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Coming up through my career, I didn’t always have the option of a mentor. In fact, up until a certain point, the word “mentorship” wasn’t even mentioned. And I didn’t think of asking for one, either.


Then in a job several jobs ago, my boss said that we were instituting a new program within his department: We were to reach out and ask a colleague to be a mentor to us.


Well, that was exciting! But the newness of it combined with the sudden formality made me a little nervous. I had someone in mind, someone with whom I’d already felt comfortable asking questions, but—


“Do you think she’d mind if I asked her? I know she’s very busy,” I said to my boss.
“I think she’d be proud to be asked,” my boss replied.


He was right. She accepted instantly, and while we didn’t have official sit-down meetings, most likely because we were in adjacent cubes and tended to stand up and talk over the wall, we did become closer, and she shared very valuable advice for the rest of our tenure in that company.

 

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A light bulb moment

It only occurred to me afterward that while that was my first official mentoring relationship, mentoring itself had been going on beforehand—and all the time!

 

  • There were the seasoned employees who took pity on me, the summer help for a big project, brand new to the corporate world and desperately green.
  • There were the colleagues who took the time to teach the importance of perception, fair or not, and how to improve.
  • There was advice such as: “Managers come and go, but the colleagues you work with tend to stay, and it’s important to build good relationships with them.” (This definitely held true in the company that piece came from.)

I'm sure if you look back through your career and even in school, you'll find similar nuggets of valuable information, even if you didn't always appreciate them as such.

 

Microsoft Community Mentors Program

Fast forward to the start of 2018, with the Microsoft Diversity & Tech Community’s launch of their Community Mentors Program. That March, there was a cool inaugural session in the Microsoft Treehouse on campus where we shared previous mentorship experiences and discussed pitfalls and challenges. After that, the mentoring pairs were chosen for Cycle 1. Now I was the mentor.


I want it known that I would have been happy with anyone they chose for me. I was nevertheless overjoyed when I found out it was @Lillian Diaz, someone with whom I’ve interacted in online forums and then actually met in person at Microsoft Ignite (it’s wonderful when the online and offline worlds combine)! The Microsoft Community Mentors Program provided guidelines and suggestions, and then it was up to us to put in the effort for our online meetings.


The rapport was immediate.

 

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Here’s what we did:

 

  • Set an agenda
  • Shared with purpose
  • Allowed ourselves to go off-agenda into related tangents

Here’s what we had:

 

  • A lot of learning, a lot of growth, and a lot of fun.


Why it worked for us:
It wasn’t about me lecturing while my student took notes. It was about listening to each other. It was about thinking and providing. It was about mutual sharing and building upon each session to keep growing.


I’m happy to say that well after Cycle 1 ended, we still make the time to meet up.

 

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Another light bulb moment

By now, you may be realizing something that's held true all along: You help just by speaking up. I bet you've been doing it, too.

 

When I respond to something, typically my thoughts are “Hey, I know exactly what this person is going through” versus “I am engaging in a mentoring action.” Same thing if I post about something I learned or experienced using Yammer, Teams, SharePoint, etc. 

 

Yet I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without people who have helped me along the way, sometimes directly, sometimes just by taking the time to craft a How To post or a video tutorial and putting a link on Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

Simply by posting about your experiences or jumping into a conversation thread with suggestions, you’re helping somebody. You might not see whose eyeballs are on it or get to hear that your post made a positive difference. But getting yourself out there (online and off) and sharing your expertise matters.

 

That’s being awesome. And that's being a mentor. 

 

What's been your mentorship experience, giving or receiving?

What nuggets of advice have you carried with you?

 

Explore:

I hope this was helpful for you in your own mentorship journey - each one is a unique journey of self-discovery and personal growth, so remember to enjoy the ride!

6 Comments

Nice write up, @bbenishek 

Regular Visitor

@bbenishek, this is a fantastic blog! Thank you for sharing that we help mentor others simply by speaking up, and sharing our stories and life experiences.  I'm the founder of Tribute, a modern mentorship app that takes a story-forward approach to mentorship.  We'll have more information to share SOON about how we're partnering with the D&T Community.  Stay tuned! 

I enjoyed this story @bbenishek and the way you told it. Mentorship is a naturally occurring resource in an environment where conditions are favorable. I like your realisation that you had received mentorship throughout your career, from people who took the time to care about the people around them. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could build a culture in our workplaces that found a balance between busy and benevolence?

Regular Contributor

@bbenishek I couldn't have been luckier to have such a great mentor! It's been a great experience and fun growing and learning from each other. Thanks for sharing such a fantastic write up and for always sharing the wealth of knowledge you have.

Thanks so much, @Harjit Dhaliwal!

 

@SarahTribute44, thanks! Tribute sounds really cool already.

 

I appreciate that very much, @Darrell Webster, especially as this is something you do all the time. And yes, it would be amazing, indeed. I think focusing conscious awareness on that balance can make it happen.

 

@Lillian Diaz, I truly consider myself the lucky one! Can't wait until our next meeting. :smileywink: