As a speaker, blogger, even a DBA at work it’s hard to know when you’re having a positive impact on someone you know, and often even harder to know when you’ve successfully opened a door for someone – my phrase for when you show someone possibilities that they didn’t realize were there, or didn’t realize that they could journey through that particular door.
What got me thinking about this was a conversation from the PASS Summit. I was hosting a birds of a feather lunch about participating in the SQL community (see my post on Wed for thoughts on that) and we had a great conversation, 8 or 9 others at the table. Near the end one of the participants asked me to explain how I got there; what path did I follow that led to me hosting a table about the SQL community? A fair question, yet I was a bit reluctant, I didn’t want to end a great conversation by going into a monologue that could end up looking self congratulatory.
So…gave it a try, and tried to show that some of my success was due to luck, some of it was due to being willing to invest in myself even when the payback was uncertain. At the end, maybe 5 minutes later, as I wrapped up, the comment from the original questioner was they had a much better idea of what was possible even without the luck factor. I had entered IT in 1998, worked hard, and 11 years later was near the top of my profession (depending on how you measure it!), and what she saw was that in 3, 5, even 10 years a lot was possible. Now again, this isn’t about celebrating my success, many of you reading this are as successful and as competent (or more so) that I am.
Instead, it opened a door for me, or opened it a bit more at least. Mentoring requires a two way commitment, chemistry, luck. Coaching requires someone to know the right question to ask, or to at least know to ask for help in a certain area (being open to the feedback). But setting an example….that’s interesting. I wouldn’t call it being a role model. Maybe instead I’ll say that it’s about learning to show and share what’s possible, because people are a lot more likely to try something when they can see that someone else has done it successfully, it’s not just theory.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about a couple successes I’ve had, some ideas for doors to open, and a place where I’m stuck a little, trying to find my way forward.