Why Having a Frontend Mentor Boosts Programming Careers

Sam Cook


Why Having a Frontend Mentor Boosts Programming Careers

Frontend web development may be considered “easier” than backend development, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Junior programmers can get a leg up in their programming career when they have a frontend mentor. Frontend mentoring helps junior developers learn hands-on from more experienced developers on the team. With this type of mentoring format in place, companies can not only reduce turnover among junior developmers, but accelerate their skill development, making them far more valuable to the company and increasing their productivity and output.

This post will help you better understand why frontend developers need mentoring. Before we start, however, please take a quick poll for us:

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What Is a Frontend Mentor?

A Frontend mentor is an experienced frontend web developer who helps junior developers hone their skills. Frontend mentoring can help junior-level programmers more quickly and effectively onboard and improve their skills.

While it’s certainly desirable that all frontend web developers are experts upon hiring, that’s not always the reality. Many junior hires know enough to get hired and get started but still need some additional help to find success and advance their skills and careers. Mentoring programs structured around frontend web development can help these new hires obtain those skills and more readily adopt a company’s core programming process and ethos.

The Path to Frontend Development Matters

The internet is full of courses, videos, and boot camps that claim anyone can become a master at coding right now. The reality is that programming isn’t a walk in the park. In fact, frontend web development alone can take 6 months of intense training. For someone without any programming experience, a 6-month course or boot camp might be enough to land a job. It may not, however, be enough to be truly considered a proficient or capable practitioner.

A group of working together within a frontend mentor program to upsill at a table.

You can spend countless hours watching YouTube tutorials and joining training courses, but it won’t be enough.

That’s why different platforms like Frontend Mentor currently exist, for example. Frontend Mentor is a platform that was developed to aid in this purpose. It is a web development platform that enables developers of all skill levels to come together in one platform to facilitate the learning process for coding skills, both beginners and advanced.

Of course, that’s a good starting point. But for programmers working in a team or for companies that need to effectively track and manage mentoring relationships, solely relying on an external service is not ideal.

A tangible and internal frontend mentor within your organization can solve several key problems with on-demand courses:

  1. It gives you control over mentor and mentee pairing
  2. It gives you more visibility into what is being learned and whether that knowledge aligns with your institutional knowledge, guidelines, and practices
  3. It gives you the ability to collect and gather success data on mentoring relationships and goal achievement
  4. It gives you better insight into who is accessing mentorship and whether those mentoring relationships are successful
  5. It gives you the data you need to prove frontend mentoring has effective ROI for your company

Simply put, using an outside platform like Frontend Mentor is great, especially for individuals getting started. But once a junior-level developer is part of a team and needs to align with organizational goals, strategy, and ways of doing work, a DIY and crowdsourced learning strategy is no longer the best option. A real mentor is needed at that point, and ideally, one that’s part of your organization.

The Benefit of Using a Frontend Mentor or Mentoring Program

There’s a stat floating around that the turnover rate for software developers is 57%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’d be incredibly high if it were true. But a deep dive by James Griffin of Invene found that the BLS has no such number (at least, not anywhere Mr. Griffin could find it).

Don’t let the spurious data fool you, however. Software developers of all stripes still have high turnover, just like most industries right now. What’s more is that because software and web developers tend to earn higher salaries, replacing them when they leave is generally far more expensive.

Let’s look at a few factors here.

First, Indeed reports that the average salary for a frontend developer is just over $106,000 per year. Comparatively, the average American makes around $54,000 per year. That means frontend developers earn nearly twice as much as the average American makes.

Now combine that with two factors: turnover rates and the cost to replace. PayScale found that the average turnover rate for all companies is 24%. And Gallup finds that the cost to replace employees is usually around 1.5 times that employee’s salary (and up to 2 times for highly specialized skillsets).

Math time!

If you have a team of 20 frontend developers, and 24% quit in a given year, the math for how much that’s going to cost to replace those workers looks like this:

(20 x 24%) x ($106,000 x 1.5) = $720,000.

Even replacing round 5 employees will cost over $700,000. In some regions where salaries exceed the average, that cost is going to be way more. And if you’re in an industry where frontend developers are harder to find because of your specialized needs, well, increase those costs even more.

