Mentoring is an on-the-job skills transfer and problem-solving process.

Mentoring helps people internalize and develop skills they have learned through less immersive forms, such as a training course. Because mentoring happens in a realistic work environment, it is possible to solve real on-the-ground problems.

An example of where mentoring has worked well is just after a test-driven development training course we ran. Some of the attendees had tried before the course to write tests for some existing code and had problems with their test cases becoming very long and complicated. We took a look at the tests and agreed they were complicated, but there was nothing obviously wrong with them.

But we had a suspicion: we checked the code they were testing and sure enough, it was very long and complicated. The length and complexity of the test case was merely a reflection of the length and complexity of the code it was testing. The test was a symptom rather than the real problem. So, we spent some time working through strategies for simplifying the code. The developers learned first hand how an expert diagnoses and fixes a problem, and gained confidence in their ability to see and resolve problems themselves.

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