Don’t let your growth flatten. Get a mentor

May 14, 2020

Aditya Agrawal

Data Product @ Tesla

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Why Mentorship?

Humans traditionally learn in three different ways:

  • From or in the presence of an expert: These individuals can be parents/teachers/supervisors/managers or mentors, etc. Learning from individual is a conscious effort with clear goals.
  • In the company of others/peers: These peers come in different shapes and forms, for example: Friends, colleagues, people we meet every day, etc. This is probably the medium where biggest of our learning come from. Learning from individual is mostly i- nvoluntary, and the person learning doesn’t realize he or she is doing that.
  • Self-study: Variety of self-guided learning medium comes in different ways and forms: Books, podcast, newspaper, social media, etc. Sometimes we do it consciously and others it happens naturally without one realizing.

What is mentorship?

Mentorship is a relationship between a seeker who is looking to learn from an expert, who in this degree is acting a mentor to the mentee/seeker.

As learning from an experienced individual is a conscious effort, we constantly should and have to find experts throughout our life to succeed, not only professionally but also in our personal life, relationship life, not only technical experience but a Mentor adds much more value (covered later in goals section).

During our early life, as school going kids, teachers act as the experts and we learn a lot from them which concurrently gets nourished by peers and self-study. But once we are out of our college or university, we don’t have a formal or structured way of finding that expert and even if there is one there is a lack of a formal framework of knowledge gathering and sharing. Due the absence of a mentor and framework, an entire aspect of learning stops right there.

Young professionals with mentors are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. — mentoring.org

Importance of Mentorship

  1. Mentor provides us experience, information and knowledge.
  2. Mentor suggests best path to reach the end goal.
  3. Mentor helps us to keep us motivated and channelize the energy.
  4. He/she provides us with a third-person perspectives of the situation and help us comprehend us difficult situations.
  5. They act as our board of directors and as most of the companies have multiple BODs, similarly we should also have different mentors based on their expertize (more about this in later section).

Mentorship Format (and my experience)

I started with Tesla in Feb-2019 as Sr. Data Analyst. While working as an engineer, one thing I learnt about myself is that I can add more value to my team and the organization by leading it on the front and running the program, in comparison to writing softwares. But with no prior leadership experience, it was not an easy goal to achieve. I did lot of self-study about program and project management in next couple of weeks/months which helped me make my way from a data analyst to a program manager. This brings me to first point of mentorship:

Defining goals of mentorship

Although learning from my peers and self-studying helped, I saw that my learning and growth flattened after a while. Charles Finfrock, 18-years in CIA and a professional leadership coach, and my team-mate came to my rescue. To me, mentorship from him, started organically and then very late in the game we worked on giving it a formal framework. I wish I would have done it sooner in the life but nonetheless I was able to find the right mentor. Rarely, you would find the right-fit at the first time. So it might take a while to find the mentor who you can get comfortable with:

Finding the right-fit

Characteristics of a Mentor:

  1. He/she should have enough knowledge or experience in the area you are looking to excel.
  2. He/she should be trust worthy.
  3. He/she should be patient.
  4. He/she should see it as a mutual benefit.

Usually when we are looking for a mentor, we usually know why we are looking for one and being transparent to the mentor about it is critical to the success of mentorship program, also needless to say that it should over-time be able to mature to list of actions items with SMART goals. My end goal was super clear from the very start but my list of action items only mature over time.

Defining OKRs to support SMART Goals

  • SMART Goal: Looking to be a professional writer on medium in next 6 months with at least 3 articles with 1,000 claps.
  • Objective — Learn different writing types
  • key Result — Read one book every month (with names of book for atleast next 3 months).
  • Status — Not Started/ In-progress/Delayed
  • Target Date — End of the quarter
  • Notes/Comments

This OKR (Objectives and Key results) exercise seems something so basic but is the best tool to keep yourself accountable. Working with your mentor to define the OKR and updating him/her on a frequent basis will help you drive the expected result. I meet my mentor once in 2 weeks but depends on the engagement level you would want and being cognizant of your mentor’s time you can pick anywhere from weekly to monthly but will suggest doing at least once in a month. These 3 steps will help the mentor-mentee relationship to meet the end goal (also the last and the most important step):

Drive success

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