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K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.

Mentors and Perspective

We had my organization's semi-annual combined IT and financial meeting this morning. At the end of these meetings awards and certifications are announced. I had earned an award but I wasn't recognized. I'm a bit disappointed, and I can understand why, but I also know that I shouldn't be. Oversights happen and the things I did to earn the award in question I did because I wanted to do them, not because of the award itself. I enjoyed doing those things and in my mind that should be reward enough. So I'm struggling with myself over the fact that I am disappointed.

To put things in perspective, I'm disappointed about not having my name called whereas the guy who was sitting next to me will likely have to pull an all-nighter to facilitate a customer migration to new servers. And this is after he was up working until 1 AM this morning prepping for the move that will happen tonight. Not only that guy, but two other guys I know will be working like crazy. With that sort of reference point, not having my name called is a really silly reason to be sad.

This got me to thinking about how often we let emotions drive us. Some emotion is good. We should feel passionate about what we are doing. I was passionate about doing those things which earned me the award in the first place. That's emotion. I think if we're using emotion to motivate us to do better, that's fine. But when emotion holds us back from our best, that's a different story entirely. I have had a little talk with myself about how it won't help to be disappointed and that if I were in the same position and there was no award, I still would have done those same things and enjoyed doing them.

It also made me realize that I do wish I had a local mentor to talk to, someone I could pull aside to help me see things in their proper perspective. I was able to see things as they are and make corrections, but that's not always going to happen. Andy Warren has written a lot on mentoring and it has spurred my thinking about the importance of mentors, especially lately. I think that's one thing great mentors are able to do: help folks see things in the proper perspective. In IT our work is so involved and it can consume us. So we can lost perspective on its importance in our life. Likewise, we can have situations like mine today. And we can react wrongly and let affect our actions, our mood, our life. There's no real reason to let that continue. But sometimes it really takes another person, someone we trust and someone we know who's looking to help us grow, to get that through our heads.

Comments

Posted by Andy Warren on 12 June 2009

Brian, that's a good post and a good thing to talk about. I don't see anything wrong with being disappointed, that's real and human. Sometimes it seems like we're coached to only enjoy 'positive' emotions and that any negative emotion should be ignored or seen as weakness. It's pretty hard to know on either side when to let emotion rule and to what extent.

If you'll forgive a Trek reference, remember Spock saying something about logic is the beginning, not the end?

Here's something harder to think about - do you show the hurt and let them know about it at work? As a manager it would suck to realize that I'd unintentionally done harm, but not as much as finding out years later or never. And to go a step further, what can they do to fix it? Or would they try?

I'm right there with you wanting/needing a mentor. I think maybe the reason I enjoyed my networking calls with new friend Don Gabor is that we could talk about my challenges at work and life.

No good answers. Congratulations on the award, and kudos for trying to understand your reaction and being strong enough to write about it.

Posted by John Magnabosco on 13 June 2009

I would say that your response is perfectly natural... and so is the internal conflict. I also wonder what the guys next to you who are putting in the heavy hours are thinking if they didn't get any recognition at all.

I think it is awesome that you blogged on that topic.

In regard to mentorship: This is something that I have felt is sorely missing in our industry... and even society in general.

Posted by Steve Jones on 16 June 2009

No good way to respond to this. If you bring it up to management, they'll make a big deal later, or make an announcement, and I'd bet you feel selfish for doing so. If you don't, you feel a loss.

We are human, we are emotional. We're not resources, we're not interchangeable, and recognition, even a small "thank you" goes a long way.

One thing to keep in mind, if you realize someone else is missed, bring it up quietly to a manager, ask them to include them next time, not make a special mention.

On mentoring, boy it's lacking. I wish we did more apprenticeship/matching of younger with older folks. Not always for the tech skills since the young guys many times know more about things, but more with just career advice and counseling.

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