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The Two Mentors You Need
Venkatesh Valluri
Friday, December 15, 2006
A techie is essentially like a marathon runner. His efforts need to be spread over the entire duration, unlike the burst of energy essential for a high jumper. The young engineers fail to realize this golden rule, and most end up having dissatisfactory careers. Among the many reasons, the single most influencing factor would be the lack of mentors who could show the way.

The process of mentorship should begin right from the time the techies are in college. The formative years have a great impact on the eventual personalities they develop into. Institutes of learning across the country pay very little importance to this, and we end up having among us a bunch of very bright but impatient engineers.

To bridge the gap, every organization must have a robust mentorship program, with special focus on the young joinees. They need to understand the importance of the depth of knowledge and its application. One accusation is that today’s techies tend to spend too less time in a particular area, and that can the attributed to the lack of proper guidance. All the above aspects can be taken care of by a technical mentor, but what is also equally, if not more important is soft-skill mentorship. Let’s take a look at such an example.

Pritish, a techie with 5-6 years of experience was doing well in his career, having found for himself a mentor on the technical side, one who could warn him about all possible pitfalls. Suddenly, he felt an overpowering urge to launch his own company, and broke away from a promising career to fuel his impulsive aspiration. The result was what it is on 98 out of 100 such occasions: He failed. Not only did he not have the leadership skills, but also was swayed by the successful sell-off of a company launched by one of his peers.

A soft-skill mentor might have been able to reign in consistency in Pritish’s behaviour, and made him see the true picture, rather than the more glorious, misleading side. One can never make big career moves if one does not have a leadership mentor. Not only is such mentoring about leveraging opportunities, and being present at the right place at the right time, but also helping the engineer stay away from frustration. This is an important aspect considering that a career in hard-core technology does not provide the opportunity of instantaneous visibility of efforts. The impact of an effort made in upscaling one-self and becoming conversant with the latest technology may be decipherable only after a certain point in time. The presence of a mentor, and his constant guidance can help a techie realize that.

Having said all this, it’s important to consider as to how does one go about finding a mentor for oneself—essentially by reaching out to people whom one admires. They need not be from the same organization, or even the same vertical, more so in the case of a soft-skill mentor. The engineer need take the effort of building the communication channels from his side. Not always will one strike a good rapport with people whom he/she approaches, but considering that there are plenty of people we admire for various reasons, it’s not that hard finding a mentor!

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