Guide to being mentored

Learn how to make the most out of being mentored on Exercism

Being mentored on Exercism is an amazing opportunity to have somebody more practiced than you in a certain language share their experience and knowledge. Someone is going to give up their time, for free, to help you out. This video aims to give you some pointers about how to get the most out of the experience.

The first thing to discuss, and probably the most important thing, is your mindset. At Exercism we talk a lot about having a “growth mindset” - the desire and humility to focus on extracting every crumb of knowledge you can from a situation - approaching conversations with the desire - not to prove yourself - but to learn and grow. If you approach mentoring with this growth mindset, exploring the ideas that the mentor discusses and trying the things they suggest, you’ll get huge benefit from the experience.

The best mentors will often take you on journeys - rather than just giving you an answer they’ll give you hints and ideas as to how to do things differently. They’re not trying to be awkward or difficult by not just telling you what to do, but they know that if you come up with the solutions yourself, you’ll be much more likely to gain a deep understanding of the topic. So, if something they’re saying isn’t clear, take a few minutes to explore what they might mean. Really try and think it through. It shouldn’t feel like you’re being given a riddle, and if you really don’t understand what your mentor is saying, please do tell them, but take their suggestions and dig into them - consider why they might be suggesting things.

We suggest that a mentor tries to give you 1 - 3 ideas per iteration. So if they look at your solution and see something huge that needs to be improved, we recommend they start by helping with that. Often just solving that one thing will allow you to then go and improve other areas yourself before submitting another iteration. If nothing big is wrong, then maybe they’ll give you a few small things to improve instead.

Every time you submit a new iteration your mentor will be alerted and they’ll give you some more feedback. Our mentors are volunteers so sometimes it might take a couple of days before they’ll have chance to get back to you, but that’s pretty normal - you can just explore other exercises in the meantime.

Once you’ve improved your solution, either you or your mentor might choose that the conversation has gone far enough. Either of you can end the discussion and you’ll be given the chance to rate the mentoring you have received and leave a testimonial for the mentor if they’ve helped you. If you have a bad experience with a mentor, please tell us when you finish the conversation. We don’t vet our mentors and occasionally people do have bad experiences, but by alerting us we can stop it happening again. And please remember that it’s always better to walk away from a conversation than getting into an argument. Sometimes people’s personalities clash and when that happens it’s important that neither you, nor the mentor, get demotivated, so it’s better to end the conversation and wait for a new mentor than getting frustrated with the one you have.

I hope you have a great time being mentored on Exercism. If you’re enjoying the experience, please consider becoming a mentor yourself. It’s a great way to give back to the community, and something you can choose to volunteer to whenever you have the free time. Have fun! 🎉