Mentoring in its rawest form is the provision of support through experience. Great examples of these are our elders, teachers or those ex-managers we still ring up for advice.

Coaching differs in that the coach need not have experienced similar events, but rather draws on their counseling capability to guide a person through an exploration of their dilemma. Many HR advisors provide varying degrees of coaching to help a person cope with a situation—for example bullying in the workplace: the coach does not need experience in bullying to have the capability to guide the individual towards resolution.

Technical mentoring describes the process of guiding an individual towards a technical outcome in their work, through leveraging the mentor’s experience in problem solving, problem mapping and sometimes relevant technical expertise. The technical mentor’s objective is to transfer problem solving capability to accelerate the individual’s capacity to deal with the complexity of their role. Technical mentoring draws on problem-solving experience, may guide through counseling skills and seeks to help the individual deliver on a technical outcome.

Selection of a mentor, coach or technical mentor depends on the problem at hand. We select mentors to help us with our decisions—these can be career or life decisions. We select coaches to guide us within an organization. We select technical mentors to guide us with the implementation of our work.