Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Does Mentoring Exist Any More?

By Ben Nadel on
Tags: ColdFusion, Work

I get a fairly regular supply of job offers through my web site contact form. While I am not really looking for a new employment opportunity, I do respond to most all the offers submitted. The one thing that I really request is that it is a position with a mentor. I don't see any point in moving jobs unless it is to a place where a "grand master" of sorts would be able to take me under their wing and teach me what I don't already know. Without that, I would just be changing locations and what's the point of that?

When I send this email to people, they either say that that is not what the position entails or I simply never hear from them again. Am I going crazy or has the way people work changed? What happened to apprenticeships? What happened to learning it the right way from the people who know what they are doing? Maybe this is the wrong field for this type of working environment? Maybe ColdFusion is too young to have many places like that available? Or maybe the whole world is like that and I live in a fantasy world where each company feels the need to employ "Senior" programmers to teach the noobs?

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Reader Comments

I definately know what you mean. I get a lot of inquiries in my inbox but they all just look like jobs-- nothing really motivating or different than any other job. Honestly I think it's just the nature of ColdFusion; you're more likely to find these sorts of positions in more classic type languages. in big companies, but you also need to at least be a Computer Science student to get into them.

At my current job I'm very lucky that my boss is an ex-architect at Avaya, where he was one of the lead architects for the Avaya phone system that a large percentage of big companies use. He's a Java guru and has submitted patches for Java when it was still in beta, was a C++ guru before that, etc. I'm very fortunate to work with someone of that stature. IE.. in interviews he can ask candidates what area of Java they are the strongest in, and ask guru level questions in pretty much any area that they mention. He's helping me with learning Java as well as architecting large systems, and it's great!

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Brandon,

That sounds nice :) At my company, we have started having "round table" discussions and presentations which has been helping spread the knowledge, but I feel like I am just missing something.

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Its just gotten more and more rare. There a lot of things that raise flags in these job requests. Titles like "Urgent Request" make me think, hmmm... they don't plan well for projects... others don't even give you a hint about the company work environment and make unreasonable requests. Yeah, I dont want $35 to do money work (php, asp, cfml, jsp) all listed in one description.

What you are talking about is like Step 2. After you can sort through the garbage, and get legitimate descriptions and interviews... then only can you think about how you fit the company and what is your career path, and frankly who will you work with and was does this job have to offer me, like a good mentor, etc.

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Employee training is the key.
In order to stay at the top of your game, you have to take time to go to conferences, read manuals, etc, etc. But corporate employees don't have time to train.
So managers find someone that's been training outside the company, either as a consultant or a new hire. Once they're inside, the new employee's knowledge is used up but no new training is given.
The cycle repeats.
I had a great time at cfUnited 2006, but had to pay for it myself and take it as vacation days.
Thankfully my employer realized the implication of what that meant and reiumbursed me, but it still took a leap of faith on my part.
I'd love to work somewhere that expected me to go to conferences instead of fighting against me trying to better myself.
Let's do this (since this topic has surfaced in several discussion lists):
Let's start a curricula for taking someone from cfZero to cfHero.
Freshman: HTML, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, CSS.
Sophomore: SQL, ColdFusion, cfeclipse.
Junior: Frameworks
Senior: Publishing Web services, producing a blog, podcast, videos, whatever. Taking on an entering freshman.

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so what happens if you do take a job at (what you thought at the time) was a real go-ahead institution...

... only to find that
- you're the only one that cares about "doing things the right way" (not because of project deadlines, but because of sheer lazyness, ignorance or not giving a rats in learning what is "the right way" )

- the general quality of work is shite, and the same mistakes repeated, and yet there's no shortage of "pats on the back" about how great the place is or how exellent the solutions are (ie: deluded and inexperianced in knowing there is far better out there in the field)

- your meagre (fundamental) skills are generally leaps and bounds ahead of those around you, when you took the job hoping to gain lots of new experiances

- that their idea of innovation is 3 years behind the times and, try as you might, you can't get anyone interested in upgrading exiting technology let alone take part of new stuff that you know would suit what they do

- where top management are completely computer (and solutions) illiterate, and middle management lack the political courage to even raise these issues?

- where you try and create "islands of exellence" and even start up and run PD/training sessions, only to be met with total apathy by all?

- where you have no voice because you're the "new kid" but the seniors are doing sod-all about it?

- and it feels like you're working in a sheltered workshop? (or driving a truck with a bunch of flat tyres)

what do you do when you realise this 3/4 the way thru your first year of a two year contract?

BUT....

- it's in an area that you have a strong interest in where the type of work is the sort that makes a difference to peoples lives and gives it more purpose than a paycheck
- and work of this type is very scarce in this area (and due to family, no hope of moving )

in short...
.... do you suffer the medoricraty (and the feeling your career is going backwards each and every day) because it's the type of work you want to be a part of
- or -
... cut and run, ending up in some nameless job that you have no empathy for?

what would you do?

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> So what happens if you do take a job at (what you thought at the time) was a real go-ahead institution...
Sometimes changes take a long time. But when the opportunity arises, things change very quickly. What a difference a year makes!

