Interview with Molly Struve - 3 Tactics for Mentoring Others
October 18, 2019
In August, I met a ton of gifted engineers. Among those Engineers was Molly Struve, a Lead Site Reliability Engineer who has been building an SRE team around herself for the last year or two.
During that journey, Molly has learned a thing or two about mentoring other engineers, and she shared some of her experiences and advice during our discussion.
These are some of the tactics she has used:
1. Use your resources
Part of mentorship is creating a voice for yourself and sharing your knowledge.
Molly talked about her experiences speaking and writing for other people. She mentioned the benefits of getting involved in the community, but she also mentioned her realization that speaking would result in being able to help a significant number of people.
While she was learning to share with the community, she had acquaintances and mentors of her own; they helped her to become a better mentor herself. Leaning on people like this is a way to invest in your mentorship skills.
When you are in a mentorship or leadership position, it becomes imperative to take advantage of your resources. You’ll need to find mentors and leaders of your own to guide you as you grow in your role.
Finding mentorship for yourself is a step that is frequently missed when becoming a better mentor yourself.
2. Practice empathy
In my opinion, there is no more valuable skill for a great mentor than empathy.
I call it a skill because I believe you should practice empathy. Practicing empathy is continually working to develop your ability to see the world from another person’s perspective.
Molly talks about empathy during our conversation. Empathy is an important component of her mentorship strategy.
She mentioned that it’s challenging to remember what it was like to be a newcomer to the tech industry. Learning to step into the mind space of your junior colleagues is one of the most important skills to master as a mentor.
We talked about the idea of unconscious competence and how breaking your knowledge down into things that you can teach is a great way to recognize the experience that you’ve taken for granted. This has the two-fold benefitting of helping you to be a good mentor and solidifying your knowledge.
3. Share your mistakes
Molly told me about this awesome idea. She does something called “Lunch with Leads,” where a lead engineer (like Molly) takes a more junior person out to lunch.
Interestingly, as a part of this practice, Molly likes to share an example of something she did wrong.
I get frustrated with the idea of hero-worship in the software engineering industry, and it’s something we can walk into by accident. If you don’t share the things you struggle with, then it’s pretty difficult for junior colleagues to realize that you also make mistakes.
So, Molly’s example of talking about her mistakes openly and keeping herself off of that pedestal is super healthy and something that I’ll make an effort to be better about going forward.
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