I’m not that big of a fan of the word mentor. In my opinion, the word sounds overly formal and impersonal and for some reason, I feel like it’s one-sided in terms of perception. One person is donating their time to help the growth of an individual. That being said, I realized that I’ve had individuals make the offers of being “mentors” to me without there being any foundation to our relationship. Essentially, these “mentor/mentee” relationships never really went anywhere and fizzled out. That being said, working at DigitalOcean has given me the opportunity to work closely with really talented software engineers, in addition to becoming friends with them. Rather than considering them mentors, I consider them “friendtors”. Friends who often help frequently as professional mentors. I know I can talk to them whenever about whatever. Sometimes it’s about needing some technical advice or guidance. Sometimes it’s about just something totally random and just a normal conversation that friends have. There’s no expectation of “give” and “take” in the relationship, friends just look out for each other and help them when necessary.
I’m grateful to have this and I didn’t realize the value of friendtorship until I got to work with some really dope people. At my previous job, I had never really spent time outside of work hanging out with my coworkers. There wasn’t room in the office to bond either, with no team events or lunches. But being able to hang out with my coworkers and become friends (not only colleagues), really allowed me to feel more comfortable around them. You don’t become as scared to ask for help and you know that they will be there to help you grow and improve. Additionally, the relationship isn’t only tied to both being at the same company. While some of my coworkers have moved on, we still stay in touch and hang out together. I also know that I can always reach out to them if necessary. This isn’t to say this isn’t possible with mentorship, but I do believe that having that base friendship before letting the mentorship come naturally makes a huge difference.
Friendtorship doesn’t necessarily have to start offline. There are millions of people connected through Twitter and a plethora of Slack channels out there. Through both mediums, I’ve been able to meet some dope people as well that constantly drop wisdom and knowledge on me that helps me grow as a person. There may be a person you’re friends with who you really respect, ask them if you could meet with them to get some advice or help with something. If you all would hang out with each other normally, there’s probably no reason for them to say no. Good luck!