7 Smart Strategies to Find a Mentor in Tech (even if you’re brand-new to the field)
Wondering how to find a mentor in tech? You’ve come to the right place. Read on for tips to find the right mentor for you.
When Aaron Burns was studying in BloomTech’s Full Stack Web Development course, he became overwhelmed with just how much there was to learn before starting a tech career. “I was wanting to learn everything and being frustrated that it was impossible to do that,” Aaron remembers. “What helped me get over that was working with [mentors] and staff to narrow down what I should focus on.”
That approach clearly worked out. Aaron helped develop a project for a real-world company in the Labs portion of his course, which earned him a glowing letter of recommendation from the company’s CEO. He reached out to an online connection when he was interviewing for a position after graduation, who helped him negotiate a salary that was roughly double what he’d hoped for.
Now Aaron is working at a company where he’s surrounded by talented people he can continue to learn from.
“I'm really grateful to have been hired at a company where there's a wealth of experience around me,” Aaron says. “Whatever direction I want to go… there's the opportunity to do so.”
Aaron’s experience is a terrific example of the difference mentors can make on the trajectory of your career. A few ways a good mentor in tech can help you:
- Answer questions
- Provide guidance and encouragement
- Introduce you to others in the field
- Share leads on opportunities like jobs
- Help you set—and reach—goals
Finding a mentor is especially important in the early stages of your career, when you have lots of questions.
In fact, you may be wondering one question in particular: How do you find a mentor in tech?
We’re so glad you asked! This post outlines why you need a mentor and who could mentor you. Then we list 7 easy steps to find a mentor in tech.
Given how much a mentor can help your career, what are you waiting for? Read on for tips that can have a major impact on your career.
Why do you need a mentor in tech?
In a recent event hosted by BloomTech, every panelist spoke about the role mentors have played in their life and career.
“I didn’t always know the importance of having a mentor,” remembers Lekeedra James, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager at Electronic Arts. “In tech, though, it can be a roller coaster: Some days will be great, and others will be not good at all. So you have to create community and find people you can connect with.”
Mentors are just as important for the days when you feel on top of the world. They can celebrate with you and share ideas on how to leverage successes into even greater career wins.
“I identify individuals who have achieved something I hope to achieve or demonstrated an attribute I hope to have,” James says. “Then I try to learn from them.”
It sounds simple. Yet it can feel intimidating to find a mentor in tech—especially if you’re new to the field.
Rethink what it means to be a mentor
Many people don’t realize that mentorship doesn’t have to be formal or official. Any relationship in which you’re gaining helpful advice and experience can count as mentorship.
“In my personal experience, half my mentors didn’t even know they were mentors!” says Dennis Schultz, executive director at the Blacks In Technology Foundation.
You might not even meet your mentor face-to-face. In fact, this type of virtual mentorship is becoming more common because of travel limitations, remote work, and our pandemic-era climate of online networking.
“I have a mentor who works at another company. We’ve never ever met in person,” says James. It’s been two years since they were first introduced on LinkedIn, and they continue to meet regularly—always online.
Virtual support doesn’t make the relationship any less helpful, she says.
Next, let’s cover 7 ways to find a mentor in tech.
- Look inside your school, company or organization…
When you’re in school, working, or volunteering, look to a teacher or manager as a mentor. After all, it’s part of their role to help you grow.
You don’t need to feel shy about not having all the answers or needing guidance.
Come to meetings with concrete questions to get the mentorship ball rolling. A few examples:
- I want to hone my skills in Python. Can you recommend a project I could help with?
- My goal is to advance to an engineer-II role. What skills do I need to master?
- I’m struggling with feeling confident in meetings with more senior colleagues. Do you have any advice for me?
2. …And outside your school, company, or organization
If you’re in school or working in tech already, an instructor or manager is a natural fit for a mentor. Don’t stop there, though.
Expanding your network—including your mentors—beyond where you work or study is especially helpful when you move on. You’ll need steady support even after you graduate or take another job. A mentor in another organization can help provide that.
Looking beyond your current school, company, or organization may also be important if you don’t find what you need nearby. You might not work or study closely with someone with the experiences you are looking for in a mentor—for example a shared identity or background.
