My review was going swimmingly and then I heard Pete coughing – loudly.
“You okay over there?” I asked.
“Yeah, fine. But, I am kind of choking on your code.”
That got a giggle out of the other developers.
Annoyed, I said, “Oh really, Pete, please enlighten us.”
“Well, your algorithms could be much more efficient. I mean come on dude, wouldn’t it make sense to do your calculations in parallel and not sequentially – there’s no dependencies right?”
He was right. And this bugged the heck out of me. Not because he was spot on (or that he called me “dude”). But because he called me out in front of everyone when he could have said something the night before when we were both going over the same exact code.
During that evening’s commute, Pete jabbered on about something unimportant. I was boiling and had to say something.
“Pete, you really ticked me off today by embarrassing me in front of the team.”
“Really? Sorry dude, but wasn’t the point of code reviews to point out ways to improve the code?”
“Yes, but why didn’t you point it out the night before?”
“I don’t know. Guess I was too tired and thought I’d just bring it up in the review.”
So he did hold back and then called me out in front of everyone! I was starting to fume.
“Well that sucks because you are an intern and I am supposed to be your mentor.”
“Okay, Okay. Chill out dude. Didn’t realize you were so sensitive. Point taken.”
“It’s not about me being sensitive. I would have happily taken your advice one-on-one. And stop telling me to chill out and calling me dude!”
Not surprisingly, our relationship was rocky for most of the summer. My girlfriend Jen asked why I was so frosty around Pete. So I told her the story.
She said “Sounds like you both were acting immature.”
“Yeah, really. You said yourself his points were valid, yet your pride wouldn’t let you accept his ideas because he was an intern.”
“Ok, but wait…”
Jen shushed me.
“Let me finish. On the other hand, Pete lacked the maturity to understand the impact of an intern calling his mentor out in front of peers. You both should just try to learn from it and move on.”
As usual, Jen was right. Something I’d eventually get used to after being married to her for over 20 years.
In the end, Pete and I learned to work better together and we both realized there was a lot we could learn from each other. He was confident, but it wasn’t false confidence – he was ultra-intelligent and could easily see things in code that I struggled with.
For my part, I possessed a little bit more people savvy and could teach him things he couldn’t easily see – like how to work better with other team members and be sensitive to their pride of work.
Later that summer, Pete wrote a very nice email about me to our manager and copied me. He praised my (eventual) patience with him and thanked me for being a great mentor.
So if you are assigned as a mentor - don’t fight it, embrace it! You may learn more than you end up teaching – and end up with a good buddy too.