The Ships of Career Growth

June 24, 2024#Career Advancement
Author image.

Sarah Dutkiewicz, Senior Trainer

As I prepare to deliver a mentoring talk, I think about the various “-ships” that help move careers forward. In this post, we’ll look at some avenues for career growth - including allyship, mentorship, professional coaching, and sponsorship.


While allyship doesn’t directly promote your own advancement, it fosters a work environment where everyone thrives. By challenging bias and advocating for inclusivity, allies help create a level playing field where your skills and contributions are fairly recognized. This focus on equity benefits everyone in the long run, including you, by ensuring a wider talent pool and a more supportive network for collaboration and advancement.

Becoming an ally in tech is about advocating for fairness. Speak up against bias, champion diverse candidates, and mentor those from underrepresented groups. By promoting inclusivity, you’ll help create a tech world where everyone feels valued and can contribute their best ideas.


Mentorship is something I’ve been speaking about for a long time. It involves conversations, knowledge transfer, and guidance. Some mentoring relationships are informal; however, some places do use formal mentoring programs as well. Some mentoring relationships are long-term; others may only last for a short time. There is no one recipe for mentoring, as different mentoring relationships work for different situations.

A mentor shares their experiences, offers advice, and provides encouragement. As a mentee, you can gain insights, build confidence, and develop skills. It’s okay to have multiple mentors, if you have distinct reasons for them. Know, though, that if you have multiple mentors on the same topic, conflicting knowledge can happen. In those cases, it sets you up for conversations as to why they conflict and understanding if they are really conflicting or if they apply to different sets of circumstances.

Mentorship isn’t a one-sided street. Mentors also gain a lot from the relationship. By guiding others, they can:

  • Strengthen their leadership skills
  • Gain fresh perspectives
  • Stay current on industry trends
  • Experience the joy of giving back

The ideal mentor is someone you admire and respect. Look for someone with experience in your field who shares your values and goals. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and seek mentors from diverse backgrounds.

We offer mentoring to those who are interested in being mentored in the various topics that we present on or write about - including testing, software architecture, software development, Clean Architecture, and domain-driven design. You can see a lot of what we talk about on our YouTube channel.

Professional Coaching

Professional coaching is focused on goal achievement and skill development. Coaching is typically more formal, structured, and time-bound compared to mentorship. A professional coach can help ask questions, challenge you to keep an open mind with a growth mindset, set goals, and provide accountability. They will help you overcome challenges, develop specific skills, and improve your performance.

Nowadays, there are also coaching communities. Sometimes, a coach is in high demand and offers coaching in community settings. For example, Ardalis runs devBetter, where he has weekly coaching sessions and also has the community resources where people can learn from each other. Learn more about devBetter.

Note: While this doesn’t end in “-ship”, think of coaching as another way of navigating your compass to steer the ships.


Sponsorship is also a powerful accelerant for your career. By having a senior leader actively advocating for your work and accomplishments, you gain increased visibility within an organization or community. Sponsors can use their influence to open doors to exclusive opportunities, recommend you for promotions, and connect you with valuable contacts, propelling you further along your desired career path.

To become a sponsor, actively advocate for someone’s work and accomplishments to higher-ups. Promote them to others and seek opportunities for their growth.

Finding a sponsor takes initiative! Identify senior leaders you admire and whose work aligns with yours. Express your career goals and demonstrate your value through strong performance and proactive communication.


The quick guide to keeping them the “-ships” straight is this:

  • Ally helps include you.
  • Coach talks to you.
  • Mentor talks with you.
  • Sponsor talks about you.

In an ideal situation, you can benefit from all of these! An ally can make sure that there is a fair environment. A mentor can provide general guidance, while a coach helps you achieve specific goals. A sponsor, ideally someone who already knows your work, can then advocate for your advancement based on your accomplishments.

These are the “-ships” to help you grow in your career. If you’ve got stories to share about how any of these relationships have helped your career, tag us. We’d love to hear how others have benefitted from these! You can find us on the socials at:

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