Mentorship is the teaching, guiding, advising or helping of someone in a particular job role or function. This is always someone junior to the mentor and is given for a variety of different reasons including internships or apprenticeships, onboarding new hires, general upskilling, achieving learning objectives, assistance on a particular project, encouraging closer working environments and helping people get promotions. This can be informal, such as someone you go to for help and advice on an ad-hoc basis, or formal, as part of a mentorship programme.
Senior testers, test leads and above will have mentorship experience or the ability to provide mentorship. Test managers may not take responsibility for mentorship directly, however they take responsibility and ownership for mentorship programmes. A membership programme is the processes associated with organising mentoring, such as choosing mentors for other testers, deciding what they will learn and how their progress will be monitored (Fournier, 2017).
Mentor Key Attributes
- Dedicated time with regular catch-ups and availability to answer questions and give help
- Predictability in regular catch-ups that allow the mentee to prepare questions in advance
- Setting clear goals and expectations for learning (e.g. SMART goals)
- Building a good rapport, human connection, being friendly and patient towards the mentee
- Active listening and ability to sense unusual energy levels or moods that indicate a problem
- Communicating clearly with an ability to explain complex concepts in simple terms
- Boundaries for mentorship to protect own time and resources, such as a policy where a mentor should look into the problem themselves first
- Response calibration that’s appropriate to the learning ability, pace and needs of the mentee
- Preparation for a new mentor including what to work on, how they will progress and how their work will be presented
- Unspoken rules are communicated, such as when to take holidays or implicit processes
- Balances the mentee getting lost or overwhelmed
- For technical mentoring, pairing (e.g. pair testing on a project) is a good approach
Mentorship Programme Key Attributes
- Onboarding process and documentation for new hires
- Have the mentee, if they encounter any surprises or improvements, have them update any documentation or process
- Buddy system for new hires where someone can go for help and advice
- Internship or apprenticeship process including a small, attainable project
- Considers the value or a mentoring programme and what problem exists that is trying to be solved by a mentoring programme
- Clear structure to the programme with suitable capacity given to the mentors and mentees
- Fournier, C., 2017. The Manager`s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth & Change. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.