Re: Mentoring a Coworker

Be careful. You cannot mentor a person that is not eager to lean and put
all his/her energy into that. Furthermore there is a possibility that a
person is not
cut out for a job. For example I could never be a programmer.. I hate it.

You have to be VERY wise though, to distinguish between an person that is
not cut out for a task and a person that just has some obstacles. A good
mentor knows.

This person may be losing his time in programming.. he might make a fortune
in something else.. by having him around when he cannot produce, makes him
unhappy first and you cannot function as a company.

A mentor is not always polite. He uses various techniques to further a
persons development, and some of them are not comfortable at all for the
person learning.

"raisenero" <iveymi@xxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
Lately I've had a problem trying to mentor a co-worker. Strictly
speaking, it's not my job to mentor them. But if he doesn't get
better, the rest of us can't get real work done. I'm hoping someone
has some suggestions to approach this in as friendly a way as possible.
I don't want to have to approach our manager if there's some way we
can fix it. So far it's been a problem for about 2 months.

He lacks some of the most basic programming skills. He won't do things
like incremental compilation, design an algorithm, and in many ways
it's like he barely has basic computer skills (he routinely has no idea
where he just saved a file or what he named it so you can't even search
for it). I don't mean to insult him, casually speaking, he sounds like
a smart guy, but his job performance doesn't at all reflect his
portfolio or his stories about programming in his spare time.

The biggest problem is that he doesn't learn. We all constantly harp
on "incremental compilation", I mean constantly, two to three times a
day. Yesterday I told him multiple times that he should compile and
fix every single error after every function he writes. Another
co-worker asked him every half an hour or so "Did you compile?" and he
kept responding "Yes. No errors." After a 3 hour block goes by, he
asks for help because he has 100+ errors. There are errors as far back
in the file as the very first line (an import statement). 90% of the
errors are simple typos (missing braces, parentheses, etc.), things I
think any competent programmer can fix on their own, and aside from
that, our IDE highlights such errors as you type. Before, I thought
the problem might have been that I wasn't being clear about how
frequently to compile, so I thought saying "after every function" was a
concrete enough guideline but it didn't change.

A couple of us were thinking maybe we should make up a series of
notecard tips or something, give him a few books (like The Pragmatic
Programmer), and get him over to one of our houses on the weekend to
help him out. Do you think we're putting too much effort into helping
him? It's a hard choice, he's a nice guy, I don't want to just tell
the manager "You need to fire him." Thankfully we're in a low-pressure
job, we do research, we don't really have much in the way of time
limits and deadlines in our department so he's not really setting us
back very far. It's more like silent pressure. No one is 'saying'
anything about our recent lack of productivity, but the anxiety is
there just the same that any day now someone is going to be asking
questions about why we haven't produced anything lately.

I don't mean to sound like an elitist. When I first started here, I
know I made mistakes too. But I like to think I learned faster, that I
didn't need to be told dozens of times about the same thing. I'm just
uncertain, is this par for the course? It's my first programming job,
and the first time working with someone new (up until he came I was the
new guy). Is this just what it's like breaking in a new programmer?