The biggest benefit to frontend mentoring, from a business perspective, is saving money on turnover. Mentoring of all kinds increases employee retention. Because frontend mentors help grow and sustain some of the highest-paid workers in the organization, the ROI is fairly impressive.

Check out our Mentoring Soundbites video on How to Measure Mentoring Success for more insights on just that: getting to the success data that proves mentoring is worth the spend. We recommend you subscribe to get updated on new mentoring program advice and strategies we release every Wednesday at 8 AM EST.

But what about benefits for junior-level frontend developers?

Frontend mentoring does not just benefit a programmer’s company. It also has profound benefits for the employee who chooses to enter into a frontend mentoring program, especially when you look at it from three angles: skill development, career growth, and personal growth.

  • Skill development is essential for junior-level programmers of all kinds. Most junior developers have an initial skills gap that needs to be closed as quickly as possible for career advancement. Once enrolled in a frontend developer mentoring program, mentees will further hard programming skills for things like HTML, CSS, Javascript, and TypeScript.
  • Career growth is necessary for junior developers. Few developers want to say at the junior level (and continue making a junior-level salary for too long). Mentees in a frontend mentoring program can benefit from their mentor’s industry knowledge and experience. Mentors can provide insights into the industry, such as the latest trends and job requirements, and help mentees identify potential career paths or job opportunities.
  • Personal growth is also valuable for frontend mentors, and is something that can be more readily acquired by pairing with and learning from a mentor versus simply learning programming languages from courses. Mentoring programs can also offer mentees personal growth opportunities. Mentors can provide guidance on developing a positive mindset, effective communication skills, and strategies for overcoming challenges. Mentees can also benefit from the support and encouragement provided by their mentor, which can help them build confidence and resilience in their professional and personal lives.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it should help give you an idea of why entering into a frontend mentoring program or seeking a frontend mentor at work is a valuable experience.

How Do I Start a Frontend Mentoring Program?

If you’re an a talent development specialist, you’ll likely find that starting a frontend mentoring program is quickly becoming necessary. With turnover rates increasing and skills gaps between junior developers only growing with time, something needs to be done.

Here are some quick tips to help you get started building a frontend mentoring program:

  • Define Program Goals: Start your journey by defining your program goals. This should include why you want to start a frontend mentoring program at all and what you hope to achieve as a result. For example, your “Why” could be that junior-level developers have a high turnover rate. The goal could be to reduce that turnover by a certain amount.
  • Get Internal Support: You likely won’t be able to launch a mentoring program without internal support first. Find a champion at the executive level who has power over spending. Get them on board with why mentoring is important. Show them some mentoring stats to explain why it’s valuable. Once they’re on board, you are more likely to get the funding you need to launch the program.
  • Recruit Mentors: The next step is to recruit experienced and knowledgeable mentors who can provide guidance and support to mentees. Mentors should have a good understanding of frontend development, best practices, internal practices for development, and industry trends.
  • Recruit Mentees: Once mentors are recruited, the program can start recruiting mentees. We recommend that you treat mentee recruitment the same way your company treats its external marketing efforts. Try to sell them on the value of mentoring. You could even make mentoring a requisite process for your onboarding programs.
  • Track Program Success: Assuming you’re using mentoring software to create and manage your mentoring programs, you’ll be able to track success within the software as well. Take note of program metrics, such as milestone achievements, hours spent in mentoring, and participant feedback on the program and their mentor/mentee relationship. Make mid-cycle adjustments as needed.
  • Evaluate Program Success: The final step in building a frontend mentoring program is to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. This can be done by gathering feedback from mentors and mentees, tracking program metrics, and making changes to the program based on the feedback received. Continuous evaluation and improvement are key to building a successful mentoring program. We also recommend evaluating success based on program ROI, which we’ve written about on our Mentoring ROI page.

Mentoring programs are a boon for every company. And the people who help start or champion those programs? They’re the real winners. In the movie “The Sandlot”, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez has a dream where he sees Babe Ruth’s ghost, who points to him and says, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Don’t just aspire to be a hero to your company with mentoring. Be a legend and request a demo.

Sam Cook

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