#233: Analytics Mentors (Having One, Being One)

To mentor, or not to mentor, that is the question: whether ’tis more productive to hole up in a cubicle and toil away without counsel, or to hold close one’s experience to the benefit of no one else. Perchance, the author of this show summary should have checked with one of his mentors before attempting a Shakespearian angle. But, he didn’t, and the show title is pretty self-explanatory, so we’ll just roll with it. On this episode, Michael, Val, and Tim chatted about mentorship: its many flavors, its many uses, and what has and has not worked for them both when being mentored as well as when being mentors.

Links to Resources Mentioned in the Show

Photo by Nadir sYzYgY on Unsplash

Episode Transcript

0:00:00.8 Announcer: Welcome to the Analytics Power Hour. Analytics topics covered conversationally and sometimes with explicit language.

0:00:14.6 Michael Helbling: Hey everybody, welcome. It’s the Analytics Power Hour and this is episode 233. You know, as you progress in your career in analytics, any career, I’m guessing mentorship is really important. You know, mentorship is very easy to understand. We just have to break it into its two root words. Ment and orship, to steal a classic Jack Handy. Go look it up millennials. Okay, but seriously, because we do take mentoring people seriously and being mentored as well, we’re gonna talk about it. So let me introduce my co-host this episode, Tim Wilson. Hey Tim, how are you?

0:00:53.5 Tim Wilson: Just dandy. How are you doing.

0:00:55.9 MH: So it’s been a little while. We haven’t done this in a bit, you know. We’ve had a nice rotation going. So it’s nice.

0:01:00.1 TW: What’s your name again?

0:01:02.9 MH: Exactly, exactly. I’m new here. We should hand out name tags. That would be good. And also Val Kroll. Welcome Val.

0:01:09.4 Val Kroll: Thank you very much. Good to see you guys.

0:01:13.4 MH: Very excited to see the recent rebranding of Tim and I’s former employer and your current employer to Search Discovery into Further. It’s pretty cool. And I’m Michael Helbling. Okay, let’s jump into it. No, I have just a comment. We all use to work there, Val.

0:01:33.1 VK: Hard cut.

0:01:37.6 TW: Hard.

0:01:37.7 MH: What? I don’t know what, is there something else I was supposed to say about it?

0:01:41.7 VK: It’s great.

0:01:42.6 MH: There is a cool transition logo that Nate Jackson did on from taking the old logo to the new logo, which I thought was very cool.

0:01:51.3 VK: There was a frenzy of GIFs getting uploaded to our Slack and that one was definitely the winner.

0:01:54.9 MH: Oh, nice. Very nice. Okay, well let’s jump into it. So, to kick us off, maybe let’s start with who was your first mentor in analytics? Did anybody remember?

0:02:09.5 VK: I do.

0:02:12.1 MH: Yeah, I do too. Or who I would say it was. What? You don’t remember, Tim?

0:02:17.4 VK: Tim.

0:02:19.0 TW: Yeah. I…

0:02:20.6 MH: Tim is like, I have no mentors.

0:02:21.1 VK: Here’s where I disclose.

0:02:23.6 MH: I have just existed at analytics from time immemorial.

0:02:29.2 TW: This topic I’m uncomfortable with ’cause I’m like, there are lots of people I’ve looked up to and learned from and…

0:02:33.5 MH: Sure.

0:02:34.9 TW: Asked questions of. But as a mentor, so that gives me overall kind of squeamishness about the topic because of the formality. So let’s go through your two first mentors and maybe we can just, maybe I’ll get there.

0:02:50.4 VK: That’s a good point. Maybe after we talk about all these people, we can go back and be like, did you think don’t that you were a mentor to me? And maybe some people would be like, I didn’t know that that’s what we were doing. So that’s a good. That’s a good point. I’m sure we’ll get into that. But my first mentor, so I went to college thinking I was gonna become a physical therapist and I was a biology major. And then I got to organic chemistry, which hit me like a punch in the face. So made me rethink a lot of things and left, I dropped out of college altogether and stumbled into market research through a job at the mall, which we can get into another day, that story. But when I came back, I knew that I really wanted to get into market research.

