Have a mentor, be a mentor

 The word "Mentor" actually comes from Greek literature - it's a character from "The Odyssey". He advised Odysseus and Telemachus, and the word seems to derive from a term meaning "intent, purpose, spirit, passion". We often think of a mentor in the business sense - but some folks I've talked with aren't sure what a mentor is or what they do. Most think it's someone that tells you what to do to get ahead in your career.

Part of that is true - a mentor can indeed help your career. But rather than telling you what to do, they are actually more effective when they help you discover what to do. They are a guide - someone who has an outside view of your career, isn't your boss, and in the best of cases has been down the path you want to go. There is a formal process to being a mentor, and in fact there are concrete steps you have to take to be mentored. It's a partnership, with a beginning and an end. I'm a mentor for a couple of folks, one of whom works at Microsoft. I've also got a mentor, and have had them in the past as well starting at my days working at the NASA facility in Florida. That was my introduction to the process as a young man, and it helped my professional career immensely.

On January 8th 2014 in Redmond Washington I'll be giving a presentation on how to get and work with a mentor, and how and why to become one yourself. You're welcomed to attend, and I'll probably give this session again in locations around the world - we've opened this meeting up to anyone who wants to come, and you can find the details on that here: http://pnwsql.sqlpass.org/

There's homework (of course there is, I'm a college teacher after all) in the form of some reading list and sites you can visit. Here are some of the sources I used for this session:


(this list is partially drawn from an internal Microsoft site for our formal mentoring process that I belong to):

  • Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others,3rd Edition by James Flaherty
  • 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees: A Manager's Guide to Addressing Performance, Conduct, and Discipline Challenges
    by  Paul FALCONE
  • The Truth About Personal Performance (Collection) by James O'Rourke
  • 5 Business Skills Every Professional Must Master (Collection) by Terry J. Fadem
  • Essential Rules from Richard Templar (Collection) by Richard Templar
  • The New Mentors and Protégés: How to Succeed with the New Mentoring Partnerships by Linda Phillips-Jones (2001 update)
  • The Mentee's Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You by Lois Zachary (2009)
  • Coaching, Counseling and Mentoring: How to Choose and Use the Right Technique to Boost Employee Performance by Florence
    Stone (2007)
  • Teach What You Know: A Practical Leader's Guide to Knowledge Transfer Using Peer Mentoring by Steve Trautman (2007)
  • Monday Morning Mentoring: Ten Lessons to Guide You up the Ladder by David Cottrell (2006)
  • Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Protégés Get the Most Out of Their Relationships by Ellen Ensher and Susan
    Murphy (2005)
  • Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know by John Maxwell (2008)
  • The Elements of Mentoring by W. Brad Johnson (2008)
  • The Art of Mentoring: Lead, Follow and Get Out of the Way by Shirley Peddy (2001)
  • Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning by Chip R. Bell (2002)
Comments (7)
  1. Andre says:

    Hi Buck,

    I am looking forward to attend your presentation.

    There are so many people out there like me wondering how to get the first job. Most companies are searching for junior DBAs with at least 2 years of experience. A paradox that makes young candidates frustrated. It would be great if you could gives us some thoughts about it.



  2. Ayman El-Ghazali says:

    I've had some mentor-ship during my career and it is really essential to have. I've also mentored some people to an extent and it is really rewarding.  I hope you consider coming to the east coast (DC specifically) when you decide to give this session again. Do you have any advice as to how one could find a good mentor? Should I put out a classified ad? "SQL DBA Looking to be taken under the wing of a world class Data Professional" – good title? :)




  3. Buck Woody says:

    Ayman – yes, that's one approach. :) A better one is to familiarize yourself with folks in your career area, and approach them about mentoring you. Speakers at conferences, book authors, and other folks are a great place to start. My mentee approached me after a session, we talked about it and then signed up after we agreed on his goals.  

  4. Ayman El-Ghazali says:

    Thanks for the advice I think I have someone in mind.

  5. Jamin says:


    Really enjoyed your presentation and has created a lot of buzz in conversation with some of my colleagues.  They are all inquiring about getting to see your presentation.

    Would you be willing to post a link to it on your blog or on slide share?



  6. BuckWoody says:

    Jamin – Well, we didn't record this one. I have taught this as part of my career development course at UW and other locations.

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