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Finding a Mentor

By Steve Jones,

Recently someone asked me how they might go about finding a mentor to help them become a better DBA. This individual was learning on their own, but was concerned that they weren’t necessarily sure they were following the best path to become a better DBA. They were looking for a mentor, and wanted to know if anyone had hints on how to find one.

We don't have a lot of apprenticeship type programs in the IT world. Too often we have people learning on their own (and doing a good job), without a lot of guidance from older workers. I think some of that is the rapidly changing field of technology has many people struggling to keep up, others jumping in to be the first with some new platform, and many older people sticking with what they know.

This means that many people are adrift in their careers, and unsure of how to proceed. While building a career is a lot like being a parent in that you learn on the job, it doesn't have to be that way. Just as many of us have mentors in our own parents for how we want to (or don't want to) raise out kid, we ought to be able to have someone help mentor us in advancing our career.

My advice for finding a mentor is that you network with people and find someone that you can bond with. It's not necessarily the most efficient way of finding one, but I think that building a bond with someone that you can trust is important. Once you have that, mentoring is little more than giving advice and imparting knowledge from your own experiences. Asking a few questions, or soliciting an opinion from someone is all you need to get a little mentoring.

Finding a mentor can be hard, and it can take time. I think we often look for mentors in our peer group, which is not necessarily the best place for counsel and advice. People at the same place in their careers don't necessarily have the experience to be good mentors. That shouldn't stop you from asking for opinions, advice, or support, but temper their advice with the knowledge that they might not be any more informed than you are.

The last thing I'll mention is that you don't need to stick with one mentor. I wouldn't recommend 20, but having 2-3 people that can help you make good decisions could help you boost your career in the direction you want to take it.

Steve Jones


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