don't even know they are filling that role for you.

So I started becoming involved online - asking and answering questions in topics of interest to me. Answering questions is particularly beneficial, because you get to throw ideas into the arena and see if your expert "mentors" will disagree with you and correct you when you are wrong. In fact, there's nothing on this blog I enjoy more than when someone disagrees with me in a comment* (with substance, anyway). On the other hand, when you are right you learn that you are right and you reinforce that knowledge.

I also made it a point to sit in the front row (or close to it) of every class and ask questions to aid in my understanding of the subject matter. I started visiting conferences and talks and user group meetings to learn from other developers when time permits. Some friends and I organized the UH Code Dojo in an effort to have mentors and be mentors. Another friend or two are helping me progress in .NET faster than I would alone and we're throwing around the idea of forming a game development meet-up group. I started reading blogs and participating in comments on various topics on a regular basis, rather than just when I needed to find information on a particular problem. Several blogs cover languages or topics I rarely use. Some cover things I've yet to use at all. Finally, I'm planning on going deeper into bioinformatics and game development with the advanced courses next semester, where the one-on-one time with the professor is much more like a mentoring relationship.

Notice that, excepting the Code Dojo, where our aims to be a mentor and be mentored are explicit, nothing in the previous paragraph requires those people to know they are filling that role for me (until they read this, I suppose).

If anyone wants to be my mentor, I can pay you with a heartfelt "Thanks!" And if you need a mentor, don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always glad to help when that precious combination of time and knowledge allows for it.

Do you have mentoring relationships with anyone, or any group? How does it work for you?

*: I'm starting to think everything I say is correct because I haven't had many disagreements lately. Perhaps I need to start saying stupid things I know are wrong just to see if you all are paying attention. I'll be a troll on my own blog.

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Oh, no need to self-troll. I think the Vatican frowns on such behavior. I'm enjoying your "save your job" series and have been content to soak it in thus far.
I've been involved with our local CFUG for 4 years, and although it has ups and downs it has been a good place both for mentoring and being mentored. (Thanks for joining, BTW.) Like you, I've become more interested in conferences, in part thanks to a coworker who is good at notifying the rest of us.

Posted by Chris on Nov 15, 2007 at 10:05 AM UTC - 5 hrs

I have appreciated the timely updates of several things on the local cfug list, not just software related (the building demolition recently got me a lot of kudos from friends I sent it along to) =).

And certainly the list is a good resource - I see mentoring type questions on there too from time to time.

BTW, did you guys have a meeting last night? I don't recall a reminder being sent out, but checking the website it lists "2nd Wednesday of each month." When I finally get my calendar sorted out I'll have to remember to put a repeating reminder on there.

Thanks for the comment Chris!

Posted by Sam on Nov 15, 2007 at 11:05 AM UTC - 5 hrs

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