Pluralsight Mentors: What it's like to be a mentor

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Learning a new programming language, discovering better processes or mastering a new tech skill feels pretty amazing. But what if you helped someone do these things as well? Equally as amazing, right?

This is why we joined forces with HackHands, a worldwide developer mentor service. And today, we’re rolling out our newest product to benefit your learning experience: Pluralsight Mentors.

In this post one of our mentees, Jenny Kortina, gave insight into what it’s like being mentored as she builds a cool new app. She shared how it’s helped her get advice while she’s applying new coding skills. But this time, we’re giving you a peek from her mentor’s perspective. Meet Josh Kovach.

Michigan-based Josh has been a HackHands mentor for a few years. Around his full-time gig, he’s tallied up 114 hours of mentoring, which he does to supplement his income and enhance his skills.

What led Josh to become a coding mentor

Josh works as a software developer for a tech consulting company, Collective Idea, where he does both front and back end work and Android development. He’s been coding for 10 years, having learned JavaScript and HTML in high school. After graduating from college, Josh started a full-time gig in 2011.

When Josh signed up to be an expert at HackHands a few years ago, he got a request from someone trying to use Devise Invitable. He didn't know the answer immediately, but knew enough to help, so he picked up the request.

“I guess that first time I was nervous they might ask something I wouldn’t know,” said Josh. “But in 10 minutes I could explain to them what was going on because I had seen it before in my own work.”

For his ongoing learning, Josh does a lot of reading, follows fellow devs on Twitter, takes Pluralsight courses, subscribes to weekly newsletters and keeps up-to-date on the open source libraries he uses. This keeps him sharp as an expert.

A mentoring side gig, using skills you already have

In one mentoring session, Josh spent about 15 minutes with someone who reached out for real-time help.

“I made $20 out of it, with stuff already in my brain, which was nice. So I started picking up more and more,” said Josh. “I'd keep notifications on and if I wasn't busy, I'd pick them up. The extra cash is really nice to have. It was also a nice hobby for me to help people out when they were having some trouble.”

Josh finds it rewarding to help others who get stuck, and realizes we’re all learning.

“It’s kind of reassuring because even developers who've been doing stuff for decades still don't know what the heck they're doing,” said Josh. “It brought me back to when I needed guidance and thought, ‘Man! If I had had something like this when I was trying to do this stuff, I could have saved so much time and been more confident in what I was doing.’”

When Jenny came along and asked for a weekly mentoring session, Josh stopped picking up mentoring tickets. And now, each week, he guides Jenny through the complex process of building a custom app using Rails. They have logged 21.5 hours together so far.

Pluralsight Mentoring: a live view

Josh’s mentoring philosophy

“My goal is to help people get to the point where they can do everything they need to do,” said Josh. “Whenever I'm mentoring someone, if I feel like I'm doing too much for them, I'll try and step back and say, ‘All right, do you know what's going on here?’”

He realizes his role as a mentor to transfer skills, which helps mentees come away with confidence in their own abilities.

“When pair programming, Josh is really good at making sure I understand what's going on,” said Jenny. “He's good at being a teacher, explaining why we're doing something so I'm understanding and learning what's going on.”

In their mentoring sessions together, Josh and Jenny will use GitHub and Stack Overflow open source platforms for developers.

“I'll walk her through GitHub, reading the code to figure out and solve the problem,” said Josh.

Jenny sees the value in Josh’s professional guidance.

“Having a mentor is investing in your mind. It’s useful to have someone to talk with you about your ideas, as opposed to search,” said Jenny. “You can’t Google some stuff.”

Read Jenny’s mentee story here if you haven’t already. Or, if you’re interested in mentoring, sign up to become a mentor or to get help.

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