... only to find that
- you're the only one that cares about "doing things the right way" (not because of project deadlines, but because of sheer lazyness, ignorance or not giving a rats in learning what is "the right way" )
Whenever someone at work says "We don't care (what you do)" I always interject: "I care".
Lazyness is spelled laziness in America. Iron sharpens iron.
As your new friend, I'll correct (Anglicize?) the other spellings inline.

- the general quality of work is shite [shit], and the same mistakes repeated, and yet there's no shortage of "pats on the back" about how great the place is or how exellent [excellent] the solutions are (ie: [i.e.:]deluded and inexperianced [inexperienced] in knowing there is far better out there in the field)

- your meagre [meager] (fundamental) skills are generally leaps and bounds ahead of those around you, when you took the job hoping to gain lots of new experiances [experiences].
Try to look at from their perspective. One eye-opening experience I had was finding someone to replace me so that I could move up a level. My perspective turned around almost 180 degrees regarding employer/employee relationships.

- that their idea of innovation is 3 years behind the times
3 years is not a long time. Remember, they are in business to make a profit, not keep up on the latest technology. A hard pill for you to swallow, I'm sure.

and, try as you might, you can't get anyone interested in upgrading exiting technology let alone take part of new stuff that you know would suit what they do
In your opinion. You're not infallible.

- where top management are completely computer (and solutions) illiterate, and middle management lack the political courage to even raise these issues?
Yep, everybody's just covering their ass!

- where you try and create "islands of exellence" [excellence] and even start up and run PD/training sessions, only to be met with total apathy by all?
What does PD stand for?
I'm with you on the training issue. It's all about motivation I suppose. And motivation comes from within. You can perhaps kick-start motivation, but in the end they either want it or they don't. You can't force someone to learn. They have to teach themselves. There's no way you're going to teach someone how to program in an hour-long session a couple times/week. They have to do it themselves. Which is why the Internet is so great. Now you're not limited by those who are geographically around you.

- where you have no voice because you're the "new kid" but the seniors are doing sod-all about it?
Yeah, I was the new kid for about 3 years until one day the manager got fired and her flunky lackey quit. Suddenly things changed!

- and it feels like you're working in a sheltered workshop? (or driving a truck with a bunch of flat tyres)
Listen to Helms and Peters talk about that at http://www.helmsandpeters.com/.
19. Hitting .350
23. What Am I Learning

what do you do when you realise [realize] this 3/4 the way thru your first year of a two year contract?
Take heart. You're learning a lot more than you realize.
BUT....

- it's in an area that you have a strong interest in where the type of work is the sort that makes a difference to peoples lives and gives it more purpose than a paycheck
Sounds like you're in the right place.
- and work of this type is very scarce in this area (and due to family, no hope of moving )
A fast internet connection is your ticket. Read (or listen to) "The world is flat".

in short...
.... do you suffer the medoricraty [mediocrity] (and the feeling your career is going backwards each and every day) because it's the type of work you want to be a part of
- or -
... cut and run, ending up in some nameless job that you have no empathy for?
You'll find the same problems at the next company you cut and run to.

what would you do?
Computerworld published a survey a long time ago stating that managers with good people skills were paid more than managers with good technical skills. I believe it. It pays to polish your people skills.
But hey - don't take career advice from me. My career has floundered these past couple of years.
I just know who I am, so I'm comfortable with whatever people think.
I'm a computer programmer, and if you want to get the project done, you're going to have to come through me.

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Dissapointed,

I know you feel. I have so much passion for what I do that it boggles my mind that other people are eager to keep learning about this stuff (even at my own place of work). I have been going to the New York CFUG for like two years and I always invite people. I think I managed to drag someone there like 2 times..... 2 times in 2 years. And it's once a month! And its FREE! And it's Dinowitz! I mean come on, how much more do you need to get motivated?!?

About 2 years ago I approached my boss about having group meetings where we would share information and have presentations. He felt it was not a good idea. We finally started doing them about a month ago. It took two years but I finally got them going. Not sure what it was that did it, my boss finally saw the light.

Now that that is working, I am going to draft up a proposal to have a model for employee-compensation for off-hours project development. Learning in a meeting is one thing, but I think we need to reward developers for putting that new knowledge into a project and creating something that the company can use. I am sure that will be completely shot down, but I think it's important for me to get that conversation going.

As for a solution to your work situation.... you just have to be happy with yourself. Yes it can be very frustrating to work with unmotivated people, but just keep pushing yourself. Do as much learning as you can. Keep expanding your mind. And most importantly, if you love what you are doing (as a career) do NOT change that. Do what you love and the rest will come with time.... it just might take longer than you hoped.

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Phillip,

Good response. I just wanted to say though that at my company we have finally started doing training / knowledge share sessions (for about a month) and they have been great. True, you cannot teach someone to program in one or two hour sessions, but you can teach them one great thing each time... and hopefully, you can motivate them, help them see that wait, there is some really cool stuff out there that I dont know.

You can never light a fire under someone's ass. They are who they are. The trick is to show them stuff that convinces them that THEY need to light their own fire.

That of course is MUCH easier said that done. But, I am trying.

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Definately looking for a mentor when it comes to coldfusion development. I've been working with about five different books and there is little in the way of good clean concept work out there on paper that matches apprenticeship (No disrespect to the authors meant). Would like to know if you can recommend someone to study under

Regards,
Doug

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