Why I mentor on Exercism.io

Posted on Sun 04 November 2018 in Python • Tagged with python, mentoring, programming, software, development, exercism, student

Exercism (https://exercism.io) is a platform that has been created to help people improving their coding skills, thanks to the volunteers mentoring the students. There are tracks for almost all the popular languages and each track has coding tests that the students can download, solve offline using their preferred editor, and test the solution against the provided unit tests. Once the solution is ready to be reviewed (or even if it's not complete but the student needs help), it can be submitted to the website and it will go in a queue where the first available mentor will pick it and start mentoring.

The service is free to use for all the students and the mentors are all volunteers (this doesn't mean that the platform doesn't have any costs. If you are curious about the resources needed to keep the platform alive, you can give a look at this answer on Reddit.

When I found out about the platform, I decided to use it (as student) to improve my Go coding skills. I must say that I've been learning a lot from the mentors and some of them are putting a lot of effort to give you all the possible advices to improve your coding style. In a single exercise once, I learnt at least five things about Go I didn't know before!

I've been a Python developer (professionally) for the last 5 years, but I've never considered myself an "expert". I decided to give it a try with mentoring, because I felt I wanted to give something back to the community, so I registered as mentor too and started mentoring in the Python track.

The first surprise has been that mentoring other students, I was probably learning more than how much I was teaching. First of all, once you already know how to solve a problem, it's always interesting to look at other possible solutions. I've found sometimes that students were providing better (more concise and readable) solutions than mine. Last but not least, before advising someone about conding style or a more idiomatic solution, I always double check things from different sources. There is nothing wrong making mistakes, especially if you are learning... but it would be damaging for the student if I was teaching them something wrong, so I need to be sure about what I say. This of course makes me study, even the basic things, again and again and at the end of the day, my skills are better too.

Once you join the mentors group, you are invited to a private Slack where you can count on the help of other mentors (we have channels for each track/language) or ask questions. So, if you are not sure about something, you can always ask around.

If my story and experience convinced you, Exercism is looking for more mentors! The more we have available, the less time the students have to wait in a queue to be mentored. You can find all the instructions at this address https://mentoring.exercism.io