Hackbright Girl Geek Dinner - Julia Grace on Mentoring
MENTORSHIP:WHAT I LEARNEDFROM FINDING(AND FIRING)MENTORS.JULIA GRACE@JEWELIA
MENTORSHIP (ESPECIALLY AMONGWOMEN) IS ALL THE RAGE NOW.But too many people approach mentorship as a black box.You need to know how the box works to find and benefit fromgreat mentors.Mentors aren’t just going to come to you. You have to lookfor them.
WHAT IS A MENTOR?Someone that does not have a financial stake in yoursuccess.NOT investors in your startup – they are advisors, notmentors. A mentor can become an investor, but at that pointthey are no longer purely mentors.Someone that sees your talent/abilities/potential, perhapseven more so than yourself.They must absolutely believe in you; if not then they are nota mentor, they are someone that gives you advice.Someone that can give you insight from a non-peerperspective.Peer advice comes from friends, not mentors.
PUT YOURSELF IN THEMENTORS SHOES.Why would someone mentor you? What is the value to thementor? Figure out what makes your mentor tick.Altruism?You remind them of themselves when they were younger?Pads their ego?Future opportunity to hire you?
WHERE ARE ALLTHESE MENTORS?Mentors almost always come from previous workexperiences, but after the fact.99% of my mentors are people I have worked with in the past,but didn’t become a mentor until years later.…so keep in touch with past colleagues, especially the goodones. Ask them to get coffee once/quarter.Mentors need to see your full potential. That can be difficult ifyou haven’t worked with them…but not impossible.Mentorship can mirror dating where you never know whereyou’ll meet you next mentor. One of my best mentors I keptrunning into at various conferences.
MENTORSHIP IS NOTINSTANTANEOUS.The best mentors are people that you have establishedrapport with.If I don’t think you’re good, then I have no incentive to giveyou advice and help.Before establishing that relationship, you can reach out topeople for advice. This can later lead to mentorship.I have several go-to people when I need advice about XYZ,however, they are not mentors.
CAN YOU INTRODUCE METO SOME MENTORS?Because mentorship is based on established respect andrapport on behalf of both parties, it is hard to get“introduced” to a mentor.Intros can work if the mentor/mentee are very well aligned(this works well for “you remind me of me when I wasyounger” mentor relationships).I have met 2 of my mentees this way, but since they are bothengineers I immediately could gauge how smart/motivatedthey are.
EVALUATE PEOPLE FOR POSSIBLEMENTORSHIP MATERIAL.Look for people 2-3 career moves or less from yourself. Morethan 3 is often too much distance.Example: Junior SWE > SWE > Architect. If you’re a juniordev don’t email Marissa Mayer to mentor you.Talk to your peers in your work organization. Who are theirmentors?If you see someone with a great haircut then you ask whocuts their hair. Similarly, when peers make career moves, askhow they made their decisions and if it involved a mentor.
WHEN READY, ASK HER/HIMTO BE YOUR MENTOR!Remember: women don’t ask often enough. Asking solidifiesthe relationship and shapes expectations of both parties.Set up an informal meeting schedule and ask if that works forthe mentor. Stick to that schedule, even if you feel like youhave “nothing to say”.
SHOULD ALL MYMENTORS BE WOMEN?All my mentors, except for 1, are male. Statistically speakingthere are less senior women and so the pool is smaller. Andall those senior women are probably overrun with requestsfor mentorship.Thus, it is harder to find female mentors. My 1 female mentoris completely invaluable. She is the only one who understandthings like imposter syndrome.My male mentors are also fantastic, but in different ways.
YES, THERE ARE BADMENTORS.Don’t just default to asking any senior person in yourorganization for advice. Choose carefully. Not every seniorperson understands how to provide guidance and advice toothers.Listening, understanding, then giving advice if you were intheir shoes is not a skill that everyone has, nor do this skillsautomatically come with a fancy title.There are also people who like to hear themselves talk. Thisis great if they have awesome things to say. Less sootherwise.
MENTORSHIP RELATIONSHIPSEVOLVE AND THAT’S OKAY.As mentors/mentees advance at different speeds to differentlevels, the relationship changes.Sometimes mentors and mentees switch roles over thecourse of their careers. That’s perfectly fine.I have a mentor who is now more of a friend (she’s at a bigcompany & gave great advice when I was there, but now wehave less career-wise in common). So we drink beer together.
KEEP IN MIND…The best mentors choose great people as mentees, provideguidance and advice with the ultimate goal of hiring them(months, years, decades) later.