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November 20, 2018

How Mentoring Has Made Me a Better Technology Consultant

4 mins read

Part 6 of the Series: Increase your stock by investing in your future

Mentoring students is rewarding, and has helped me become a more successful technology consultant. While it has presented challenges with regard to project timelines and client expectations, the outcome from these challenges has created an environment for students to grow, projects to thrive, and my own personal growth mechanism.

Student Interaction and Teamwork

One of the key perks of working at the Excella Extension Center is the privilege of working with some incredibly talented students. Sharing knowledge and experiences not only serves to increase their understanding of what they need to know for their career, but has also given me insight into the way I learn and interact with others. The process of mentoring has improved my interaction with students, co-workers, and clients by teaching me when to listen and when to give direction. It has laid the foundation of effective communication and interaction with others in every area of my life.

Teamwork is another aspect of student mentorship that helps students work together, and is directly related to the success of a project. Having the students work together also helps the client gain needed trust in his/her team in order to get the job done. I have found that the more collaboration is required, the more effective I am as a lead and co-worker. It has given me the opportunity to extend my understanding of collaboration by sharing development features as well as working through complex business logic with the client.

Project Planning/Client Communication

As the number of developers on a team grows, the complexity of how that work is distributed can grow as well. Understanding how to become an effective planner involves digging into that complexity and building an optimal plan which takes advantage of the resources allocated to you. Understanding the skills of the students on a project and how best to divide up tasks based on skillsets and avenues for learning has helped me grow as a project manager. Introducing Agile/Scrum to the students has helped me plan out more effective sprint cycles, as well as teach them the foundation of that methodology. Students interject their ideas and feedback during sprint retrospectives, as well as estimate stories during planning.

Good client communication is necessary when establishing a long-term relationship with a client. Having students on a project has helped me increase communication with my clients by challenging the students to ask questions directly. The idea is to create an open channel with the client, and show students that client interaction is essential in building the trust needed to allow ideas to be shared.

Time Management

Time management is something that I struggle with and continually work to improve. Student mentoring has taught me to make the most of the time that I have by making each interaction meaningful, whether that be with a student, client, or during the feature development process for an application. Trying to find time to properly mentor students while adhering to the expectations of the client is challenging. However, I have found they can complement each other well if done properly.

Professional Development

Students are inquisitive and strive to enhance their knowledge surrounding application development. With this understanding, it is imperative that mentors have a good understanding of the technologies and tools used on a project. Student mentoring has heightened my focus and desire to stay at the cutting edge. As a mentor, I have found that I learn just as much from my students as they do from me. Professional development not only consists of the things that you learn through research but the social network that you build throughout your career. Building these relationships with students not only serves them by having a mentor for support, but also helps the mentor build a network of future consultants.

Mentoring has great advantages, as previously mentioned, and has personally helped build my character and take my professionalism to the next level. Growing future generations of great technology consultants builds relationships, improves personal development, and increases knowledge sharing in an environment where technology is constantly changing.

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This blog post is part of our “Increase Your Stock by Investing in Your Future” series. Here, consultants at Excella’s Extension Center (XC) at Virginia Tech share their experiences developing an award-winning internship program, lessons learned, and tips you can apply when building your own program!

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