A few of my LinkedIn connections asked me how I managed to get to where I am now. They were asking some pointers that may guide them to be successful themselves. I really appreciate the gesture, even though there are so many other successful people out there with more outstanding achievements. The truth is, there are no secrets or special formulas that I can share with them. Nevertheless, I believe that IT Mentoring played an important role which has shaped me since my early working days to this day.
What is a Mentor? Wikipedia defines a Mentor as
“… someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. In an organisational setting, a Mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee”.
The following picture further describes who you should be looking for Mentorship.
Different Types of Mentors
I have come across many types of Mentors and their own unique approaches to mentor you. A Mentor could be someone who is assigned to guide you one-to-one, and a Mentor may also be assigned to a group of people or new joiners in an organisation. A Mentor could also be somebody that inspires you as a role model, like your Boss, your senior co-workers, or even some strong figure in your company as well. It could be someone that you have high regards for, and you are determined to follow his/her footsteps.
Based on my observation, here are some of the types of Mentors in an organisation:
1. The Fatherly Type
This Mentor would be somebody seasoned in the company and really cares about his/her Mentees. He chose his words very carefully and gave his advice to you like you are his own son. You felt confident and not afraid of coming to seek advice from him. He would consistently ask about your progress, your feelings and how you are handling all the challenges. This Mentor may not give you any instructions, but more like suggestions that make you think and decide on how to move forward. You should take the opportunity to learn as much as you can from this type of Mentor.
2. The Cool Type
This mentor is a clear-cut employee of the year who is leading by example. You can sense the leadership aura whenever you are with him/her. His action speaks louder than words, and you would willingly follow all the best practices and well conduct of this mentor and wish to follow his footsteps. This type of Mentor is very professional and able to handle himself calmly even during IT incidents. This type of Mentor is somebody you will look up to and highly respect. You should set your goals to be as good as or better than this type of Mentor, as it would carry you on the right track.
3. The Serious Type
This is the type of Mentor who would want you to follow every instruction or advice given by him/her. This mentor is possibly the type of staff who consistently adheres to the rules ‘by the book’ and does not tolerate any inefficiency. This is a good type of Mentor that would enforce discipline on you and to remind you to deliver the best performance in whatever tasks that you were assigned with. In IT, the business users would not even notice us when everything is running smoothly. However, they would notice IT when a system goes down or there are disruptions in their daily operations. Therefore, learning from this type of Mentor would allow you to carry out all your duties diligently and efficiently.
4. The Laissez Faire Type
You may get the impression that this type of Mentor does not take seriously the mentoring tasks given to him. Believe me, this is the type of Mentor who would test you to the maximum and allow you to make mistakes so that you could learn from it. However, when you are in need, this type of Mentor would always be there to guide you and would never let you down. He or She is the type of Mentor who you can go for a drink with after office hours and is like a buddy-buddy approach with no formalities. With this type of Mentor, you would be able to learn from your own hands-on experience and have the comfort that the Mentor would have your back if things go sideways. This type of Mentor believes in ‘learning by doing’.
5. The Forced Type
This is the worst type, and I personally believe that you would not gain anything from this mentor. He or She has no interest at all in mentoring other people, but was forced to undertake this responsibility by the Management. This is the type of person who has inferiority issues and is afraid that other people will take over his job if he trains them on how to do his job properly. He will keep whatever knowledge he has over the years of working in the company to himself, so that he would be indispensable. It is unfortunate if you were assigned to this type of Mentor because it would not help you in any way at all for your career development. All this scenario would go unnoticed because the Mentees would not report the Mentor’s behaviours to HR as they are new to the organisation and would like to avoid any conflicts.
Benefits of Being a Mentee
Not every organisation has a formal IT Mentoring program, but if you have a chance, then please learn as much as you can and improve yourself. Even if there is no such formal program, as a new joiner, you should build a good relationship with your seniors and learn from them. Here are some of the benefits that you would gain as a Mentee:
1. Adopting the company culture
Being a new joiner in an organisation, you would need to pick up and learn quickly. For fresh grads, this is your first job, and you need to blend in to learn how the overall culture is like in the organisation. Having a Mentor would accelerate your learning to adopt the company culture. The same goes to working people who recently joined a new company, because whatever you were practising in your previous company may differ from what they are doing in the current company.
2. Enhance skill sets
For the fresh grads, you may take this opportunity to get the most hands-on knowledge because all of you may only have theory exposure at the University. Learn how to code the right way, how to configure a router or firewall and having a Mentor would really help as they will be your point of reference. The same goes to new joiners from other companies because you may have experience in handling small projects, but you will enhance your skill sets by having to work with a Mentor of bigger scale projects.
Every problem might be a unique problem, and you would be able to get advice from your Mentor should it be something that you have never encountered before. Leverage your Mentor’s experience and work together in solving an issue or rectifying any IT incidents. This is the beauty part of having an IT Mentoring program because it would boost up the confidence of the staff by knowing that somebody would have his back whenever it is needed.
4. Knowledge transfer
This is essential because no matter how good you are, different companies have different setups even for the same hardware. It is more crucial if you are hired to become the backup of the existing Staff. You must be at par with the existing Staff so that there will be no room for error while you are on the shift. Just imagine the trouble and how much you would struggle if you joined a company and the predecessor already left. It would be lucky enough if he left any manual for you to refer to, but things would be messy if the documentations are not in place. This is where a Mentor would play an important role to assist the new joiners, even the experienced workers.
Benefits to the Organisation
Some companies are aware of the benefits that it would bring to the company should they run this IT Mentoring program. Hence, it would have been implemented company-wide and not limited to IT only. Here are some of the benefits that a company would be getting:
1. Proper succession planning
As I mentioned earlier, no staff should be indispensable. It would be messy if an expert Staff left the company, but none of the co-workers could take over his/her role because no one has the knowledge. Therefore, having this IT Mentoring program would mitigate such risk by having the Mentor to train his successor or his backup co-worker.
2. Cost saving
It would save the company a lot of money to have this program as opposed to sending the new staff to training. Firstly, it is because the hands-on knowledge transfer is more relevant because the Staff would learn how to configure and maintain the equipment the company’s way. Secondly, there are skills that a Staff would not get only by going to training.
3. Increase job satisfaction and morale
For a new joiner, he/she would be more confident and enthusiastic to perform, knowing that he has the support from the Mentor and the company. As for the Mentor, it would also boost his morale that the Management entrusted him to mentor the next generations. This would also help to retain high quality Staff like the Mentors.
4. Increase company productivity and outcome
This IT Mentoring program will minimise any errors from happening and increase the efficiency by having supervision and advisory from the Mentors. When everyone is working at their best performance, then it will increase the productivity of the company with high quality of services delivery from IT.
Investing In the Next Generations
I am of the view that IT Mentoring is a beneficial program. Not only would it ensure the sustainability of a company in terms of succession plan, but it would also nurture the continuity of good practices of the IT Department. At the end of the day, we are trusting and investing in the next generations to carry our legacy for the betterment of the company as well as the personal growth of every Mentee.
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