“For me, what ended up being really useful was identifying mentors who were outside of the structure I was in,” explains Aaron Watkins, Jr., who graduated from BloomTech’s Data Science Program and now works as a data analyst at BloomTech.
Use the following tips to find a mentor outside your immediate circle.
3. Attend panels, events, and meetups
Going to panels, events, meetups, and discussions is a great move for your career. You get to learn from people who are at the top of your field. You can also turn your attendance into connections—and potentially mentors.
After all, one strategy to find a mentor in tech is identifying something you and a potential connection have in common. When you attend an event, bam! You automatically have something in common: You both attended the same event, and you’re both interested in the same topic.
You can transform that commonality into a conversation.
Speakers, presenters, and panelists are a natural place to look for a mentor. Don’t ignore your fellow participants, though. The person sitting next to you—or the person in the same Zoom breakout room—could be the mentor you’ve been searching for.
Set aside 15 to 30 minutes after an event to reach out to the people who also attended. Start a conversation by asking a follow-up question to something you heard. The discussion may lead to a mentorship.
4. Find a mentor on LinkedIn
Start by identifying someone who is in a position you aspire to. That might be someone with your dream job title, who works at a company where you see yourself, or who walked a career path that fits your goals.
Schultz recommends these steps to find a mentor on LinkedIn.
- Follow the person you want to be your mentor.
- Interact with their LinkedIn activity regularly. “Make sure to comment on their posts from time to time,” Schultz says.
- Ask them very specific questions. Avoid broad, open-ended questions or requests that they teach you something. “People inherently want to help,” Schultz says. “When you ask them a specific question, they more than likely want to give you an answer if they can.”
- Request to “connect.” They might not accept—some people limit LinkedIn connections only to those they know personally—and that’s ok. Continue to engage and always show appreciation.
5. Ask for introductions from your personal and professional network
Even if you’re not working in the tech industry yet, you are probably connected to tech professionals through the people you already know.
Your network is like a huge web. The farther out you go, the more people you’re connected to. So if you’re looking to meet a mentor, ask your own circle for recommendations.
Your family, friends, colleagues, fellow students, even acquaintances—all of them may know someone who can help you develop your career.
“Find someone who knows somebody who might introduce you,” recommends Schultz.
A referral makes a potential mentor more likely to respond than a cold message out of the blue.
If there’s someone in particular you want to meet, check out their LinkedIn profile. You’ll see if you know someone in common. (Look for the number to the right of their name. 1st means you’re connected to them; 2nd means you have a connection in common. At the bottom of the profile summary, you’ll see a list of people you both know.)
6. Find different mentors for different needs
There’s no pressure to find a single person who ticks all the boxes of what you want in a mentor. “I kind of cobbled together the ideal, ultimate mentor through multiple people,” explains Schultz.
Start by identifying the areas in your professional life you want to develop. This could be a technical skill, soft skills like presenting in front of a group, or exploring a path like entrepreneurship. Then seek out people who can help you gain experience in those areas.
Schultz says he has mentors for many parts of his professional development, from executive leadership to event management to personal growth.
7. Stretch beyond your comfort zone
“A lot of times, you find community by putting yourself out there, being in new spaces, listening to new perspectives,” says Bernie Laureden, the vice president of business operations at BloomTech, who moderated the panel discussion. “Don’t be afraid to reach out.”
For people who are still building up their confidence, James points out that our online world makes it easier to reach out to strangers. “Now that we’re in a virtual environment, it’s easier for me to connect,” says James, who identifies as an introvert.
It’s much easier to send a message than walk up to a stranger face-to-face. Take advantage of that and make a goal to reach out to someone new every week.
Finding a mentor can take time and patience. The effort is 100% worth it. Now that you know why getting a mentor is important, it’s time to put these steps to find a mentor in tech into action.
If you’re looking for technical instruction, career guidance, and mentorship, check out one of BloomTech’s courses. The support can be literally life-changing—but don’t take our word for it. Alumni talk about the difference BloomTech made on their future.
“I love the BloomTech community,” says Hamza Harmouche, who graduated from BloomTech’s Full Stack Web Development course and is now a software engineer. “BloomTech staff and mentors make sure we have whatever we need to learn. It was all like a family that will help each other get through a hard time or hardship. It felt like we are here to support each other.”