Sunday, August 24, 2008


One of the round table discussion at Des Moines Bar Camp was how to get students excited about our field. The discussion went from how to get students interested in non-coding aspects of software development like QA testing to finding the passionate students. One thing that I suggested was that we needed to mentor more. I think we need not only to mentor students, but people within in our industry.

Let's face it. There's no way to know everything about software development. I would even say it's impossible to know everything about Java (the number of frameworks and new ideas is overwhelming) which is a small part of the entire computing realm.

Getting back to mentoring students though. In the user groups that I attend, it's been rare to come across a student. We are they not coming? Could we be scaring them away? Are user groups too advanced? What?! I think it is none of those things. I just don't think we are marketing to them. How do we do that? I think simply putting up posters and targeting students is a start. Reaching out to teachers is another avenue. Embracing students who come to these meetings is also needed. We need to keep those passionate about what we excited.

Which leads me to that we need to mentor everyone. I've been blessed in my career to have several mentors and I try to be a mentor when asked as well. I want to give back to those that have given me so much. There's only so far that books can go. Experience is best handed down through mentorship. I think it also allows us to feel freedom to try out new things. As we move to move functional programming languages, wouldn't be nice to be mentored by the people with the most experience?

I would love to see our industry to move to an apprentice model. I think the caliber of developers, testers, and leaders would increase dramatically. We're an industry that is just starting to tap into networking (Bar Camps are excellent for this) and embrace sharing (open source). It's exciting times right now and I can see where everyone needs to be mentored. I'm always learning and love talking with people who have more experience in a technology. We need to keep the learning going.

I think the new social networking tools could be used to great effect for setting up these relationships. So, let's get together and start mentoring. Create the developers we would like to work with and be.


Anonymous said...


Great post. One fact that immediately came to mind was that Minneapolis' Minnebar '08 was held at the U of M Union:

Doug Stewart said...


I think this is a great idea. I wonder though how many CS students are excited about learning, considering the amount of education they just completed or are currently undertaking. Part of it may be that they need a break or feel it is just too much burden on their schedule.

Some have lots of extra energy in them (Samuel comes to mind). I'm sure after a couple sessions of fun, they'll be turned on.

Unknown said...

Wow on Minnebar. I need to make that one year. Awesome.

On CS Students, I think a lot are excited and just need some guidance. I know I seeked out mentors (I had a couple of professors that gave me advice). But, to have someone in the real world, would have been glorious. I would like to return the favor.

Jeff said...

Agreed, dude. Agreed. A mentoring model is a cool idea. It's too bad that most companies don't get this idea. It's more "and into the fire you go with your 39k" sort of deal. Very tough to learn - properly - in those environments.

Unknown said...

Interesting point about the U of M Union. Perhaps we could hold user group meetings at the UNO union if we got a faculty member involved?