0:03:29.8 VK: That’s what pulled me back. And so my first internship before I officially graduated was when I worked at CNR Research, which is a boutique market research firm here in Chicago. And the analyst that I was shadowing, her name at the time was Rachel Strasser. Now Rachel McGinnis. And she really shaped what my understanding of what market research was, and especially in the context of client delivery and understanding how what we do within survey research or at the time phone research, helped inform decisions that the CMO was making at some of the organizations we were supporting. And yeah, there was a lot that she mentored me on, not just on how to understand statistical significance and take what we learned from our courses in college to actual business application, but how to show up for your clients and to be that communicator and all that.

0:04:22.8 TW: So she was not your manager, was she like a more senior peer? Was she in the same group? Same…

0:04:28.7 VK: Yes. Same team.

0:04:31.0 TW: Okay.

0:04:32.0 VK: So she was just someone that I, sometimes did some direct work for her, but she wasn’t necessarily my manager, which is why I kind of put that mentor title on her because she did shape so much of my early understandings of what that role could even be. Alright Michael, we have to hear about your first mentor.

0:04:49.3 MH: Alright. Well now, it’s like, is this person really and I called, I think of them as a mentor, but we’re gonna come back to that. So when I first got into analytics back in 2004, I was the only person at my company. They just sort of gave me a box of Webtrends and said, install this on a computer. That was literally the software came in a box at that, well you could download it, but there was boxes of software at that time. And yeah, there was someone on the Webtrends forums who was just always so smart and knew so many things. Her name was Chris Grant. And over the couple of years, we got to know each other. And she was just someone who always sort of went out of their way to, was super kind, but also very instructive and really helpful and just helped me see the world of analytics in a very specific way. So that’s definitely someone I point to as sort of one of my very first mentors in analytics. So she was a big influence on me.

0:05:48.3 TW: She used to come down to, she was from Michigan, right?

0:05:49.9 MH: Yeah. Ann Arbor area.

0:05:54.2 TW: She came down to Web Analytics Wednesday a couple Of times.

0:05:55.8 VK: Did she mentor you when she came down?

0:05:57.5 TW: Me? Maybe she did.

0:06:00.3 VK: Maybe she got a couple sessions in.

0:06:05.4 MH: It was not a formal mentoring relationship, I don’t think that was in her style, but she just had great advice and was timely.

0:06:15.1 TW: I mean, ’cause it is interesting and I’ve mentioned this lady before on past episodes, but when I got into analytics formally, I mean I owned NetGenesis and then Webtrends, but that was kind of a side part of the job. It wasn’t until I moved into our BI organization and then Allison Ferguson was my manager. But I have, I definitely, when I reflect on things that I picked up from her, it was much more things that I feel like a mentor would do. So like maybe, and maybe that was kind of my, that’s when I fell in love with analytics or got to kind of flex that, develop that muscle and I look around everybody else who was on that team or in that space and I don’t think any of, I mean there were things that I could learn from them, lots of things that I could learn from them, but from a hashing out a challenge or figuring out what should we, what should I do next. So I don’t know. Like does that, the manager can’t be the mentor ’cause the manager’s supposed to be helping you guide your career? But I don’t think of what she was doing as like guiding my career from a career development so much is helping me become a better analyst and analytics manager. So, but I don’t know if that takes her off the table. I don’t…

0:07:37.3 MH: I don’t think so. Anyways. Well, that’s a good place to start is maybe we need to define what a mentor is so people know. Like, did I accidentally get mentored by you at some point? So yeah. And I think in a certain sense, like those first, maybe those first ones, it is more organic. Although I have had people, like junior people in their career approach me and say like, I’m looking for a good mentor or whatever. So I do know people who are like, go-getters sometimes, they actually are like, go put that in place. And I think that’s, we will talk about that part of it maybe a little later. But maybe let’s talk about like what makes a mentor? What is the definition of that?

0:08:27.1 TW: Val, you got something?

0:08:28.5 MH: I posed the question so that somebody else had the answer. So…

0:08:31.9 VK: I was gonna say…

0:08:35.4 TW: I mean, I worked on developing a mentorship program for the DAA, so…

0:08:37.7 MH: Tim, I feel like this is actually us interviewing you, so don’t go shying away. Like you’ve done the most mentorship formal and informal of any of us, I think.

