Artikel22 november 2023 · 5 min lästid
I have had the privilege of taking on many roles during my Nitor career spanning over a decade, but a desire to develop my skills further led me to sign up for our mentoring program – albeit as a mentee. Eventually, my counterpart would turn out to be the sharp-minded Nitor youth Kalle Ahlström, who was looking for an experienced colleague to help him deepen his knowledge of Java’s ecosystem – a subject I am quite familiar with.
When Nitor organised a new mentoring initiative after the successful pilot, I decided to join up. I had initially thought of enrolling as a mentee, because I was looking to deepen my understanding of UI development. We didn't have a dedicated UI designer in our team, and I thought I could take this role on a bit.
It turned out, however, that the program was looking for a Java mentor. Kalle had been at Nitor for less than a year at that point, and was eager to absorb information from more experienced colleagues. He was currently wrestling with a somewhat challenging Java project, which had also sparked his interest in the Java ecosystem and the bigger picture therein.
I've been at Nitor for 11 years, but a funny piece of connecting tissue between us is the fact that when I started at Nitor, I was the youngest employee, and Kalle is in fact the youngest Nitorian specialist today. I feel this helped me put myself in Kalle's shoes quite easily, although I don't think I even remembered to mention this amusing little detail during the mentoring process.
In addition to learning new things, one of the best aspects of the mentoring program is that it affords you the opportunity to discover new potential within yourself. You’re given the chance to delve into aspects you may have never explored in depth in work life before.
-Kalle Ahlström, Support Engineer, Nitor
A dartboard-shaped mindmap
Our shared journey began with a kickoff meeting for the mentoring project. After that, I conducted a kind of interview with Kalle, where we mapped out the things he wanted to learn during the mentoring and what I considered important. We went through the plan in broad strokes, after which I started putting together a checklist. We decided to keep things moving at a smooth pace, so each meeting would end with us checking when we could fit the next one into our calendars.
Our mentoring sessions usually took place remotely in pair coding sessions. Kalle would share his screen, and I would be sort of peeking over his shoulder and commenting on what I was seeing. This method felt natural for both of us and offered a smooth sense of progression, especially since it relied on concrete, situation-specific work, rather than following a predetermined process plan.
We were given a very nice Miro board as a tool, and we combined it with a dartboard-shaped mindmap I’d designed. Its purpose was to keep us smoothly on track and ensure that topics didn't stray too far off course. The most important topics reside in the centre of the board, and as you move further towards edges, you get closer to secondary tasks. The use of colours emphasises the order of importance between different topics, making it even easier to determine what to focus on during different stages.
Our mentoring sessions usually went like this: we would choose a topic via one of the boxes on the dartboard-mindmap and commence work on an exercise related to that topic. This approach was also useful in terms of continuity, as the dartboard enabled Kalle to refer to previous mentoring sessions and plan what topics would be most fruitful regarding future sessions.
Working in an active, collaborative way felt like the best and most natural way for both of us. Personally, I feel that an active hands-on approach was more effective for my learning than something like struggling with homework assignments would’ve been.
-Kalle Ahlström, Support Engineer, Nitor
Challenges aren’t the exception but the rule
Mentoring also served as a source of inspiration, as it pushed me to write an article about the Git version control application and its best practices. Using Git tends to be a messy affair, especially in terms of issuing commit commands and accompanying messages, which is a habit Kalle, too, admitted to occasionally falling into. He did note that rereading my article periodically would help keep Git commit messages on a consistent and practical level.
Consistency is indeed always beneficial in digital work. As it came apparent while our mentoring journey progressed, random basic level problems will always come about. No one can erasethem out of existence, and they are not always solvable in the blink of an eye. This is where one’s own attitude can be a decisive factor.
Still, Kalle is such a comprehensively competent guy that grasping the structural depth of Java and other concepts we touched upon never seemed to be an issue during the mentoring process. As a mentor, I had hoped to always stay a step ahead of the curve, but this proved to be a challenge largely thanks to Kalle’s skills. So, I didn't always succeed, but luckily there were two capable minds working on any issue we encountered.
The most enjoyable part of the mentoring process was definitely its X-factor effect on my workweeks, offering an enjoyable deviation from more familiar routines. I also don't know of any other employer who provides employees with the opportunity to deepen their expertise under the mentorship of more experienced colleagues or share their longform knowledge with our work community as a mentor.
It was great to get to know Kalle better. Even though our mentoring sessions would often veer way past overtime, I’ll definitely be up for another run in the mentoring program, should someone need a Java sparring partner again in the future.