Catch the wave of knowledge by finding a mentor, says former Outreachy mentee and current mentor Nisha Yadav.

Life, like surfing, is all about the wave selection and reading waves is a tough skill. If you are looking for the exponential wave to surf for career growth, then read on to unravel the mystery.

Have you ever pursued something difficult that seemed the logical next step in your career, and then feeling motivated you went on to tackle the monster all by yourself, only to later find yourself almost crushed? If so, consider enrolling yourself in a mentorship program.

“There are options in life. It’s not necessary that high achievements can only be garnered by choosing difficult options,” from the movie “Dear Zindagi.”

Typically, a mentor is an older, more experienced person who works with the mentee to pursue the mentee’s best interests and goals. Mentor-mentee relationships can either be formal – organized through a mentoring program or informal – established through connections.

Most of the benefits of being mentored are commonly recognized, so here are the big ones as a refresher.

  • Structured learning can save you hours of struggle. The role your skill set will play in your career is pretty straightforward: The better you are at what you do, the more successful you will be.
  • Gain exposure from second-hand experiences. This reminds me of a quote by Otto von Bismarck – “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
  • Improve your performance.  We all know how easy it is to get lost in the woods on days of low self-motivation.
  • Build a network and make connections with peers that may otherwise take years to develop.

Remember not to be fooled by the impression that the outcome of your career is dependent on the actions and inputs of others. The truth is, you are in charge of the chemical reaction in which the mentor is merely a catalyst.

If you’re looking for a mentorship program to get onboard as an upstream developer in OpenStack,  there are plenty of ways. The weekend prior to OpenStack Summits there’s a two-day Upstream Institute – an intensive program designed to share knowledge about the diverse ways of contributing to Openstack. Also, the Women of OpenStack group runs Speed Mentoring session at the OpenStack Summits which is a great icebreaker to get to know new and experienced people in the OpenStack community.

Nonetheless, if you want to start by working remotely, keep an eye on the weekly meetings and discussion going around the IRC channels. You may want to checkout out about Outreachy OpenStack internship which helps people from groups underrepresented in the free and open source software get involved and runs twice every year. Outreachy has very good projects with awesome mentors. How do I know? Because, I was also in your shoes once, kudos to all the contributors who helped me all along and made it worthwhile.

But, the story of surfing the exponential wave doesn’t end here. Paying it forward at the Speed Mentoring Session at the OpenStack Summit in Boston was an unmatchable experience. Another enriching journey which excites me to the core is about to begin with the upcoming Outreachy internship round May-Aug 2017 for which I will be co-mentoring for the Keystone documentation auditing project. It’s been said that you never really learn something until you teach it. So, take out some time to work and develop yourself after the mentee phase and once you feel more confident, switch to the mentor phase.

We tend to think about a mentorship program only from the mentee’s perspective but a little pondering will show that the returns from a mentor’s side are great career boosters as well. Few good pointers worth noting, are listed below.

  • Refresh your knowledge. Mentoring someone can provide a greater perspective and clarity about what you already know.
  • Hone your leadership, management and communication skills.
  • Build your credibility and reputation as a role model.

Mentoring does not necessarily mean that you must take out a lot of time from your already hectic schedule. All it means is that you spend quality time with the mentee because every interaction counts.

Whether you become a mentor or a mentee, it’s a classic win-win situation. Now that the facts are clear, choose a role that brings you a step closer to your goals. I would love to hear your takeaways from the journey in the comments section!