0:08:50.5 TW: Yeah. But I guess that was one where it was very much a let’s set up an external. So I think that it’s interesting ’cause Val, your example was kind of within the company. My example was whether it was mentorship or not, was within the company. Michael, yours was finding somebody in industry. When the DAA set up initially the Women in Analytics mentoring program, they were specifically saying, let’s make these connections. And so that one was very structured from a, it’s a like a handful of like three to six months, it was, you should be meeting every couple of weeks. So it was a very, we’re gonna connect you to somebody that you may not know at all ahead of time and you should be having some level of focus on what decision you’re trying to make or what challenges you’re facing.

0:09:40.0 TW: Like it was very much on the mentee to say, where do I want some external perspective from? So like that one actually fit in kind of a nice-ish box. And then it was kind of… And I mean in that definition, Michael, like before I joined Search Discovery, there was like one person who knew I was pondering a job change. I think before the search discovery one, might’ve been when I was going to analytics demystify. And it was like, you, right? So there’s a sense where there was like literally one person I was looking to trying to make a career decision, which in a lot of way I’m like, that’s, I mean I’ve used John Lovett for that. I’ve used Eric Peterson for that. But that was kind of focused. But I guess that kind of box of this external defined structured relationship, finite time period, the finite time period always felt a little weird to me. ‘Cause it felt like you’re gonna establish this relationship, get a working relationship in order and then be like, okay, we’re done. Although I have one relationship from that program that has now kind of gone on indefinitely and will go on indefinitely to the benefit of both of us. So that’s a really roundabout way to not, to maybe get it some of the characteristics of one type of program, but without defining it.

0:11:09.2 VK: With the formal programs. And the DAA one had this too about finding mentors and mentees based on the topics. So mentors, like what things do you think you are well versed in or experiences that you have or things you’d be excited to share, wisdom you’d like to impart? And then mentees, what skills are you hoping to gain? And they can be hard skills, they could be soft skills, it could be situational, it could be, I’m in a place where I’m wanting to explore and I need some direction, right? But having that common set of interests and skills is like always a great place to start. And I think the parameters, the DAA program is the only one that I’ve ever been a part of that had that six month ending point. And I think part of it was just to make sure that you could continue to spread the goodness or get connected with other pairings if there were other skills that you wanted to flex to or flip to.

0:12:03.2 VK: And if it didn’t come to a natural end before that kind of a thing. So I actually kind of thought that was a nice feature, but I agree that that’s not super common. But the matching based on interests, I think is if you’re gonna get into a, if you’re looking for a formal program, one that starts that way, it’s like such an easy place to start. Especially if it’s someone that you don’t know because you know that there’s that commonality before you even join the Zoom call or get into the coffee shop.

0:12:32.4 MH: All right. It’s time to step away from the show for a quick word about Piwik Pro. Tim, tell us about it.

0:12:38.4 TW: Well, Piwik Pro is easy to implement, easy to use and reminiscent of Google’s universal analytics in a lot of ways.

0:12:44.6 MH: I love that it’s got basic data views for less technical users, but it keeps advanced features like segmentation, custom reporting and calculated metrics for power users.

0:12:54.2 TW: We’re running Piwik Pro’s free plan on the podcast website, but they also have a paid plan that adds scale and some additional features.

0:13:00.3 MH: That’s right. So head over to piwik.pro and check them out for yourself. Get started with their free plan. That’s piwik.pro. Alright, let’s get back to the show.

0:13:12.1 MH: It is interesting, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about a definition for this ’cause I really don’t, for whatever reason, I just have never like framed it in those terms. But you think about it, like even to your earlier point, Tim, it’s like, yeah, some people I would go to on a specific topic for advice or they’re good at that. So I would ask them, but then there’s people who are just more generally like involved or they’re closer to you. Like it’s a closer relationship. So that’s sort of the way I’ve looked, I’ve approached this episode, have advisory people that I kind of reach out to, but then I also have people who I look up to or like, I can talk about stuff with them. And it’s interesting because maybe in a mentorship relationship, it’s also not just about the interest, but it’s also just about you sometimes too. I don’t know.

0:14:06.9 TW: What do you mean? What do you mean by that?

0:14:08.8 MH: Well, in other words, it’s not all professional. A lot of times it’s like any life topic almost in a way.

