The XP Coach label often gets thrown in with some other descriptive titles like facilitator, mentor, team lead, trainer in order to paint a picture about what the role entails. A big picture indeed, but not all coaches can/will fit all attributed descriptions since each is quite different, particularly mentor.
A mentorship … is a dynamic shared relationship in which values, attitudes, passions, and traditions are passed from one person to another and internalized. Its purpose is to transform lives (Berger, 1990).
If we combine the above definition and this list of attributes of a good mentor [inspired by Lewin, 1993 and Gordon, 2002]; a mentor is:
enthusiastic about the mentee’s progress
willing to help mentee whenever needed
willing to recede when credit needs to be distributed
willing to protect the reputation of the mentee through, for example, co-authorship
leading the way through support and encouragement [not through dictation]
unconditional in accepting the mentee along with his/her’s ideas
… it stands to reason that most relationships within programming, and in particular the emerging programming culture [accelerated through Agile practices like pair-programming] have an element of mentorship: coach or not. Like it or not 🙂
I have benefitted more from mentors in my career than i have from learning resources. Make no mistake, these resources are invaluable but my mentors shaped my values, challenged my thinking and encouraged my passions. These determine the who i am and not just the what i can[can’t] do.
Mostly though, my menteeship has been ad-hoc [as is most mentoring, i’m assuming]. I wish it had been more explicit since the value it offers is obvious. Be that as it may for me, i do believe that in the now and in the generations to come, mentorship in software should be more explicit.
We all learn tricks from the gurus. This will never change. But where do we learn to think and how do we sharpen that axe, constructively? OpenSource/ forums/ blogs; this is part of it, but relationship is key. Afterall, computers should be about people, right? And mentorship hold some answers. Something we can all take on more explicitly as we advance, always being mentored, forever being a mentee.
Berger, S (1990). Mentor Relationships and Gifted Learners. [http://ericec.org/digests/e486.html] In Boston, B. (1979). The mentor and the education of the gifted and talented. In J. H. Orloff (Ed.), BEYOND AWARENESS: PROVIDING FOR THE GIFTED CHILD
Gordon, J. (2002). Qualities of an Inspiring Relationship [http://www.qualitycoaching.com/Articles/mentor.html]
Lewin, R. (1993). Complexity: Life at the Edge of Choas