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I am a Jr. ASP.NET/C# Developer and I have been working with a Company for the past 9 months. I have been appointed to try and develop their Legacy System (built in Visual FoxPro) in ASP.NET/C#.

I am the only developer working on this project and it's a bit overwhelming, but I complete the tasks assigned to me within a reasonable time frame using Google, SO and other forums as references.

My senior developer is a FoxPro developer and has very little knowledge of .NET. I do not get any sort of help from my Senior developer. I am working completely on my own.

By working as a solo developer I have learnt quite a few things and feel like I am moving forward. However as I am working alone I feel that there are so many things that I might have missed out on having not worked in a team.

I feel I need someone who can just guide me on do's and the don'ts. I feel the need to have a mentor who can help me with the many questions that I cannot ask on SO or earch on Google.

Questions:

  1. Is it normal to feel this way or I am just not doing enough?
  2. How important is mentoring for a junior developer?
  3. How important is it for a Jr. Developer to work in a team?
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I am not sure that programmers is the right place for this question. Maybe The Workplace is a better fit. Anyway, I would say that both experiences (with & without mentor) are worth getting. –  Simon Aug 21 '12 at 12:11
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IMHO, everyone, junior, intermediate and senior should have a mentor. A peer they can work with, and who can help them and advocate for them when necessary. –  CaffGeek Aug 21 '12 at 13:32
    
    
see also: How to salvage my internship "...no one on my team, in the building, or even in the neighboring locations has any background in software development.... This is especially troubling for me since I'm not very confident with my development skills in the first place..." –  gnat Jun 18 '13 at 6:16
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closed as not constructive by Walter, maple_shaft Aug 21 '12 at 15:00

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5 Answers

When I started, I didn't have a mentor as such. I was assigned to a guy who would leave the place in three months and told to pick his brains to learn as much as I could. What have I learned? Working in a place without any knowledge management strategies sucks.

Since then I've been assigned a bunch of interns / trainees / new people and told to mentor them. What have I learned? You cannot get anything done when someone is constantly nagging you with questions that SO or Google would answer within 15 seconds and the reluctance to ask such questions is very low if you're declared mentor. Most resources they need are available on our wiki (yes, we learned a bit in between) and for the remaining questions (not covered by either local and web resources) are few and far between.

I think it is very important to give some guidance to new devs. I schedule about the same time for code reviews with new people as it took to write the code in the first place, and those are where most of the teaching takes place. Whenever possible, we try to pair them up with experienced devs / testers for a specific task. However, I thoroughly dislike being or assigning 'mentors' on a long-term basis.

Edit: One point I forgot. Junior devs shouldn't be left hanging on some solitary fringe of a project or - worse still - an project unrelated to everyone else's. Try to talk to someone up the chain to be moved to a part of the project where you can interact.

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+1 for sharing your experience.A mentor to me will b a person who can atleast help me or guide when I am stuck.Rest of the times Google or SO will do that for me.Thanks. –  priyank patel Aug 21 '12 at 12:32
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The short version:

Should interns have a mentor? Yes

Should junior devs have a mentor? Probably

The long version:

Mentors should exist, but they are like the people on SO. They should not be used as a primary resource, but rather as a safety net when you can't google whatever it is you are banging your head against.

Examples:

  • Some very specific problem that nobody else outside the company knows about.
  • Explaining of product vision (what should this look like, user experience questions etc)
  • Some bizzare errors that nobody has heard of (in most cases this is just a missing file, library or misconfiguration of IDE or something like that).

I'm in my third internship right now, and the only time I go to my mentor is when I feel that I am stuck or when I need his input to take a product decision.

A golden rule is to never ever go to your mentor before you have researched possible answers to whatever questions you have. Even if it is company-specific, most of the time there are some docs laying around that some poor ex-intern has made for exactly this problem.

Your Questions:

Is it normal to feel this way or I am just not doing enough?

Yes to the first and if you don't get some proper mentoring, the second part might also be true.

Should I consider a job switch in such circumstances?

Hard to answer, but if you don't like it, leave it. On the other hand, you are supposed to be out of your comfort zone. Otherwise it's just stale and boring, no?

How important is mentoring for a junior developer?

Can't answer since I haven't been one before

How important is for a Jr. Developer to work in a team?

Interns normally don't get to work in teams. This is both frustrating and alienating to a certain degree. I have been lucky in that regard and have always been placed in a team, which have had specific project goals and a clear long-time plan.

I imagine the same is true for junior developers. The point is that we are social creatures. While it might be fun to do a solo project on the weekends, in the long run most prefer teams.

Good luck!

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First you TLDR him and then you drop an answer that's longer than the question? Come on. –  ZJR Aug 21 '12 at 14:26
    
@ZJR Changed to "the short version" instead –  Arnab Datta Aug 21 '12 at 14:30
    
@Arnab +1 for this.Thanks a lot for very well explained answer.Much appreciated. –  priyank patel Aug 22 '12 at 5:37
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I think that a mentor and work team are very good for a young developer as he learns and becomes better and more knowledgeable.

That being said, I also think that we have so many good sources of knowledge nowadays, that if you are really an eager and passionate developer, you can develop yourself a lot by yourself and with the help of google and SO of course.

So make the best out of this situation, you can still learn a lot.

I think that your wage and working hours shouldnt be part of this question... it is unrelated.

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+1 Thanks for the answer.It means a lot.Ya maybe wages and work hours are not required here.Thanks. –  priyank patel Aug 21 '12 at 12:34
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Having senior developer as mentor without knowledge of how to use him - will not help you.

Senior developer is like google with complex queries support. Good Senior Developer also has comet connection with developer.

BTW question "Should I have senior developer as mentor?" is similar to question "Can I learn without teacher?". Yes you can, if you genius.

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Having a mentor is a great thing, but in many situations you need to find your own mentor, and not necessarily a senior person where you work. Also, different people mentor in different ways. One otherwise excellent mentor would come in early to work to take hardware out of my PC and add it to his. He didn't exactly take me under his wing. I still learned a lot from him by reading his excellent code and asking him questions, usually the "why" type question, wanting background for why something worked the way it did.

Check out your local users groups (if there are such things for ASP/.NET/C#) or even your local Java users group which is the most similar language to C#. Sorry to be negative, but Microsoft technologies seem to have much less "grass roots" support resources like users groups than open-source or even cross-platform technologies. If you change jobs, you might want to think about that.

At the same time, no single mentor will know everything. As frustrating as it can be, teaching yourself from books is a critical skill. Manuals are boring, but developing mad kung-fu coding skills is cool and to do that you have to cultivate a taste for boring manuals. Just like you won't become a body-builder without lifting weights.

Find the best tech bookstore in your area. In Boston, the MIT bookstore is pretty awesome, but probably not for Microsoft technologies. In South Carolina, I trek almost an hour away to the Barnes and Noble with the big tech section a couple times a year and browse for a few hours to find just the right book.

Good luck. The desire for a mentor will not go away when you become more proficient and a good mentor becomes harder to find. Cultivating a network of valued opinions is a skill you will need to carry with you through your career.

Please also do not confuse your want of a mentor with a lack of confidence which is another serious hurdle for many programmers. You may have to trick yourself to skip the part of each task where you wallow in thoughts like, "I can't do this" and just learn to do it anyway and fix it to make it better after you get something working.

Good luck!

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