Thoughts on mentors?

I’ve been thinking about trying to find a mentor on and off since I became a manager. I also wonder if I just need a “work” therapist to complain to. :wink:

I was wondering a few things from the group.

  1. Do you have a mentor or have ever had one?
  2. Did you seek them out or did they find you?
  3. How did you find them?
  4. Any suggestions on who the person should be? IE should they be outside the company or inside? does that matter? What sort of role should they be in?

Thoughts in general on the subject?


I’ve never had a formal mentor at work; I sometimes wonder what my career might have looked like if that had been different. I’ve had informal mentoring relationships with others, but I can’t say that I’ve been super-effective as a mentor either (luckily the folks I have worked with have been super-amazing already so they were able to make a lot of progress with the little I was able to offer).

Have you seen Starting Strong by Lois J. Zachary and Lory A. Fischler? There are elements to the fable part that really turned me off, but overall the structure that they lay out for the relationship and how it can progress seemed useful. One thing that I did appreciate was how they set out what a good mentoring relationship is, and more importantly what it isn’t.

For folks like me who have trouble connecting with or finding a mentor, here are some tips on self-mentoring from Sam Julien, whose Developer Microskills newsletter has been an interesting source of ideas (and not at all limited to folks who identify as developers!)

Inspired by this post by Lara Hogan, I’ve also been trying to step beyond mentoring and into sponsoring, as often folks don’t need my advice, just the right opportunity.

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I love this post.

Jut like @glb, I never had formal mentor either. Informally, my current manager, since kinda early in my career in my current employer, was definitely the closest I had.

Recently I found myself busier than I ever was transitioning roles, primarily because I wasn’t actually replacing my duties… I was collecting them! In parts, and in all honesty, my ego was having having a blast. “I’m awesome, despite moving roles people still seek me to help with whatever!”. I wasn’t being awesome. At all.

That’s when I started doing, without even knowing there was a name to it (thanks, @glb), Sponsoring. I realized every time I was taking on an opportunity, it was one less chance for someone newer to show their value to the organization and grow with it. Now, whenever I receive an invite, my response is “I know the perfect person” instead of “YES!”.

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