0:14:16.7 TW: But I think that’s, to me, when I think of the relationships that I’ve had that I would put into that category, there is a personal relationship component. Like another thing that’s kind of structured, oh, it’s similar interests. It’s on career development. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever had the answer and certainly going in cold like the first time or second time I meet someone, I feel like I’m a much better mentor after I’ve been mentoring somebody for a period of time where I understand, I’ve gotten to kind of know them, know their interests, know their strengths, know what scares them, know what they really enjoy, and then whatever topic we’re covering, I’ve got that lens on. And that sort of takes time. Like it’s another, if it’s like too abrupt of a, hey I’m really struggling with this and maybe more eloquent people can say, I don’t know you well enough yet. I can still give you some framings and some ideas and it’s gonna be less useful until we like know each other better. But it starts to almost feel like, well I’m posting shit on LinkedIn about how to plan your career.

0:15:36.1 MH: Some reason I have a very negative reaction to the people who do that on LinkedIn and also on X, like very negative.

0:15:44.8 TW: But there’s a part of me where like I feel like there are cases where it would be, that’s where I get uncomfortable even being in a role as a mentor if I start to feel like am I just like expounding? It feels icky.

0:16:01.2 VK: So at Further, we have this concept of flight advisors, which is not exactly a mentorship. I don’t know, you guys obviously both have experience with the role as well. Not exactly a mentorship role, but I try to nip that…

0:16:14.0 MH: I could, I’m less equipped to define that than I was mentor by the way but let’s not over index to my experience and internalization of that.

0:16:23.7 VK: Well, I’ll just say that I have found more comfort in just calling out what could be awkward. Especially when those pairings are fresh and it’s not someone that you know to say like, Hey listen, I know that I have some work to do to build your trust and to make this truly a safe space. But just know that I’m here for that and I’m invested and this time is all for you. And say the conversation that we have today is gonna be uncomfortable, but the next one will be a little bit better and a little bit better after that. But I feel like that’s always just kinda like takes a little nerves off just because we don’t have to pretend like we’re super comfortable and like we can get right into it on day one. So, I don’t know, sometimes I think like, just being really honest because the quicker you can get to a place of trustworthiness and where everyone can be transparent and the mentor feels comfortable being direct and the mentee feels comfortable saying what’s actually on their mind, that’s when it becomes a really valuable pairing.

0:17:20.1 TW: So within an organization, like how, and maybe hearkening all the way back, so helps for you with Chris, this wasn’t the case ’cause it wasn’t internal. But again, back to inside companies when if there is a, oh we sometimes work together, so I’m going kind of out of your example. We sometimes work together, maybe one is a more senior has been around longer. Where does the line fall between the, we need to have enough trust that the mentee can be vulnerable, express whatever their challenges, their shortcomings, but depending on the organization and how they go about assessing people for their growth and their advancement. Like is there a cone of trust that needs to be there that you want to say, we’re operating in this kind of mentor-mentee sort of confidentiality mode and this should not, if I tell you I completely screwed this thing up and I’m just not sure how to go about telling the client or telling my manager or telling a peer and I need to get counseling, that that doesn’t bubble up in a performance review through that particular channel? Is that…

0:18:37.7 MH: Yeah, that’s interesting. At first I’m sort of like, well if you made a big mistake, shouldn’t it show up in your performance review somewhere and like how you handled it? But that’s a whole other topic.

0:18:47.7 TW: I think it should, but should it show up through that…

0:18:50.0 MH: Right. Is your mentor who you’re having this conversation with suddenly running off to go tattle on you to your boss or HR or something like that?

0:18:57.9 TW: Yeah, go to my mentor like my cocaine addiction is really starting to interfere with my work. You have any experience with that? What should I do?

0:19:07.7 MH: Well, first off, you want to really keep that in check. Unlike other types of hard drugs, you want to keep that cocaine on the down low. Yeah. So that’s an interesting question, Tim, because people bring a frame of reference into work. And that frame of reference, I think, allows for or doesn’t allow for trust, depending on the person. And so I’ve found as someone who was junior in my career and had mentors internally or people that were, I don’t even know if they’re considered classically mentors, but they were people who looked out for me, who I appreciate. Those people were really helpful. And there’s also the stories of when those relationships also turned and were used against me. So then then that really hurt.

