As I reflect on 2019, one of the common themes whilst engaging with builders at the start of their career, has been how do those of us who have deep experience working in the IT industry and technology help bring those who are just starting out?
Some common themes when talking that have come up include;
- How do I get started on Cloud or AWS?
- What tools and languages should I learn?
- How do I get a job working on xx technology?
- I am not sure which area of IT to focus on, how did you know what to do?
Earlier on in my career, I was lucky enough to be mentored by a couple of excellent mentors and it really helped me become more in control of my career and more invested in the decisions I made. Now in the third decade of working in this great industry, and having been fortunate in having worked across many geographies, technologies and customers, I feel that it might be useful to share that experience with the less experienced folk coming into (or wanting to come into) this amazing industry.
I have been mentoring for many years, both as a mentor as well as creating mentoring programs, and am a strong believer that mentors can help an individual in a number of ways.
Rather than given answers, mentoring is the process by which you help the mentee make (and therefore own those) decisions. This is typically done by listening and asking questions, and helping the mentee arrive at an answer. The mentor role is to help shape the questions and provide a safe space in which the mentee can call upon the experience of the mentor.
Mentoring is not about taking the decision making process away from the mentee but providing the right set of questions that help the mentee arrive at their decision, and then supporting them with that decision (including whether those decisions ultimately do not work out as expected). The first sessions are all about getting to know each other and also to set objectives and measures. Mentoring without these is not typically as successful for both parties, and the mentor should be mindful to keep track of those during sessions.
Want to be a mentor?
If you have not mentored before, but are interested? Get in touch, I will be setting up and running a mentor support group. I have found that setting up a support group for the mentors to share experiences and feedback is a great mechanism to help sustain the mentors and provide mentees with a great and consistent experience.
The typical amount of time mentors invest is entirely up to them, but typically I would expect an hour or so every two weeks.
One of the questions I get asked is why mentor? Every mentor will have a different reason, however, many of the reasons people get involved in mentoring include wanting to help the new generation, growing their network with up and coming new talent, understanding and having a sounding board for a new audience that will typically be different from your own, understanding emerging and new trends that new builders are exploring...I could go on, but there are many benefits for being a mentor.
Want to be mentored?
If you want to be mentored (a mentee), have never considered it or do not know how to begin, then maybe you might want to work with a mentor. If some of the questions at the start of this post sound familiar to you, or you are struggling with some decisions you feel you could get some additional insights into, then mentoring might be a great way to achieve that.
It helps that you have a clearly defined objective or goal that you want to achieve, as mentoring works best when it helps you move towards your objectives and goals. It is ok however to start off with a session to identify what those goals might be as many might be stuck in which direction they want to go. This is actually something that in the last 12 months I have probably spent most time mentoring - helping people understand what it is that they want to do and which direction they want to focus on.
Make 2020 a year in which you either look to mentoring as a mechanism that can help you move forward in your personal development or career goals. What blockers do you have and what would you most benefit from if you were matched with a mentor?
If you are in my network and have thought about mentoring but were not sure about how to start, or are experienced and looking to get some new mentees, then please get in touch and see how your experience and guidance can help grow the next generation of technology talent.