Finding a Tech Mentor: Tips and Strategies
The power and beauty of mentorship are summarized in the timeless words of Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker and author: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”
A successful mentorship can provide a mentee with guidance, support, connections, and experiences that can powerfully shape and influence someone's life, career, and legacy. If you look back upon successful people, more often than not, you will find that many of them had mentors. And, their mentors had mentors. And so on.
In the ever-changing and increasingly complex world of tech, the demand for mentors has risen exponentially. With technology driving a fast-paced tech world, it's important that experienced people are able to help those who are in need of guidance. That way, they are able to achieve their dreams and in turn make the world a better place. Like many mentor-filled industries, it’s easier when someone can guide you. This is why finding yourself a tech mentor (which is simply a mentor related to your chosen industry or profession in the tech world) is so important to your career.
What is a tech mentor?
A tech mentor is someone who chooses to give back to the community by mentoring a member of the tech world in order to provide them guidance, connections, and the experience to better their career. Tech mentors provide advice, support, connections, experiences, insights, decision-making wisdom, introductions, invitations, and more. Because the tech world is becoming so competitive, it helps to have every advantage. The advantages provided by having a mentor on your team are nearly endless. Almost every influential and successful person can point to a mentor that helped them get to where they are today. This is especially true in the tech industry.
It’s common for tech mentors to help those just starting out but mentors can offer their guidance and support at any point in a career. What's unique about tech mentorships is that they can take many unique forms. There is no one size fits all mentorship. No accreditation or certificate deems someone a bona fide mentor or mentee. Typically, the mentor and the mentee decide what their mentorship will look like. Tech mentors and mentees can meet at any interval. Some mentors and mentees might grab a coffee a couple of times a week and discuss big-picture strategy and the general direction of where a mentee is heading. Another mentor and mentee might meet a few times a week and get into the nitty gritty details of day-to-day career stuff with their mentor.
With a mentor to help you plan large moves in your career, weigh in on the day-to-day decisions you make, give important feedback, connect you to potential opportunities, or affirm that you're doing a good job, many people early in their careers are finding a sense of peace and clarity on their path that they've never experienced before. This is why so many are seeking mentors in universities, online, in organizations, and embedded within companies.
Why the need for tech mentors?
Because the tech world requires such a unique set of personal traits and a very technical skill set that is specific to whatever industry you're in, the role of a tech mentor in this opaque environment is paramount. Mentors in general can provide us with lots of benefits. And the more specialized the mentor in an industry the more specific and important the benefits are to the mentee. Programmers need to know what programming languages mentors see on the horizon of the industry. Prospective tech executives want to learn from the wisdom and experience of an experienced tech mentor. Cybersecurity specialists need certain doors opened for them in order to secure the best job opportunities. Wannabe tech entrepreneurs are searching for investors by accessing a mentor's network. College grads who want to risk it all and enter the exciting startup world need to leverage the mentors' vision to help them decide which opportunities would be the most promising.
A tech mentor in any of these situations is able to provide confidence, wisdom, clarity, experience, and feedback. But it's not all intangible assets that they can provide, they are also capable of opening doors and making introductions for the mentees. As mentioned before, there is no one-size-fits-all mentorship. Mentorships can be very structured and official, set up through a university or a private program, for example. Or, they might be an extension of a friendship between two individuals on the same career path but separated by a few years of experience.
Mentors and mentees might connect and interact in unique circumstances but the fundamental goal remains the same. A mentee uses the help of a mentor to better their career. If all of this sounds promising to you, you might want to consider a tech mentor.
How does a tech mentor benefit from mentoring someone?
But it's not just a one-way relationship with mentors and mentees. Mentorship provides an established mentor an opportunity to give back and share what they've learned. This provides many benefits for someone who has made significant progress in their career and cares about helping their fellow colleague on a path toward bettering the industry. It also helps a mentor stay sharp and up-to-date on important trends. As they say, the best way to know something is to teach it.
How do you find a tech mentor?
If you'd like to find a mentor in the tech world to help you further Advance your career, it's important to follow these steps. First, you need to know what you're looking for. You need to know what sort of arrangement you want with the mentor as well as what kind of mentor you want. That includes the qualities of a mentor.
Everyone has specific interests and preferences for an ideal mentor. It's important to find a mentor who checks the basic boxes so that they can help you the most. Here’s what you need to look for in any mentor:
- A mentor who will listen to your needs and aspirations.
- A mentor who cares.
- A mentor who has a natural talent for coaching, teaching, mentoring, or guiding.
- A mentor who has the right experience (Not too high, not too low for the position that you're working within).
- A mentor who is available.
Next, you'll need to find where those prospective mentors spend their time. You can try to find them in tech groups and communities, within your workplace, networking events, social media, within your family and network, and through mentorship programs that you can find online. LinkedIn is another powerful example of where you can find a mentor.
But how do you make the leap? Once you have located a list of potential mentors, you will need to make the next step. In order to find a mentor and develop a relationship with them, you need to know exactly what you want. You should consider writing down exactly what you want out of a mentorship, as well as a potential proposal with your goals to present to your potential mentor. The next thing to do is to ask if they would be interested in mentoring someone with your exact goals. From there you can decide on the details if they say “yes!” But just because a potential mentor might say no doesn't mean you should be discouraged. Some people are just too busy to take on a mentorship. But like many things in life, it's important to keep trying because there are plenty of fish in the sea.
If a mentor does say yes, a face-to-face meeting to decide the details like how often you'll meet, exactly what you're looking for, what the mentor can do for you, how you can help the mentor, and much more is an ideal first step. From there you are free to create the relationship that serves both of you the best. With a tech mentor on your team, there is no limit to what you can achieve in your career.