The Power of Mentoring Part II: Tips I Learned from My Mentors
11:30 am, December 27th | by Beth Devin, Manilla.com
In the 30 years I’ve worked in technology, I have benefited tremendously from mentors, and I have deeply cherished and appreciated their immense contributions to my professional development. My last post addressed the definition of a mentor and your role in driving the mentoring experience. Now I’d like to share some valuable tips I have learned from others and still live by today.
• Manage your resources. Early in my career, when I was a software developer, I had the good fortune to work with a guy I’ll call Bill, a senior and experienced mainframe developer. We had moved from punched cards but we were not yet using personal computers. Our timeshare resources were limited and expensive. Bill taught me the benefit of outlining how to tackle a problem, plan my work, and test before rushing to a solution that could waste time and resources. And today, even in a time when computing resources are abundant, I still appreciate Bill’s advice. This advice does not only apply to technology.
• Communicate effectively. As a systems analyst at Pacific Bell, I was responsible for researching and analyzing business problems and possible technology solutions. My end product was a written document that included an executive summary and recommendations. I still remember receiving a draft where my manager had marked his changes and edits. The entire document was one big sea of red. Initially, I was heartbroken. Over time, though, I realized what a gift my manager had given me — direct, honest and actionable feedback. I came to look forward to my manager’s review of my work as I strived to tighten up and improve my communication. Because that manager taught me well many years ago, I usually receive high marks for my communication in the workplace.
• Take the leap. During my career, I’ve witnessed many men get promoted to or hired for positions that, from the outside, seem to be a big jump from what they were doing previously. Because of this, I was always impressed when they succeeded in their new roles. That was until I received overwhelming support from my network of colleagues and friends when I was given the opportunity to take on a role with significantly more responsibility than anything I had done previously. One colleague in particular shared research that indicated that men were much more likely to take on new roles, but women were more cautious and tended to wait until they honed their experience and skills. Her advice and support invigorated me, and I ended up getting the job. It was an important turning point in my career that gave me insight that will always guide me.
• Develop gravitas. At Charles Schwab, I worked for a chief information officer who encouraged me to develop more gravitas, which means “dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.” Up until then, I had succeeded at what I put my mind to with my smarts, energy, and work ethic. But Geoff’s feedback helped me refine and mature my style. I no longer had to share my point of view on every topic. I strived not to react negatively to changes and decisions I did not agree with initially. I recognized and valued that there were other smart people in the room. And now, I share this advice with people I care about with the hope that it is as helpful to them as it was to me.
• Know your strengths. I participated in a yearlong fellowship program from 2000 to 2001 that was sponsored by the International Women’s Forum. This program was a fantastic experience where I met 13 other women who have since become my personal “board of directors.” Our group gets together once a year to reconnect and work on professional development. For one meeting, our assignment was to read the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. We discussed the book and encouraged each other to pursue career choices that better aligned with our strengths. To this day, whenever I’m contemplating a change or new assignment, I think back to that meeting and remember my best professional assets, because I know I am a better version of myself when I’m fully leveraging my strengths.
I continue to learn from mentors and I am always energized when I have new insights, strategies and knowledge. Make sure to take time to pay attention to those around you and benefit from the wisdom and experience of others.
What have you learned from your past or current mentors? Let us know in the comments below.
Beth Devin is the chief technology officer of Manilla.com, a free, award-winning and secure service that helps consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. For more career, money, and organizing tips, visit the Manilla Blog.
[Photo via Shutterstock]