IT Veterans: Pay It Forward Through Mentoring

IT Veterans: Pay It Forward Through Mentoring

February 16

Typically when I see posts on mentoring in my RSS feed they are geared toward people seeking mentors. A nice example for IT professionals is a 2013 article by Rich Hein in CIO Magazine. He writes:

You’ve worked hard in your IT job. You’ve attended classes and even have all the latest certifications. Still, your career is stuck in neutral…Sometimes you can’t beat the insight you gain from someone who is where you want to be someday…Whether it’s something as mundane as how to approach a specific assignment or something more life-altering such as weighing job offers from different companies, having a mentor in your corner who’s “been there, done that” can help turn your job into a career.

But what about you IT veterans out there? Maybe you work for an MSP. Or you head the IT department at your company. Have you reached out to those younger or less experienced people in your field, whether in-house or not, to help them be better at their jobs — or perhaps more importantly, be better people in general?

With this topic in mind, I decided to reach out to my old friend Blane Warrene. Blane has been working in IT since the early 1990s, mostly for financial firms like CBIZ, ING, and Pacific Life, before starting a couple of companies of his own. He received mentoring early on in his career, and he in turn has been a mentor to other IT professionals.

Blane says people in IT think the cliché that, “everybody else is an idiot, incapable of operating their machines, and so they need their superior geniuses in the server room to take care of it.” Of course, not IT people act in that manner, but sometimes the cliché becomes reality, particularly at a company with a vacuum of leadership.

He counters this in a few ways. First off, he reminds IT people that they were not always super geniuses:

We were all idiots the first time we touched a computer and thought, “What the hell do I do now?” We once had to thumb through the manual trying to figure out how it works, and so I spend a lot of time mentoring about internal customer service, external customer service, and teamwork. It takes everybody in the building to make the company function. For that to happen, everybody has to have the right perspective.

Then Blane moves people toward that right perspective by countering the notion that the only smart people are the ones “who built the engine.” The people who sell it, market it, and organize the human infrastructure enabling that engine to be built are smart people in their own right. Therefore, the work IT does becomes way more effective—and enjoyable—if everybody works together toward common business goals.

Says Blane:

Because I’d been on teams that frayed apart and fragmented, I learned how to run a team successfully early on. When I was in IT departments either managing them or as part of that team, I put that emphasis on my coworkers. People bought into it and said, ‘Wow, it is a lot more fun when we get along!’ It’s one of the first things I go after when I get the chance to mentor people.

Ultimately, Blane loves mentoring because he believes in the concept of paying it forward:

You can’t fix everything. But if you can help a couple of people, let’s hope there’s a karma ring, and someone in that group passes it along to somebody else. If you can even impact one person powerfully during your time on this planet, there are 7 billion of us. All we have to do is help one person, and we have probably accomplished more than what happens a lot.

Have you had experience mentoring others in IT? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

And if you liked this article, you might also be interested in Scott Alan Miller’s post Your IT Path: Experience vs. Education.

Photo credit: thegoldguys.blogspot.com via Flickr