Over the years when I changed careers and then advanced in IT, many people helped me learn or provided opportunities. Some of these people gave specific in-person help, like my brothers who taught me programming logic and database normalization before I ever thought about working in technology. Others assisted from a distance when I read their books and articles or watched their presentations. I’m not sure if these people can be called my mentors, but I am sure I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
I count Steve Jones as a long-time mentor because he was the person who helped develop me as a writer 15 years ago. He was also kind enough to sit with me to discuss my career options one year at PASS Summit, and I’m sure he was quite busy that week, so I’m grateful that he took the time. We’ve never had any kind of formal mentorship set up, but I know I can always count on him for advice. (We work together now at Redgate!)
A consulting company I worked for a few years ago set up mentoring sessions between senior and junior consultants. I ended up with three or four juniors who wanted me to mentor them. If I remember correctly, many of the sessions would be cancelled due to customer work, so I’m not sure how effective they were.
Today, I get many informal requests asking for help with just about anything related to the data platform. Many are requests for good books on a particular data platform topic. It's frequently on an area I know nothing about, and only or or two books might exist on the topic as well.
I also often get asked for help with queries. This usually ends up with me writing a query instead of actually teaching anything. It's also possibly not correct because most people don’t take the time to provide enough sample data nor all the business rules. Most problems are not straightforward. My advice is to be sure to provide a script with the create table and insert statements as well as making sure that the data is representative, not just one edge case. In fact, it is probably better to post your one-off questions like this on a forum or #sqlhelp. That way, more people who have some time to spare will see your questions.
Right now, I have what I’ll call official mentoring relationships set up with three people. I’ve given each individual some recommendations, and there are specific goals in mind. So far, my mentees are enthusiastic and following up with me on their own. It is up to them to do the work. The outcome is not my problem; however, I will assist the best I can and am rooting for them.
Being a mentor is a great way to pay it forward. For those of you who have found mentors, remember that they are giving you a precious give – their time.