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  Kate (blog)

The pace of technological change has become dizzying. If you typically start migrating to a tool a year or two after it's released, you could very well find another version released before your migration is over. The general availability of beta and Community Technology Preview pre-release versions of developer tools provides opportunity (and pressure) to work with tools before they're released, which certainly means before they are documented. If you work with Microsoft tools, you might be considering adopting the latest version of Visual Studio and the accompanying .NET Framework. Perhaps you have yet to use particular Microsoft tools, frameworks, and libraries are are wondering if you should be. Or you need to develop entirely different kinds of applications in response to requests from your users, customers, or partners.

We work with the latest technologies every day. We write software for a variety of customers, including plenty who have no IT or development staff. We can help bring your team current on the technologies we know, or teach you the processes we use.

The pace of change affects not just what tools you use, but the way you use them; there are new processes and methodologies like Agile and Scrum. Perhaps you're thinking of changing your source control tools, or looking at the different editions of Visual Studio and trying to understand why the price for Visual Studio Enterpise is so much more than Professional, and whether your developers will really gain enough productivity to justify those costs, or if Community (which is free) is all you need. Many developers are learning to work with a new Windows version, and want to add those features to existing applications. Then there's the new C++ 11, 14, and 17 features for native developers, cross-platform development, and so much more. How do you keep up? How do you stay current? How can you learn how to use these tools when courses and books tend to lag release dates by as much as a year?

There's more than one way to learn new skills. You can take a course or buy a book, but you might prefer to use our mentoring program. Mentoring is a short-term involvement that brings new skills into your group or raises the skill level of an existing team. We provide on-site, on-the-job technical advice and tutoring, or if you prefer, you can send someone to us to learn! Our mentors draw on their instructing experience, certified technical knowledge and vast exposure to real IT projects so they help your staff to meet goals quickly and efficiently, .

What Benefits does Mentoring Offer?

  • customized attention to issues that may not be addressed in the traditional classroom environment.
  • a dramatic and permanent increase in productivity through tailored training, coaching, and inspiration
  • tremendous employee satisfaction through being provided something worth far more than taking a course or attending a conference
  • temporary capability in a new technology without having to hire more full time staff
  • permanent capability in a new technology by teaching it to your existing staff while incorporating it into your existing code

We can bring your team into a new area -- moving to .NET or from .NET to native code, upgrading to the latest Visual Studio, using Visual Studio Online for source control and Application Lifecycle Management, or getting ready for the next release. We can introduce you to a new-to-your-team technology like web services, XML, Json, or WPF. We can get you past a blockage -- one thing that you don’t know how to do that you’ll only need to do once. Or we can help you get past a temporary spike of work that needs more people; we'll pitch in during an intense time, then you'll go back to normal when the spike is past.

Why Mentoring?

The skills being learned are applied immediately to real projects. You get the convenience of having a knowledgeable mentor available just as problems or questions arise. You have access to the most current skills from certified instructors with real life and classroom teaching experience. The pace is right for your people, there is less disruption to the workday than with traditional classroom instruction, and instead of examples and exercises, you do the work you need to complete. By working directly with an experienced developer, you will pick up shortcuts, tips and tricks, and timesavers in addition to the fundamentals you knew you needed to learn.

How does it work?

You form a relationship with a single mentor, who is available by phone, email, and instant messenger between visits to your site. Most of our clients arrange regular visits - half a day a week is popular, but you might prefer longer visits or slightly less frequent ones. On some visits, your mentor presents some prepared material that you have agreed on together, teaching a particular topic of interest. On others, your developers present stumbling blocks or problems that have arisen since the last visit and the mentor helps to solve them with the group, in the process teaching your developers how to solve that sort of problem. Another time the mentor might lead the team through a design or architecture process, lead a code review, facilitate a requirements meeting, or settle technical disagreements. Still another time, the mentor might spend half a day writing a "proof of concept" application that demonstrates how to accomplish a specific task, so that your staff can incorporate a new technology into your existing application. It all depends on what your team needs at that particular time.

What's the Difference Between Mentoring and Consulting?

So many firms, with wildly varying business models, describe themselves as consultants and their offerings as consulting. Some of them have an army of suit-wearing developers that they send to your office day after day, week after week, charging you for all their time no matter what's accomplished, running your project, and leaving you in pretty much the same state they found you -- except you've spent a lot of money and perhaps you have a completed project. Others use the word to describe an independent practitioner who joins your firm almost as a member of staff, bringing a very specific skill that you need for months or years, and who has no clients other than you. There's very little advice-giving or information transfer in the process. Still others, mostly management consultants in my experience, come in with their army of suits, tell you what you should do, and leave -- they don't implement, they only advise!

We offer a variety of services to our clients. What we call consulting is giving people advice, making suggestions for what people should do, and so on. We also offer programming and web development, where we create software or a web site for you that meets your requirements and helps to solve your business problems. And separate from those services, we offer mentoring. Mentoring is about boosting skill and productivity levels with one-on-one contact. Oh yes, we advise, we suggest, we even lead sometimes, and it's all focused on making your developers better positioned to solve your business problems going forward. A successful mentoring project is all about knowledge transfer.

How can You Arrange a Mentoring Program?

Just call or email us and discuss your circumstances: how many people need to learn, what do they need to learn, when do they need to start using the new skills? We'll work something out that will get you productive as quickly as possible.