0:20:05.7 MH: So it’s sort of like oh, I trusted you and that was betrayed. And I almost feel for me, it’s a level thing. As you get more senior or more higher up in a company, the more important it probably is to go outside the company to have these conversations. I think maybe the first 10 years of my career, someone internally was just as good as someone external because I wasn’t that important. And then as my role started getting to be a little more consequential to the business and those kinds of things, there wasn’t somebody I could really open up to internally. I had to go talk to someone outside the company, a coach or a mentor like that.

0:20:51.8 MH: I don’t know if that’s a good way of breaking it out, but I also know that some people walk into a company and they’re just sort of, well, I just think all companies are terrible and any representation of authority of any kind in a company setting is negative. And they’re probably somewhat right if except that you’re talking about people. So there’s amazing people in these companies who aren’t going to betray your trust, who are going to take care of you, who do care about you as an individual. So you have to find that balance. And that’s what makes it difficult, even with things Val you talked about the flight advisor program at Further, getting the most out of that type of program requires there to be some level of trust and interaction between those two people for it to really flourish and be something valuable to them.

0:21:42.1 TW: Which, it does bring up, doesn’t it seem like both the mentor and the mentee both must want to engage in the process and with each other. I think it goes back to just internal programs. And I think by somebody else, different company where it was, oh, it’s going to be a checkbox as to whether or not you’ve participated in this program, which again, makes my skin crawl a little bit. If you’re checking a box as either a mentee or a mentor, as opposed to being kind of more intrinsically motivated to do it, it just doesn’t feel like it’s going to be fun or productive.

0:22:23.3 VK: I think not necessarily because I’ve been forced into anything, although I’m very much a joiner and a big fan of any type of forced fun a company wants to impose on me or that I thought that my trust was going to be betrayed. But I, a lot of times, after my first couple of years, similar to Michael, have sought external mentorship relationships. And I think part of that, if I think about it, is because the advice that I really want is help navigating situations. And someone on the outside isn’t burdened by the bullshit or the people personas. And some of that’s important to the context of why you feel stuck or you don’t know how to make something happen internally. But it’s really helpful that they don’t have that curse of knowledge and they can really just kind of cut through and kind of give it to you straight. And it just makes it a lot clearer about the consequences of the choices you have and maybe what the right decision is. And maybe you’re holding on to it the whole time and they’re just helping you feel comfortable arriving at that conclusion.

0:23:24.1 TW: That’s a great point like a internal program, it’s going to be pretty rare for a mentor to say, yeah, you know what? You might want to go somewhere else to do X or to spread your wings or to do whatever. It sounds like they’re, yeah.

0:23:42.2 MH: I know I’ve given that advice before.

0:23:45.2 TW: I’ve given that advice as a manager to someone who was really good.

0:23:50.2 MH: It’s a fair point. Alright. Well, good. We covered it. I’m just kidding. We got a long way to go.

0:24:00.2 VK: So are there any topics that you guys think are not helpful to work with a mentor on? Is there anything that’s kind of off the table or is it all just about since the conversation is focused on you, there’s always an angle about how to progress in your thinking or to clarify? And I’m just curious your thoughts.

0:24:21.0 MH: That’s a good question. I kind of think of it as sort of like the relationship should have some ground rules or boundaries for everybody’s well-being, and I’m really bad at that. So I think about that a lot as sort of like, okay, when I have a mentor, not being too overbearing and respecting their time and being like okay, let me do more preparation for the conversation then that way I’m really being as efficient as possible because I value them and their time so much. And so those kinds of things, I think about that, but I think it just doesn’t have to be any stoppers. It just needs to be some structure that both sides are sort of like, yeah, that makes sense to me. Or that’s the way we’re going to operate. I don’t know. It’s again, I don’t put a lot of boundaries on this stuff, but I know that in one-on-one relationship of any kind, you need to have some kind of boundaries. It’s like if somebody calls me at 3 AM in the morning, I’m probably not going to answer the phone.

0:25:31.5 VK: That cocaine addiction is really just…

0:25:33.9 MH: Yeah, exactly.

