I'm going to provide some context below, the question is after this section:

It's been a while since I started to work in my professional field and I have reached a level of knowledge I think is high enough that's worth to share.

I work remotely for a Californian startup where I started approx a year ago. I live in europe so there's a 8ish hours timezone difference. I'm, according to my colleagues and managers, an high performer and most of my teammates often ask me questions of any kind and I'm always happy to help out, often scheduling small video calls to help them more directly.

Since I end up with quite some free time regularly because I usually close my tickets earlier I think it would be good to mentor someone in the company using this extra time I have.

This would be helpful because the company is looking for experienced developers but isn't having lot of luck. So the idea to grow someone in home could probably be an alternative in my opinion

The question is the following:

Is it commonly accepted to have remote employees mentoring people? Would the difference in timezone be enough to prevent the mentored employee to communicate with me effectively because of only ~5 hours of office time overlap?

  • Mentoring is not always the worst thing you could do, but we aren't the management of your company. We have no say in whether you can or cannot, or if it is a good idea in your position. Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:46
  • See KaizerWolfs comment. That makes it a company/regulation specific question which is off-topic for this site, sorry. BTW A 5 hour difference should not be an issue if you schedule the sessions.
    – user8036
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:48
  • I'm asking because I have no experience in this and I would like to know if it could be feasible at all in this situation. Do you have suggestions to make the question clearer?
    – Nebulae
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:48
  • Does it matter whether it's commonly accepted, as long as you can find someone interested in receiving such mentoring? Wouldn't it be more useful to ask how you can go about trying to find someone to mentor, or do you already have a good idea how to do that? 5 hours of overlap might as well be same timezone (literally - having more than 3 hours of office hours variability in the same office is reasonable with flexible work hours). Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    Related: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/62317/325 Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 16:20

3 Answers 3


I often mentor people who have a 12-hour time difference. It's not so much a formal situation with planned meetings, etc.

But one thing you can do is provide information and links to educational resources. If you see an area where knowledge needs improvement, you could write a Wiki entry on it and then let people know about it.

I also use Code Review as a way to teach them to see beyond the beginner level into more advanced techniques or understandings. I find it especially important to help them learn to relate information on this project to what we did on that project and teach them to understand the business reasons behind decisions and requirements and why those are as important (Often more important) than programming techniques. If there are techniques which are better than what they used, I explain them and explain how to determine which is the better technique for the particular situation. I think it is especially important to code review in a meeting where you can talk rather than just send back comments in some automated system. (For people not in the development world, you can do something similar by reviewing their work and showing them where they could be doing something better)

I prep training on specific topics where I feel some people I mentor need development. Then I may change my hours to overlap on the day I present. I also suggest to people topics they could prepare training on both to benefit others and to develop the person's (the one assigned to that topic) knowledge in an are and ability to make presentations which is a critical skill as you get more senior.

A lot of the mentoring I have done is also to help them understand how to deal with the US business culture.

Part of mentoring people in another physical location is getting to know them as people. Noticing their holidays, asking about their spouses and children, finding out what they did over the weekend, etc. These things all make you more approachable. Making it clear that you are always available for questions and that you won't bite someone's head off for asking is a another key factor. Talk to them about their background and aspirations. You have to pay more attention to these soft skills when you are not co-located because to them you are the person in an IM or an email and not really real if they have not met you. It is easier to mentor remote people if you have met them, so if you have the opportunity to go to their location, take it.

You also need to really get thoughtful about what people need to move from junior to senior or to management. Most of the skills that make a senior more effective are not necessarily syntax oriented which is really the majority of training a junior person has had. They are more about how to analyze a problem, how to push back on a bad requirement, how to set things up so that you have data to analyze two years later when there is a failure in production, how to troubleshoot/debug,etc. One of my favorite things to show people who are just getting to the point of being more senior is how to do a decision analysis to show management which of several options is the better one.

Another way to mentor is to ask people direct questions in meetings to get them to think through what they are doing.

Another way to mentor is to start speaking at conferences. If you do that, then you can share your speech with your coworkers and ask them to help you prep or review your speech before the official presentation.

Another thing is to suggest particular individuals for assignments that will stretch their skills and then provide advice as they run into new challenges. I have also helped some people who were less confident realize that they could apply for a particular promotion. Then I usually make it my business to make sure the hiring official knows that I recommend that particular person.

  • 1
    +1 this is great advice. Adding some anecdotal evidence - I never met my most beneficial mentor in person, ever, despite having a multi-year relationship with him.
    – enderland
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 15:55

Is it commonly accepted to have remote employees mentoring people?

I've never heard of a remote mentor.

But I know many people who have friends in their professional network who are remote and provide advice from time to time. Perhaps not up to a real "mentorship" standard, but very helpful nonetheless.

Would the difference in timezone be enough to prevent the mentored employee to communicate with me effectively because of only ~5 hours of office time overlap?

First of all, 5 hours is a lot of time. With any kind of planning, there would be no obstacle.

And why does it have to be on company time? Are you planning something formal?

In my opinion, good advice can be occasional, on demand, via email/skype/phone, yet still take up very little time.

  • Yup I was thinking about office time because it would be a service for my company. Thank you for your answer!
    – Nebulae
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 14:00
  • Answers like this are why we Chuck Norris asks Joe for career advice :) Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 15:11
  • In software, I've never heard of a mentor being on-site. Maybe there is some different specific use of "Mentor" here (more like a "parent" - someone who gives constant attention; or perhaps a sort of corporate grooming role). I'm mystified!
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 15:23

I honestly think that if they would like you to mentor somebody they would ask you to.

Giving a tip as a more experienced person is a useful and nice thing. Mentoring on the other hand means that you believe that your coworkers lack skills severly and need teaching.

So, I believe your managment would ask - who would you like to mentor? And you'd say - "Bob". Well, that would be a bad move, because Bob automatically would think in the lines - "I'm no intern, what's wrong with that guy" ?

  • I was thinking about new hired interns/juniors. Btw it's not what I'm asking since it seems off topic
    – Nebulae
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:50
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    Mentoring has nothing to do with severe lack of skills.It usually has to do with helping people who you think are worthy of promotion.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 14:43
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    I honestly think that if they would like you to mentor somebody they would ask you to. - Some companies also like to treat their high performers well. They may not want to try to push this type of responsibility on to a person that they rely on heavily. Expressing your interest in something like this is not a bad thing if it is something you want to do. Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 15:09

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