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How does coaching differ from mentoring?

The coaching I offer is similar to what you’d receive from an experienced mentor, but with some important differences.

Experienced coaches and mentors provide you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, guidance to work through challenges, and a sympathetic ear to listen to your troubles. The best coaches and mentors also inform you of effective practices and proven techniques to deal with the most difficult and unusual circumstances you face.

However, even with similar experience, a professional coach differs from a mentor.

  • Confidentiality. A professional coach is obligated to protect your privacy and confidentiality under the International Coach Federation (IFC) Code of Ethics. Mentors should also do this, but even when your mentor works elsewhere, social networks and pressure can compromise interactions you assumed were private.
  • Independence. A professional coach is employed by you and has only your interests in mind. While mentors should also focus narrowly on your concerns, competing interests are common and sometimes unavoidable.
  • Breadth and depth. A professional coach specializes in career development and growth. While mentors may try different approaches over time, a professional coach studies the literature and incorporates the latest methodologies, trains others on the latest proven techniques, and provides credentials so that clients can select a coach that best meets their needs.

What makes me the right coach for you?

I value underrepresented software professionals. One of my earliest and most influential software managers was a woman. In the decades since, I’ve seen bias, hardships, prejudice, and outright harassment toward women and other underrepresented employees, including me (I’m dyslexic) and my autistic son. What’s more, research has demonstrated that diverse people generate the innovative and inclusive solutions needed to succeed in the marketplace. I feel galvanized to ensure people’s goals are limited only by their ambition.

I’ve been coaching development leads, managers, architects, experts, students, and my own employees for over 25 years. I was Microsoft’s first full-time Development Manager & Leads Coach. At one time, I had coached a third of all dev leads and half of all dev managers at Microsoft. Many became directors, distinguished engineers, and even corporate vice presidents.

I’m an expert in software engineering practices. I’ve presented at industry conferences, published papers, been interviewed for podcasts, written a monthly blog since 2001, given many professional talks, and authored two widely read books. I teach software engineering at the University of Washington as an affiliate professor.

I have broad and deep experience in the software industry. In 1980, I started as a professional developer for Bank Leumi in New York, and then I coded computer graphics for Jet Propulsion Laboratory, GRAFTEK, Silicon Graphics, Boeing, and Microsoft. I’ve worked as an individual engineer, researcher, architect, scientist, lead, group manager, director, and general manager. At Microsoft, I worked in Research, DevDiv (makers of Visual Studio), Office, Corporate, Xbox, Windows, and Azure.

You can learn about me and my services on this site, and see my professional details on LinkedIn.