0:25:37.7 TW: But it all starts to come to a self-awareness sort of issue, right? It’s almost not to get a little meta, but if somebody’s not respecting, they’re not coming prepared, well, then there’s an opportunity for the mentor to say, hey, a little advice here, if you’re treating me this way and not reading the value of my time, you’re not… I had one relationship where the mentee just it was a structured, finite link and she flaked on meetings just right and left. And I’m like, what are we doing here? You chose me, which it’s hard to say, well, if that’s how you’re operating in this relationship, either you really don’t value this relationship, so let’s end it. Or there’s a gap in your understanding of like there’s a good chance you’re doing that to others. And hey, you’re not asking for this. I just want to maybe call this out. But that also makes me a little uncomfortable. That winds up becoming a crucial conversation type thing. And I’m like, “Wait a minute. I don’t want to… I got enough crucial conversations I’m required to have for the paycheck. I don’t know that I want to take on ones with people who need to hear that sort of thing.”

0:26:58.0 VK: But that could be some of the most valuable advice that that person could get, honestly. Those in-between moments. I had a boss at that same first job because I got hired on as after being an intern. And she was pretty funny about it, but her name is Lynn Bartos. And she, I remember very vividly going into a meeting and it was a lot of partners, a lot of SVPs and everyone had their Blackberries at the time. They’re a little world plus a little scrolly on the side. And I had been to this forum multiple times before. So I brought my cell phone, which was not a company issued Blackberry. And after the meeting, Lynn was like, “Hey, just can you stay back for one second?” I was like, “Sure.” She’s like, “Quick question. Were you the most junior person in the room just now for that meeting?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And she’s like, “So what could have been happening on your device that would have been more important than anything that was said?” And mind you, I didn’t even touch my phone. I just thought it was, oh, this is the thing you do. I was fresh out of college. I’m like, I just want to do what everyone else is doing. And she was like, “Yeah, no, you don’t bring your devices into any meetings ever again.” And I was like, “Okay, got it.” And obviously she was trying to be funny, make a point. But those little things in between, really, again, shaped the way that I figured out how to show up for my teammates and be a good little employee. It’s important stuff.

0:28:17.8 MH: It’s tricky because sort of there’s a… Well, there’s not a fine line, but there is a line out there between sort of the devil wears Prada, right? And giving someone a piece of challenging feedback that actually is super helpful, it means a lot. And I think about the people who did that for me. And it’s like, wow, they took a big risk relationally to say that. ‘Cause if I responded negatively, it could have really harmed the relationship. So I do think about that a lot in the context of mentorship and it’s tough to do because like you said, Tim, oh, great. Yeah. Now we’ve got to say something. A lot of times when people ask for advice, just in my experience, they mostly want you to say back what they already decided they want to do. And so it’s tricky sometimes to sort of be like, “Well, that’s a terrible idea.”

0:29:11.8 MH: I’ll find a way to say that if it is actually a terrible idea. And then that becomes a hard thing to do, or in your case, Val, they saw something that would negatively impact your future at that company. And they took the time to sort of be like, Hey, I’m going to just say this for you because I care enough that you don’t show up at that next meeting and suddenly gain this reputation of someone who’s not paying attention or somebody who’s not with it or not current. And I’ve had a couple of those conversations where I’ve had to give that advice to junior people. And it’s so hard to go up to somebody and be like, “So listen, yeah, you, you need to shower more.”

0:29:57.9 VK: I had no idea what you were going to say.

0:30:00.0 MH: No, no, no. I’m just picking one example of a conversation I had to have and that’s really hard, but guess what? They needed to hear it. And other people obviously were talking about it, but wouldn’t talk to them about it. So it’s sort of like, well, let’s not let that be a limiting factor in your career. Let’s get it out in front and care enough about you as an individual to just get that conversation had. And that way you don’t, you have a chance to be a better, show up better next time. I guess, I don’t know.

0:30:32.3 VK: Yeah. I could put all this in the bucket of things you communicate without talking, nonverbal communication. Everything we were just kind of saying is you’re communicating something by bringing your device to that meeting or not being a good steward of the mentor’s time. And so you need to be aware of that perception because especially in the workforce, your perception, it is reality for a lot of people you work with because you don’t work with everyone 40 hours a week. So it’s important it adds up.

