Originally posted here: http://ladieslearningcode.com/what-it-means-to-be-a-mentor/
What does it mean to be a mentor?
I used to tutor first-year computing science courses in University, where I happily bent my schedule around my students. Friday night? Two hours before an assignment was due? Of course! I’d be there. Tutoring gave me the satisfaction of supporting someone and helping them find a solution when they needed it.
It’s amazing to experience the satisfaction a student gets from figuring out the best solution to a problem. It’s so rewarding to see the gears click, whirring away towards the right answer. Often times, they’re just missing one small piece, or aren’t confident enough to commit to an answer, but they are generally always on the right track. And that “Ah-ha!” when they finally understand a concept and feel that surge of confidence, is a beautiful moment.
There’s also the personal challenge of it. When a student is frustrated with a concept or problem and can’t understand what I mean, I have to find a way to communicate that makes sense to them. Sometimes I want to yell, “Why don’t you get this?!” but that probably wouldn’t do much for their confidence. Everyone thinks differently, learns differently, and understands in their own way. It’s my job as a mentor to find the way to speak in a way they can understand.
After I graduated I wanted to keep tutoring, but finding the time was hard. I didn’t live within walking distance to the university, and I wasn’t up to date with course materials and professors. So when a friend told me about Ladies Learning Code (LLC), I jumped at the chance to mentor.
Ladies Learning Code and the mentor in me
What is Ladies Learning Code? Well, I’m glad you asked! LLC is a women-run non-for-profit organization that aims to educate women and girls about technology through beginner-friendly workshops held around the country. It’s a step forward on the long road towards diversity in computing. Any time an LLC event pops up, I’m always eager to sign up if I’m available. When we encourage mentor-ees to learn and grow, they’ll pass it on and encourage others. It’s so important to me as a female in a male-dominated industry to help support those who need guidance or want to learn more about our field.
Many of the ladies (and gents) who attend the LLC workshops have some sort of connection to the online world. They are marketers trying to get a better understanding of the latest tech terms, small business owners trying to stay up to date with technologies and trends, co-workers, friends, and wives of people in tech-related industries. They are journalists, artists, media relations, and communications specialists. They touch many other industries, but in the end, everything is tied to technology.
It is so important in this day and age to have even a basic understanding of the ever-changing world of technology. Our everyday lives are filled with it and it’s important to understand how it works. It’s not magic – computers only do what they are told to do. So getting a better understanding of how things work and the issues that developers (female and male) face is so incredibly important. The point isn’t to turn these ladies into programmers over night (though if it sparks an interest, even better!). Ladies Learning Code is about encouraging ideas in an industry generally seen as exclusively male. It’s about providing a judge-free zone to encourage and support ladies to learn something new outside their comfort zone.
Without the support and encouragement that I received in my own learning, I would not be where or who I am today. And I want to be that kind of person – the kind that is able to encourage and help someone achieve their dreams. If I can inspire people to challenge themselves, and give them the support they need to meet those challenges, then I have succeeded as a mentor. And that makes all the time worthwhile. So find yourself an event in your area, and sign up to be a mentor! It’s the best way to give back to the community you love.