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Years after mentoring a younger colleague at work, the author hears back on his successful journey and reflects on the joys of being a mentor.
It was a typical weekday. After a decade or so of getting up at the same time each morning, I did not need an alarm clock to wake me up anymore. I woke up sharply at 6 am that morning as well to send my son off to school.
Shortly afterwards, I headed for a quick 30 minutes walk with my significant other in the nearby green walking trail. After a rejuvenating walk, I checked my phone as part of my early morning routine. I was surprised to see a message on LinkedIn from a co-worker whom I worked with nearly 6 years back.
Will, my co-worker, was one year into his role as a Business Analyst and I was a couple of years into my role as a Solution Architect. Both of us were recently assigned to a new program. This program’s business team with multiple stakeholders were extremely demanding. Adding to that, we had to work with 20+ impacted teams across the organization.
The program was extremely complex and Will was clearly overwhelmed with the mammoth task of documenting business requirements, use case flows and the whole nine yards of requirements gathering. This was not a program that should have been handled by a junior business analyst and yet, he was assigned probably due to a shortage of senior business analysts as well as due to the urgency to implement the said program.
Although he was relatively a newbie, I realized as soon as I started working with him that he was extremely diligent and had a great passion to learn. Those two qualities were enough for me to realize that he would be successful at whatever he does. I immediately started coaching him on some of the soft skills like establishing trust with stakeholders, how to run effective meetings such as having a clear agenda for meetings, keeping the meetings focused, following up after meetings with clear action items and so on and so forth. In addition, I also coached him on documenting requirements, use case flows, etc.
It was an extremely stressful period for both of us; for him, because he was relatively new, for me, because, I had to take on two roles, one, as a Solution Architect and another one as a mentor to Will. It was stressful, but rewarding at the same time. Stressful, because of the short deadlines we had to meet and rewarding, because I witnessed his professional growth as he became more confident and independent.
I could not believe it was 6 years already. In his message that morning, Will had attached the recommendation letter I had sent to his current boss where I had highlighted two of his important strengths which helped him as well as the program to overcome difficulties and achieve success. He mentioned that the recommendation letter helped him secure his current job that he now enjoys thoroughly. Furthermore, he thanked me for being a great mentor and added that I was instrumental to his success.
Although, I could not take full credit for his success, I was humbled by his words and was glad that I could make a difference and an impact in someone’s life.
To mentor is to touch a life forever – Unknown
Besides, mentoring is not just about coaching others. It is also about your personal and professional growth. I have encountered a number of instances where I have learnt more than I could ever imagine. A few years back, I met Lavina who came from India as a Quality Assurance (QA) Tester for a program where I was the lead Architect.
Although new to the program, she was extremely conscientious, intelligent and had an immense passion to learn. We had several sessions where I walked her through the architecture and explained the technologies we used and how all the applications were integrated to deliver the solution. Aside from that, I was also her informal mentor, assisting her with soft skills as needed. Her attitude and her passion to learn above and beyond what her role needed was quite inspiring and I could see a bright future ahead of her.
It had been a couple of years since I moved on from the company that we both worked together when Lavina called me out of the blue. “Anu, I have moved on from my role as a QA test lead to a Technical Program Manager at the largest company in the US. Do you remember telling me once that you saw immense potential in me and that I should take on roles that are a great fit for me? Do you also remember walking me through the solution blueprints and explaining the intricate technical details? You know what? I was able to pass the gruelling interviews with flying colors because I was able to walk them through the architecture and explain the details to them. I wouldn’t have been able to do so if not for you”, said an excited Lavina.
Touched that she remembered, I said, “Lavina, it is all you. It is all your passion, your attitude and your persistence.” On that day, I realized that I was right after all. She had a great future ahead of her. Furthermore, I was inspired by her courage to apply for a completely different and a senior role at a major firm and for passing multiple rounds of interviews with flying colors. Lavina taught me to be fearless, to have a can-do attitude and to think out of the box.
Mentoring is a two way street. The mentor gets wiser while mentoring and the mentee gains knowledge through his/her mentor – Marisol Gonzalez
More than all the performance reviews or awards that I have received in my career, I am proud of moments such as these that remind me of the importance of being an effective mentor. It is a humbling feeling like no other.
Having said that, I have also had the pleasure to be mentored by great leaders, both women and men. Leaders, who, empower others, who have realized that you should be a good leader and a good human being, before you can become a mentor.
One such mentor helped me build my confidence when my self-confidence was at the lowest in my career. During that particular period, I was unhappy with the role I was in and I was losing confidence in myself as the role I was in was neither exploiting my full potential nor my skills. I sincerely believed that I was worthless. However, Maureen, my mentor, believed otherwise. She believed in me and offered something called hope.
A mentor is someone who allows you to see hope inside yourself – Oprah Winfrey
With her guidance, I took on a different role that aligned with my skills and I have never looked back since then. Although, I moved on from the company we both worked for, to this day, she is a good friend who is just a phone call or a LinkedIn message away when I need her.
Extremely grateful for all the professional relationships that I have built along the way with both my mentees and mentors, I intend to continue helping others while I continue to learn from them and I sincerely encourage all of you to do the same.
Furthermore, mentoring is not only helpful at work to enhance one’s professional growth, it is also an equally effective tool at home and in our community. You can mentor your children and anyone else who needs the guidance to face the world by building the right skills, they need, to become better professionals, better leaders and better human beings.
One last, but important point I would like to add is to remember to never force your ideas on anyone while you mentor. Instead, help them grow to become better individuals and more importantly, a better version of themselves.
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves – Steven Spielberg
Image via Unsplash
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