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Mentoring is the activity of providing ongoing guidance to someone seeking to advance their career and, frequently, also wanting to talk about personal life issues. That someone is a “mentee”, i.e. a person receiving mentoring. Over a long career, I’ve served as a mentor for many people. The purpose of this blog post is to share some thoughts and insights as to why mentoring is critical to community building and open-source.
First, for many people, having a mentor is important. A mentor should provide perspective on issues you want to discuss and help you think through options and approaches. That mentor doesn’t give you direction but does help you consider options, alternatives and potential outcomes and consequences. In the context of a corporate world, your mentor ought to also be an advocate for you when opportunities arise, including opportunities which aren’t immediately visible to you. This works the same with open-source communities.
What a mentor is not, at least primarily, is a coach. A coach is someone who helps you work out how to do a particular task, like getting better at DevSecOps tooling or a particular tool. A coaching connection usually ends when you’ve learned how to do whatever it is you are trying to figure out. Mentoring is meant to extend for a long time, usually years. In my case, mentoring someone for over a decade has not been unusually.
A mentor should be someone who has had similar experiences to the path your trying to traverse. For example, if you are a technical person, it’s helpful to have a mentor who has grown his/her career technically. This doesn’t mean that you should only have a mentor who is technical, presuming you are also technical. It’s perfectly reasonable and often very useful to have another mentor who brings different strengths, such as someone who is a strong business person. That said, it’s not helpful to have too many mentors. Keep in mind that a mentoring relationship means regular engagement between the mentor and mentee. If you have too many, there simply won’t be time for that engagement.
Mentor and mentee relationships are critical to the success of building community, particularly in open-source. Essentially, open-source projects should be a safe place for mentees to learn, and mentors to give back. So, where do you find a mentor? In general, it will be someone you have at least some contact with. Simply poking someone you don’t know at all, on LinkedIn or the like, may not produce great results. However, you don’t need to already have a deep relationship in order to ask someone to be your mentor. What you do need is some sense of what you’re after from a mentor. That’s usually someone to talk to about growth. Most people are flattered to be asked to be a mentor, so go ahead and give it a try. And if you are part of an open-source community, finding a mentor can be a lot easier.
Tony is a board advisor and mentor to the Ortelius Governing Board, where his input and direction has become critical to the team.
Tony is a lead solution/security architect, experienced in multiple industries, including energy, telecommunications and financial services in the US, Australia and Europe. He is an effective communicator, involved in initial discussions to define the problems at hand, through scoping and shaping the solution and supporting delivery into production with a Design Thinking-based approach, using an agile methodology. He delivers solution and enterprise architectures, along with security architectures for clients across a broad range of architectural disciplines, with specific industry expertise in telecommunications, energy/utilities, financial services (banking/insurance), manufacturing, retail and petroleum. He is also an “Invited Expert” on IT security by the Security Forum of The Open Group.
While at IBM, he was the Americas IT Architecture Profession Leader and a member of the IBM Academy of Technology.
Learn more about Tony Carrato by visiting his LinkedIn Profile