I'm not sure what I would get out of a mentor relationship...

We've got a couple of mentor programs starting up at Sun now and a surprising number of people have come to me saying, "I just don't know if I'd get anything out of a mentor relationship." So I tell them about my mentor and what I learned from her.

When I was the most senior PM in my team 7 years ago, my learning curve practically flat-lined for a good 2 years. Then I was re-orged into a team where I was the most junior PM and I found myself surrounded by a huge selection of awesome mentors. I learned from all of them but picked one in particular to be my mentor. Here's what I got out of that relationship:

- Feedback about my strengths and weaknesses from someone who wasn't in my reporting chain, which I believe allowed her to be more frank.

- Tips about program management that you won't find in any book.

- Introductions to people I never would have met unless I walked up and introduced myself.

- Enough confidence to walk up and introduce myself to people when my mentor wasn't around.

- Respect by association. People thought that because I hung around with my mentor, I must be pretty sharp too.

- Opportunities to watch my mentor perform and ask her later what it was like from her perspective, why she did this, why she did that, etc.

- A champion who did some awesome PR for me. My goal today is to try to live up to the reputation she built for me.

- A friend.

- A desire to mentor others.

If you want to read more about the benefits of mentoring please check out Penelope Trunk's posts about mentor relationships.

And you might want to check out Katy Dickinson's blog, she runs the SEED (Sun Engineering Enrichment and Development) Mentoring program at Sun. On her blog you can see what sorts of benefits you can get from the SEED program, which is open only to Sun employees. But if you work outside of Sun her blog will give you an idea of what to look for in your own company's mentoring program.

Comments:

I have been both sides of mentoring for many times.
You get to have many conversations with someone you trust and hopefully more experienced, but not necessarily wiser. If you are lucky, you get to make a friend.
You are pretty lucky if you get just that. Anything more, hey, that's just the cherry on the top.

Posted by Sin-Yaw Wang on February 06, 2007 at 02:27 AM CST #

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