Paul Randal offers mentoring

Hot off the back of his win in the Tribal Awards, Paul is offering to mentor 3 men & 3 women for two months. To be in with a chance of getting mentored by Paul, you simply need to apply by writing a blog post about why you should be considered for mentoring and posting the link by the 15th Feb 2015.

I think it’s an awesome offer that you should take up if possible (i.e. you’re reading before the deadline) and whilst I’m busy trying to convince you I’m going to insert my application too. Hopefully, seeing my application will help you form your own.

What is the value of being mentored?

Mentoring gives you the opportunity to have someone who can assist you in the way a senior techy can when you face a technical challenge. They can give valuable advice about hidden perils, shortcuts, and point out code smells.

That advice is valuable, but to get it you need to properly formulate your issue or challenge faced. Like posting on Stack Overflow, putting thought and preparation into the question gives you a deeper understanding before you even talk to your mentor.

It’s worth noting that you can’t be vague. “I want to be the best” or “I want to know everything” is never going to happen. Mentoring is not a panacea for your entire career – especially with short duration mentoring like Paul’s. To get the value, you need to settle on a specific issue or challenge that you want to tackle.

What value would I get out of being mentored?

I admitted the other week that I don’t have something like a 5 year plan. I’m blessed in that I find great pleasure in doing something I’m unfamiliar with and rapidly learning to deliver under pressure. This means that pretty much whatever I do, I can enjoy it and typically do well at it. This has led to me mainly take a challenge seeking approach to my career – wherever the next big challenge and learning opportunity is, that’s where you’ll find me.

I know certain things about myself that help narrow the realm of possibilities down.

  • I am reluctant to spend significant time away from Oz
  • I love helping others learn so either I need a job that enables me to do so in my spare time, or incorporates it
  • I don’t like being hands-off from technical challenges – people problem-solving is nice but I don’t like being too far away from the IDE
  • I like money – money is an enabler of choices, by being debt-free and having lots of cash in the bank you call the shots on your life so I weigh salary and future income quite heavily until I can reach that point

So I have some constraints, but not many really! I’d like to start putting a bit more of a framework in place, some of that 5-year plan stuff, so that I’m proactive instead of reactive.

On top of the advice and input at the strategic level, there’s one tactical area that I’d be aiming to soak up knowledge on. Paul, seems to have fantastic time management and productivity skills. Despite an undoubtedly heavy work schedule with he’s delivering sessions all over the world, maintaining a blog and still finding time to read plenty of good books. It feels like he has achieved balance, and understanding the tactics behind it will help me use my time more wisely.

Who can benefit from being mentored?

Paul’s offering a primarily career focused mentoring opportunity. Given that Paul has gone from guppy to big fish over his career it means he can provide advice on all career stages.

If you’re unsure, think the time’s too tight, or feel like there’s too big a gap in where you are to Paul is, then you may want to consider finding someone closer to home. Seek out someone in your organisation or your local user group who is successful, knowledgeable, and most importantly, a decent communicator. This person can help you through a range of challenges that you’ll face over the next few years. Anyone you ask for advice from will be flattered, and appreciate your respect.

You can also benefit from getting a technical mentor – this is someone who can help you with coding practices, design patterns, avoiding pitfalls etc. These mentors are hopefully in your organisation, as it’s a lot easier to talk about your concrete, real world problems.

What’s my history of being mentored and/or doing mentoring?

Early on in my career, I had one or two senior analysts who were fonts of information and advice that has helped inordinately. Unfortunately, as I’ve had a preference for small companies it’s become increasingly difficult to find mentors within the IT / BI vertical.

In fact, over the years as I’ve become more senior I’ve found myself being the mentor (so feel free to hit me up for mentoring too!) and found it a great challenge – it’s honed my understanding and it’s really quite fantastic to look back at the progress someone can make in a year or so.

At present, I’m almost crowd sourcing mentoring. There is a lot of wisdom out there and whether it’s my national sales manager’s advice on building relationships, or consultant friends on the in’s & out’s of the biz, I’m trying to soak it up. Additionally, I haunt the Workplace and Personal Productivity Stack Exchanges – these are really interesting fonts of advice.

The “#SQLFamily” has been amazing, I couldn’t be where I am today without all the knowledge freely given by so many dedicated people.

How can you apply for mentorship from Paul?

You need to write a blog post and post a link to the post on his site by the 15th of Feb – you’d better make it the 14th just to make sure time zones don’t catch you out.

What do I think about the entry method?

I think the blog post requirement is a really canny one – it has already disqualified a swathe of people who cannot fulfill basic instructions, and it makes everyone who’s interested do at least one blog post. It is a little prod in helping people get on the a virtuous cycle of giving – not a single person who takes the time to assess their careers and challenges, write coherently about them, and in some cases start a blog, will be worse off in their careers by having submitted.