I mentioned that a friend was looking to hire developers and got to talking with someone who responded asking for more details.
What intrigued me about his response and got me talking was that it was so humble and genuine. The conversation was tapering off a bit. He mentioned a programming idol of his.
I paused. It was midnight and I was still at the office. I was at a place in my life where I was working constantly and was extremely unhappy in general. Under the florescent lights of the open office and powering through several days of barely sleeping, a flash of insight suddenly came to me.
I e-mailed his idol out of the blue and asked him to meet this student and bought the student plane and hotel tickets to go see him and attend a programming conference. We kept in touch after that, I gave as much as advice as I could, reviewed his resume, he got to know other programmers who kept in touch. Each conversation helped him, but also lifted my spirits quite a bit.
He now has a great job at a AAA studio.
A girl who came up to me after a conference saying she wanted to be a C++/graphics programmer. A woman who opened up to me about being burnt out of the industry, who I helped get a job in a good work-life balance studio. Someone who just needed a little extra cash to finish a game prototype, and a 4-hour Skype chat to know they were on the right path. The ways mentoring crops up and happens are random and special and genuine.
How boring would it be to just stick to being friends with the people I know, or only people I thought could help me? It feels good and healthy to reach out to lots of people and open doors for people to get into the industry.
My point isn't just that we need more mentors or a more diverse crowd in tech, it's that a part of a healthy community is making friends with many people.
In fact, these brief moments of being proactive in lifting others up have been the shot of light that got me through some dark times.