Category Archives: mentoring

Conversations with a mentor: chat about plans, mentoring, and knowledge sharing

Conversations with David Singer are usually more laid-back, but I was buzzing with a few things I wanted to pick his brains about, so he graciously let me flood him with questions and ideas.

I shared my realization about what I want to do at IBM—or where I want to help take the organization, to phrase it boldly. I want to build a truly interconnected organization where people can work together and lead anywhere. I told David how my short-term plans support that goal, and he helped me think about medium-term options. He understands my passion for collaboration, so if he comes across opportunities that might be a good fit, he’ll be able to recognize them. I have a long timeline, and where I am is as good a place as any when it comes to making a difference. =)

Prompted by my recent reflections on mentoring, I asked David about his thoughts on mentoring.

David talked about the difference between formal and informal mentoring. Formal mentoring relationships usually develop from existing working relationships and focus on specific goals. Because it’s formal and usually involves working with a superior, people hesitate to start these kinds of mentoring relationships. They worry about being a burden. Informal mentoring could develop from lazyweb requests, friendships, blog connections, and so on. These relationships could turn into formal mentoring, or they might stay casual. Both parties learn a lot from the exchange, and the conversations are not only productive, but also fun. I’d like to have more informal mentors (it takes a village!) as well as build informal mentoring relationships with more people. That’ll be one of my objectives for 2010!

I also shared one of my other projects for next year: document and share what I’ve learned at work, or as much of it as I can. We talked about the difference between formal and informal knowledge sharing as well. I’m interested in sharing a lot more of the informal knowledge at work. Formal assets like presentations and papers are great, but a lot of insight is missing in the middle. Social media is a great way to find role models who work on sharing what they know. There’s so much to learn!

We talked about a lot of other things: seasons, USB drives, headsets, VOIP, holidays, life… Lots of fun!

What can I help you learn? Looking for mentees

Update 2013-07-17: Fixed contact form link

As awkward as “mentee” sounds (I feel like I’m looking for minty sweets), it’s the preferred word at IBM. Protégé smacks of the old boys’ club, I guess.

One of my priorities for 2010 is to share what I’m learning with even more people. The slow way is to reflect on what I’ve learned, write blog posts, and package that up as presentations and podcasts. The fast way is to find people who want to learn what I’ve learned (and am learning), braindump ideas in response to their questions, and make them responsible for writing up notes and further sharing what we’ve learned.

Mentoring people is much better than braindumping things on my own because:

  • We focus on what’s valuable to people
  • Questions prompt me to think
  • Questions mean I don’t skip over anything I haven’t explained well enough
  • Other people’s perspectives (like yours!) enrich the content
  • We can reach more people

Some of the things I’d be happy to explore through mentorship or peer-mentorship, roughly in order of interest (top interests first):

  1. Patterns and tools for community interaction through social media
  2. Presentation organization
  3. Presentation design
  4. Blogging (topics, editing/wordsmithing, exploration, general website ideas, but not technical help with WordPress)
  5. Presentation delivery (particularly remote)
  6. Visual thinking, notetaking, mindmapping, and information visualization
  7. Connecting and networking, particularly as an introvert
  8. Figuring life out, finding and following your passion
  9. Scaling up and getting better personal ROI on your effort
  10. Delegation, virtual assistance, outsourcing, and working with coaches
  11. Creativity and brainstorming
  12. Technology adoption and evangelism
  13. Editing and wordsmithing
  14. Productivity
  15. Cooking, baking, gardening, sewing, and other aspects of domestic bliss
  16. Getting on board as a new hire
  17. Getting used to life abroad
  18. Frugal personal finance
  19. Social networking (which tools to use when)

I can give occasional tips on Drupal and Emacs, but I’m not focused on Drupal development at the moment, and there are much more active Emacs geeks out there.

If you think of a topic that you’d like to learn about that you know I can help you with, suggest it too. =)

How it might work:

  1. Leave a comment on any relevant blog post with your question, use the handy contact form, or e-mail your questions to me at [email protected] . No mentoring relationship required. =) I like questions! I get to think about them and blog what I’ve learned.
  2. Contact me with an introduction and what you’re interested in. I prefer to communicate through blogs, e-mail, or the phone (with blogs preferred the most). We can set up a 20-minute or 50-minute call and chat about what’s on your mind.
  3. If it turns out we’ve got lots to talk about and we mesh well together, let’s set up recurring calls and have an ongoing conversation. If lots of people have similar questions, it would be interesting to set up group conferences or a community so that we can all learn from each other.

“Pay me back” by sharing your thoughts and actions taken. =)  I don’t want ideas to disappear into single conversations. If so, I might as well just blog about it myself, and help way more people. Share as much as you can of what we learn. At the minimum, please send me your notes. Better yet, blog, podcast, videocast, or otherwise share what we talked about. We all win!

So, how can I help you or someone you know?

(In the presence of) Mentors

The room lights dimmed around me, and a few solitary lamps signaled others staying late. I didn’t mind at all, because I was having fun. Not everyday do I get a chance to pick a mentor’s brain with no time restraint beyond from the grumbling of a stomach (easily ignored, and besides, I brought snacks). Well worth it

Here are some quick notes about what we talked about:

  • Influence: show people why, not just how
  • Early adopters will adopt a technology for novelty’s sake, but it gets really interesting when non-early-adopters take to it. That means you’ve found a problem and solved it.
  • 40,000 feet view and runway view
  • Different perspectives and the value that brings
  • Enthusiasm

One of these days, I may try tweeting our conversation on the fly. ;)

Great day for mentoring. Jen Nolan volunteered, too, and I laughed because I’d already been thinking of her as a mentor. She’s awesome.