Petro Podrezo Software Engineer

Starting off with a mentor

Mentorship can take many forms and it is most valuable when expectations are correctly set between mentor and mentee. Here are some things to consider before starting a mentorship:

Are you looking for a mentor or a coach?

In the journey of personal and professional growth, imagine a mentor as an experienced hiker who has traversed various trails. They guide you through the winding paths of your career, not by leading you step-by-step, but by sharing tales of their own hikes, helping you navigate your path. A coach, on the other hand, is like a hiking instructor, focused on teaching you specific skills - how to climb a steep slope or cross a river. They equip you with the tools and techniques for particular challenges on the trail. Remember, this journey, whether with a mentor or coach, is not a race to the summit but a hike to savor and learn from each step.

Time & Place

Establishing a cadence that works for both parties is critical. I have two kids and a full-time job, so I can’t be available at a moment’s notice and I generally am unavailable during normal business hours. E-mail is the best way to reach me and I can usually respond within a day or two. I am generally avaialble for video calls in the evenings and in mornings or early afternoons on weekends. If you prefer to meet in person, I am open to that as well, but it would have to be scheduled in advance and would likely be on a weekend.

Great questions & topics of discussion

Before I get into the list of questions, I’d like to point out that a huge benefit of mentorship is finding unknown unknowns. That is, things that you didn’t even know that you didn’t know. So, while the questions below are great, don’t feel like you need to have a list of questions prepared - sometimes the best questions are the ones that come up in the moment. However, going through a list like this can help surface those unknown unknowns or at least get you to start thinking more deeply about some particular subject that you had previously thought was simple and shallow.

The following are topics that I think are great to discuss with a mentor. They are not necessarily questions that you would ask directly, but rather topics that you might want to explore with your mentor.

  • Negotiating salaries
  • Roles and responsibilities
    • Software Architect
    • Engineering Manager (Leadeship)
    • Independent Contributor (IC)
  • Career growth
    • Climbing the ladder (Intern/Junior/Intermediate/Senior/etc.)
  • Company size and how it affects things (Small/Medium/Large orgs)
  • Consulting companies versus Product companies
    • Consulting
      • Pros
        • More exposure to different technologies
        • Better job security than being an independent contractor
        • Being able to travel for work
      • Cons
        • Less control over the projects you work on
        • Less control over the technologies you work with
        • No feeling of ownership over the products you work on
        • Shallower understanding of technologies from moving around
        • Pays lower than product companies, typically
  • Skills, programming langauges, and technologies
    • Old, legacy technology and its role and importance
  • Working on a team
  • The “art” of software development
  • Recruiters
    • How to deal with them
    • What to watch out for
    • When it can be beneficial to use one
    • The concept of “signing fees”
  • How to have effective “1 on 1"s with managers
  • How to perform well in interviews

Additionally, here are some questions I sourced from U of T’s mentorship program handbook:

Obtaining Employment & Career Advancement

What are the most important skills someone should have to find success in this occupation?

What types of part-time, full-time or summer jobs should I be doing right now which may prepare me for this career path?

What avenues did you explore to find job openings in your field?

What kind of experience is needed to obtain an entry-level position in this profession?

How long should I expect to stay in an entry-level position?

What are the opportunities for advancement?

Is this type of work available on an international basis (without further training)?

In what ways did your education contribute to your career?

What academic courses do you find most relevant to your day-to-day work?

Is a post-graduate certificate, diploma, or degree necessary within this field?

Corporate Culture & Expectations

What do you do in a typical day?

What kind of salary may I expect in an entry-level position?

What are some other jobs in your field that are similar to your own?

What terminology or ideas should I remember when I am applying for a job in this field?

What kind of corporate culture exists in your field?

How many hours are in a typical work week?

What type of supervision is typical in this career?


Who had the most significant impact on you choosing this career?

What are the things you find personally rewarding in your career?

What are the things you find frustrating or disappointing?

What extra-curricular or co-curricular activities should I pursue to help me prepare for this career area?

What kind of volunteer experience would be beneficial?

Why did you get into this field?

Is travel a component of the job?

How stressful is this occupation?

How do you personally balance home and work?

How do you make your commuting time most productive?

What was the most surprising part of your transition from university to work?

What do you see as the biggest challenges for new graduates when they enter your industry?


Who helped you to get into this field?

How important is it to know someone in your profession/industry?

What professional associations or organizations are useful to belong to in this field?

What magazines, journals, or websites are important to read in this field?