Saturday, March 28, 2009

Food For Thought #8 - Mentoring

#8 is about Mentoring, see Lee's original post here

Appetizer: Do you view yourself as a mentor? Why or why not?

Yes, I find myself always wanting to learn and then share my knowledge. Whether it's teaching friends and family how to market themselves for jobs, teaching something technical, guiding my employees to expand horizons, spending a ton of time sharing knitting knowledge in real life and on Ravelry, I'm constantly trying to share. Plus, of course, as a parent, I try to teach my son the ins and outs of how to study, dealing with friends, surviving emotions and general life skills (like cooking pizza). I have never been one to hold my knowledge in, I believe that if I can help, I should try.

Soup: Other than your parents, who was most influential in shaping the choices you made in your life?

My son. People that know me today find it hard to believe but there was a portion of my life where I was very unfocused. I failed out of college, I went from guy to guy to guy to guy. (Friends said I didn't rebound, I ricocheted). I came home single and pregnant. Luckily my family, while not thrilled, took me in... took us in since we lived there for my pregnancy and my son's first year. After he was born, my life had purpose, every decision was suddenly about what was going to be best for him. I got a better job, I settled down, I went back to school.... I am the person I am because he came into my life.

Salad: Other than your children or siblings, whose life have you influenced most?

I believe that I have influenced others in ways big and small. My favorite people have been interns that were under my management and care. I always tried to make sure that they were part of the team, given true responsibilities that could add to their resumes and then help them market themselves for their first job after graduation. Since I have heard success stories from three of them, I know I did my job and I am so proud of them.

I have similar feelings when I can teach someone something new in their knitting. Every time Apryl teases me about her sock obsession being my fault, I smile. I'm glad I helped her. I'm glad I can teach people new things on Ravelry. Of course there are lots of amazing people there but sometimes a simple drawing from me can give someone the "ah-ha" moment. Maybe it's not as life changing as helping people in their careers, but I believe it's valuable and it makes me feel good when someone gets a bit further.

Entré: What is your favorite experience as a mentor or mentee?

Ok, this one starts out a bit negative first... I once had an employee who initially did not report to me. He started as an intern, became a contractor and had a manager who would just correct his work if it was wrong. This employee, who was a wonderful person, became a bit lazy about his work because, well, it was getting corrected anyway and no one cared. Then his project shifted and he worked with me, his job was working within Business Objects reports in our company. I didn't tolerate the problems and would send the work back to him. One day, he submitted a report that was just horrible, by just glancing at it you could see that his report said that all motorcycles had about 8 wheels. I lost it, I don't lose my temper very often, especially at work, but I yelled at him. Later I apologized and we actually talked about it. But amazingly, from that point on, he totally turned around. He started trying harder, he started learning more about our reporting environment and just doing great work. Eventually, as all contractors must, he had to leave us. I helped him find another job and then didn't hear from him for awhile. One day he emailed me and said that he got a job at Business Objects (yes, the software company) and that he wanted to thank me. He said that when I got mad and expected him to work properly, it actually showed him that I cared and then he cared. It was the best email I ever received even though I still feel horrible that I yelled. (that certainly isn't the best mentor technique!) And for the record, he teased me periodically from that point on and told others that they really didn't want to make me mad. *blush*

Dessert: Do you have to know someone personally for that person to be your mentor? Please explain your position.

I believe that it's possible for someone to be your mentor that you don't know personally. Many people view the Yarn Harlot or Elizabeth Zimmerman to be knitting mentors. People like Ghandi or Martin Luther King influenced the thoughts of many people that didn't know them

However, in my own life, I've found that my most important mentors have known me, whether they had a large influence or a small. Some for providing direct guidance and some for encouraging me to think just a bit differently about myself and the world around me. For that matter, Lee makes me think every time he posts these questions. When I answer these, I feel like I'm coming at my own thoughts and feelings at an unusual angle and I come away knowing myself a little better.

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