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Posted on: Sunday, 13 December 2009 by Rajiv Popat

In an interview; Fred sits there on the other side of the table and complains about his current organization not hiring an 'experienced architect' to guide him; which he believes; is the thing that his impacting his growth. Fred has been working in the business of building software for the last seven years and Fred; dear reader; is still looking for 'a real life mentor' in his very own office who can 'guide' him or as he puts it --- help him grow.

I cringe.

Fred's looking for a mentor in his very own organization or team is a recurring theme I have seen in many programmers working in countless organizations around the world. To be honest; I have also seen teams of programmers act like orphaned children when the architect they look up to decides to resign and move over to another organization.

The whole - 'we need someone senior and experienced to guide us' - stream of thought is a recurring theme which manifests itself in multiple forms within most typical stereotype development teams I have seen in my life.

I look at Fred; and then reflect into my very own life trying to find a single technology mentor who helped shape my career; who I may have worked with in the real physical world.

I think of names; ranging from Scott Hanselman; Karl Franklin; Richard Campbell; Scott Guthrie; Venkat Subramaniam and countless others on the technology front to Michael Lopp; Steve Yegge; Joel Spolsky; Scott Berkun; Jeff Atwood; Seth Godin; Malcolm Gladwell and countless others on the non-technical; project management or soft skill front. If you take the entire list into consideration; I probably have more than a couple of hundred mentors.

The funniest part; however; dear reader; is that I have never even met any of these individuals in my real life; and yet these names and countless others have contributed towards successful projects; genuine growth and even the promotions that I may have had in my professional life.

Where Fred is going fantastically and marvelously wrong is that instead of learning from the best out there;  Fred; dear reader; is desperately seeking someone in his very own office to train him and mentor him.

Now; if you work in a software development firm that is not a Google or a Microsoft; like it or not; chances are; that you are not going to bump into the best of the world alpha-geeks or rock-stars in any field or domain; in your very own office.

You dear reader; will have to look out for them; reach out to them; and learn from them.

The best part about living a world that is so very connected is that anyone who is remotely passionate about anything; is also equally passionate about sharing his thoughts; ideas; findings and the best part of his personality either through a book; recorded webcasts; podcasts; blogs or whatever system of communication he find appropriate; with the whole wide world.

The real question is; are you willing to listen; participate and learn; from absolute strangers; who are willing to share their experiences and findings with you. If you are reading this; dear reader; chances are; that is exactly what you are doing right now. By reading this blog and these words; you  are allowing me to share my experiences and insights with you and you dear reader; are learning with me.

Behind the small LCD screen that stares at you; is a network that connects you to the smartest; wildest; funniest; craziest; most innovative minds in the world. If you constantly participate in the discussions and interact with people here; chances are that you might bump into these stalwarts; sharing their pearls of wisdom; and you might genuinely pick up a pearl or two. Keep doing that for long enough and you will actually grow faster than you expected.

You can either do that; or you can crib; cry and bitch about your organization not hiring that 'senior experienced mentor' who will come into your life and show you the light.

The choice is really yours; but if you ask me; I would gently nudge you to use the network behind that little LCD screen in front of you and connect with people who have genuine stuff to teach you. They are all out there. They are more than happy to teach you through the content that they give out as well as the experiences that they share online. Go - read; watch; follow and learn from the best of the world.

I wish you good luck.