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“Am I senior yet?” Grow your career by teaching your peers.

“Am I senior yet?” Grow your career by teaching your peers.

“How do I become a senior engineer?” It’s a question every bootcamp grad will ask. Most engineers look at advancement through a lens of increasing technical skill. More than ever, though, being “senior” means more than just parsing Ruby in your sleep. As our companies grow and as our industry grows, seniority means helping new teammates and colleagues advance their own skills. It means knowing how to teach.

You don’t need Matz-level knowledge to be a great teacher. With social awareness, a dash of psychology, and some proven approaches, by helping others learn, you’ll earn senior-level respect.

Like the presentations? Learn more about our team at Mavenlink


Katlyn Parvin

November 10, 2016


  1. How to grow your career by teaching your peers. “Am

    I senior yet?” By Katlyn Parvin
  2. “A senior developer understands that you cannot do everything yourself.

    Their primary role is to help their team get better…” - Matt Briggs
  3. How does teaching help my career? Teaching allows you to

    maximize your impact. Employers will hire, promote and reward high impact engineers
  4. How do I become a better teacher? But I write

    code for a living...
  5. What is my background? Katlyn Parvin Director of Engineering @

    Mavenlink Previously an engineering team lead B.S. Computer Engineering Ex-Shy Person
  6. Today’s lesson plan 8 lessons #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

    #6 #7 #8
  7. A question is an opportunity for growth Lesson #1

  8. Let’s take a look at a typical scenario... you’re at

    your desk jamming on some code
  9. Someone comes over and asks you a question. I’m getting

    this error from bundler… What do I do?
  10. What do most people do in this situation? You solved

    their problem, right? What is wrong with that? Ugh… Just merge master into your branch I’ve already fixed it.
  11. Use these opportunities to teach someone something. That way they

    will have the means to solve their own problems in the future. What is a better approach?
  12. Let’s see what this looks like if we focus on

    teaching. What does the error say? (Have they tried to figure it out on their own?) What does bundler mean by that? (Do they understand the context?) What has changed that would cause this error now? (Can they identify the root cause?) How could we go about fixing this issues?
  13. Learn to tailor your response to your audience Lesson #2

  14. Take the time to consider who you are talking to.

    Consider things like… • Background • Experience level • Comfort level • Motivations • Goals
  15. Skill VS. Will Matrix Popularized by Max Landsberg in The

    Tao of Coaching.
  16. Skill VS. Will Matrix Skill Will Ability to accomplish the

    task Level of motivation or drive
  17. Skill VS. Will Skill Will

  18. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Junior New Hire • Highly

    motivated to learn • Hasn’t had time to build their skills yet
  19. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Providing guidance • Provide tools,

    training, and guidance • Remove obstacles • Reduce risk Guide
  20. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Junior Engr 1 month in

    • Starts to realize how much they don’t know • Hasn’t had time to build their skills yet
  21. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Providing direction • Provide clear

    explanations • Identify motives • Develop a shared vision of success Direct
  22. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Mid-level Engineer • Loves what

    they are doing • Highly skilled
  23. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Helping to delegate • Provide

    freedom • Communicate trust • Develop stretch goals • Broaden responsibilities Delegate
  24. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Senior Engineer • Highly skilled

    • A little bored • They’ve done all of this before
  25. Skill VS. Will Skill Will Helping to excite • Point

    out challenges • Identify their interests • Align interest with their work Excite
  26. Skill VS. Will Cheat Sheet Skill Will Excite Delegate Direct

  27. Resist the urge to teach by doing Lesson #3

  28. So if we just create a service object for this

    here... wire it up here… and voila! It works. If you are doing most of the typing… 9/10 times this person will not understand everything you just did.
  29. Are there exceptions to the rule?

  30. Keep an eye out for mimicry Lesson #4

  31. Well I saw that we were doing this in another

    similar file so I copied it over to my file... This is a red flag. It is time to sit down and start explaining (aka. Cargo culting)
  32. Teaching is about communicating effectively Lesson #5

  33. Human interactions are plagued by packet loss Background Intention Emotion

    Energy Context Meaning
  34. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that

    it has taken place” - George Bernard Shaw
  35. How effective are you are at conveying information? When you

    are talking to someone ask yourself… How much is your audience receiving? 50%? 20%? How could I do better?
  36. Have realistic expectations Lesson #6

  37. Teaching is a marathon not a sprint What is realistic?

    • You can’t expect them to absorb everything at once. • Maybe they are progressing in ways that you haven’t noticed
  38. Teaching also benefits the teacher Lesson #7

  39. Everyone has something to teach Teaching helps with... • Building

    confidence • Solidifying your own knowledge • Practicing your ability to communicate effectively • Creating opportunities for feedback
  40. Talk to your manager about how you can learn more

    effectively Lesson #8
  41. Managers are just trying to help you become a better

    engineer Talk about ways that your manager can help you • Providing more opportunities to teach • Providing challenges • Adopting teaching focused practices ◦ Paired programming ◦ Show and tell • Helping you with conference submissions :)
  42. I hope these lessons have been helpful

  43. Leave you with this... “True learning involves a permanent change

    in the way you see and act in the world. The accumulation of information isn’t learning.” - Benjamin Hardy
  44. My info: Katlyn Parvin @katlyndaniluk Director of Engineering @

    Mavenlink If you are interested in paired programming, building awesome software and teaching we are hiring. Thank you!