It’s been a long time for this post, and my apologies for that. The end of cycle 1 corresponded came during a long year for Andy and me, both of us traveling and working quite a bit. We were both a little busy through the end of the year and we’ve struggled to get momentum back for cycle 2. The call for mentors has gone out and we’ll put out a call for mentees shortly.
This post looks at a few things that we learned from Cycle 1.
In the first cycle, Andy and I put out a call for mentees and received over 250 applications. With only 10 mentors, we had to read through a lot of applications in order to perform the matching.
We eliminated a little over half of the applications because so many people were looking for coaching. We had many applications where the candidate asked if they could have a mentor to teach them more about T-SQL or Reporting Services. Mentoring is not coaching, and it’s not training, so we eliminated most of those applications for the first cycle.
Our matching process was a little scientific, a little bit of a WAG on the part of Andy and myself. We each knew the mentors personally and with their personalities, experiences, and more in mind, we separately picked out about 20-30 candidates whose application reminded us of a mentor. On a long conference call, we debated about the matches,often finding that we had picked the same two or three people for a mentor.
Once the matches were made,we notified everyone and set the cycle in motion. Our plans for the pairs were to have an hour phone call a month. We also had an hour call with the mentors and us to talk about any issues. The initial emails went out in May, and we continued for 3-4 months. The timing varied a little among the pairs, and we ended the experiment in September.
Overall we found that the pairings seemed to work well. Some were better than others, with a few pairs of people getting along well, and some having a bit of a rocky relationship, but most everyone reported that the mentoring was beneficial and each felt the time was well spent. The mentors enjoyed the chance to work with others and share their experiences while the mentees reported that they had a better idea of how to grow their careers and a few of them have made some very positive steps toward growing in the direction they wanted to grow.
A few of the pairs continued on informally, but the majority ended the formal, scheduled contact after the cycle ended.
We learned a few things about this process, which I’d like to share. We also didn’t learn things in a few areas, and we are hoping to continue to learn more in Cycle 2.
Pairing – I don’t think we learned a lot about what makes a good pair or even what might make a bad pairing. It’s not something that I think we can define or codify into a set of rules, and I think we will try something new in Cycle 2. What, I’m not sure, but something different to see if it works. Perhaps even a few somethings, but our intention is to find a scalable way to match people up.
Mentoring is mostly short term – We have a small sample size, and this is certainly a framework for mentoring, not a natural evolution between people, but every pair of people we put together saw the most benefits and value from just two to three months of mentoring, 4-6 phone calls. It seems that most of the mentees need some direction, someone that can listen to their issues and point them in the right direction.
We don’t know if this lasts, or if the mentees would need a “check-up” of some sort in a year, but it does seem that setting up short cycles, and short periods of advice/suggestions/whatever can work well.
Prep the Mentors – We didn’t disclose the applications to our mentors, but almost all of them wished that they had some idea of what the mentee was looking for and what they wanted to get out of the cycle. We think that disclosing this information to the mentors, and potentially allow them to decide to accept a mentee, is something that needs to be included in our process.
Limit the Supervision – In our monthly calls with mentors, it became apparent early that the commitment to give time to this project was already substantial for the mentors. They all took responsibility and worked hard for the mentees, and didn’t need much from Andy or Steve in terms of resources, guidance or assistance. In the future, we do not plan on holding monthly calls. Instead we will assume things are going well and only get involved if there are issues.
As we look to future cycles, we hope to refine our surveys and processes to allow an ongoing pairing of mentors and mentees. We hope to fail fast when a poor match is made, and re-pair the participants.
The success of this endeavor depends on you, as much as on us. We hope that you will consider applying as a mentor, mentee, or both for this or future cycles.