I’ve been thinking about the direction of my career for a few years now and how to keep progressing. One of the keys to progressing is finding a mentor. I’ve listened to conferences, podcasts, and social media and everyone agrees that finding a mentor is a great way to sharpen both technical skills and soft skills. I even did a quick poll and 86% would agree, mentors are good to have around.
But how do you find a mentor? Some companies offer internal mentorships and have high profile people available for staff to shadow and ask questions. What if your company doesn’t offer such a benefit? I live in a small community and finding my ideal mentor feels like a struggle at times. My ideal mentor is someone who has held a chief level position and has traveled the road of an IT engineer. There aren’t a lot of these types of people in my community. Do I need only one mentor? Why can’t I have multiple mentors? That’s why I’ve relied on Twitter and other social media channels to fill this gap. Can you crowdsource your ideal mentor? I believe you can and it might be better than having just one mentor.
I think one of the many reasons I use Twitter as my source of mentorship is because I get to pick and choose who I want to follow. We normally can’t do this in life. We can’t pick our family and we can’t choose who we work with. On Twitter, I get to follow top influencers in my industry and get to read about their viewpoints, understand their thought process, know what they are reading, get a glimpse of the type of work they are doing and see who they are following and who influences them. With this medium, I feel my mentors are an arms reach away. I can ask them anything. It’s up to them to reply. It might not be the coffee invite that others say we need, but it’s pretty darn close.
But, Twitter is only good for 140 characters. At times, conversations are hard to follow. This has led me to find other media like podcasts. The majority of the podcasts I listen to I first heard about on Twitter…go figure. The very first podcast that I listened to was probably The Geek Whisperers. I found a retweet talking about how great the show was and I figured if this person’s listening to it, so should I.
Since following The Geek Whisperers, my podcast list has exploded. My list of podcasts ranges from super technical conversations to career focusing discussions to sharpening soft skills. I like podcasts because I get to hear the voices behind a lot of the personas that I follow. I get to hear their stories and understand what separates them from other engineers. To know that we all start at the beginning and it’s up to us and our initiatives to take our careers to that next level. I enjoy hearing their stories and having a checklist in my head comparing myself to them. Once my checklist has stopped, I listen to what the person did from that point forward. Listening, taking detailed notes, isn’t this what we do with mentors? Listen, take notes, and compare our story with theirs?
It might sound like I don’t believe in interacting face-to-face with a mentor. This is not true. I believe we need to interact with mentors, but some of us may not have direct access to these people. There are so many different avenues anyone in IT can take, it’s a tall order for any single mentor to fill. Instead, we can learn from everyone and pick out the nuggets of information from a wide range of people, like crowdsourcing 🙂
My mentor has been the body of the experiences and knowledge that I’ve received from a number of people. Not from a single individual. I’m learning from the people that I work with, the people I follow on social media, and those I listen to on podcasts while cutting grass. I crowdsource my mentors.