0:31:00.5 TW: Well, and I’m going to take a little bit of a turn off of the, the example of somebody who, you need to, you need to shower more. ‘Cause that kind of, that’s a, well, that’s a couple of steps away from kind of a cultural thing. There are, I know I have been in situations where it is, Oh, it was actually an odor thing and it was a cultural thing and from a, but it gets me to what I’m thinking is the tendency to want to find a mentor who is kind of like you. Some of the same challenges with diversity and hiring, it feels like also exist in sort of the diversity and mentorship that if it’s one, a lot more benefit for the mentor too to be exposed to somebody else. But it does seem getting somebody who actually has a different background, be that culturally, socially, educationally, whatever, is probably useful to keep from starting a feedback loop that might not be too helpful of, yeah, you’re like me, but farther in your career. So give me the formula that’s going to get me to the same place, which just feels, again, feels like more prescriptive and maybe less rich of a relationship.

0:32:31.2 VK: I don’t disagree with you, Tim, but I have to say that my, if I look back at the people I call mentors current and past, a lot of them tend to be women in the workforce. And I’ve even intentionally joined women in research, which was, I had an amazing mentor, I still meet with her today, Sherry Binky. And she and I found each other because it was a very women’s focused thing. So I don’t disagree at all with what you’re saying there, but I do have to say that it was much quicker maybe for us to form that bond and to build that trust to be able to ask some of the uncomfortable questions.

0:33:08.3 TW: S maybe I’m just saying, I don’t want the lax bros mentoring each other. So, I think that’s probably a great point. Yeah, there probably is, no, that could head us down a whole other path that I’m kind of arguing for.

0:33:26.8 MH: I think it’s also, when you go look for a mentor, it’s one thing. When you are a mentor to someone else, it’s another thing. And I think the view of it might be, if you’re looking for a mentor, pick the person that’s going to help you the most, whatever that looks like. If you’re going to go be a mentor to someone, make sure you’re drawing a big enough circle around that. But I also, I do think, Tim, to your point, there’s sort of a natural fit sometimes when someone has more shared life experiences where you sort of are like, okay, yeah, I get your whole vibe or you’re like me a little bit. I think what I’ve noticed and again, I’m not an expert at this, I think there is a period of learning that I need to go through to better understand someone who’s more different than me. And so a lot of times I want to dig in and just learn as much as possible about where are you from, what are some of the things you find interesting? Tell me some other stories, stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with work or career or anything else.

0:34:32.8 MH: I just want to try to learn more about structure. And in other words, trying to figure out their view of the world so that I can align with it better is sort of the way I guess I approach it. And so maybe in a certain sense, those relationships don’t pop up as much because I think that that work has to happen or there has to be some degree of connection that can happen across those either cultural or experiential lines, that needs to connect before someone can feel open. Because it’s like, well, what advice do you have for me? Well, I’m some white guy in an office who’s telling you this, that. And the other thing, it’s like, that’s pretty not valuable to me because I don’t really understand you. They don’t understand you either necessarily. So there’s a little bit of that exchange I think that has to build. But it still can be pretty awesome when you can make like those connections and just as rich and in some ways maybe cooler because you open up more horizons, I guess. I don’t know the right way to say it, but it’s sort of like your perspective changes and like, oh, I didn’t know that’s a way to do that. I never even thought about before or thought was possible. That’s not a way I would ever approach that problem but you’re crushing it. So keep crushing it. Yeah, I don’t know. Anyways, that’s sort of my take on it.

0:36:06.3 TW: So, if somebody’s thinking I might want to get a mentor and this was kind of the… Val made a point before we were recording about a mentor being useful, if there’s a big decision you’re trying to make, that seems the sort of, to me that resonates as a good entry point. I’m trying to decide whether I should go a technical platform specific route or a more generalist route in my career, or I feel I am spinning my wheels in my current role and I can’t tell whether I’m just comfortable. Why am I not leaving? Should I be? Should I be moving into an uncomfort… Is that a good place to say start with, what’s the, not a decision I need to make tomorrow, because you’re probably not going to find the perfect mentor today.

0:37:01.1 TW: But is that a good entry point of, here’s what I’ve been thinking of? I can’t stop thinking about X, about my my job, my career and I can’t talk, my partner is in a totally different space. My co-workers, it would be really awkward because it may point me to leaving the company. Oh, I probably need to find someone and starting it with there like, “Hey, I’m… ” I have had people reach out to me at times where they’re like, “I’m trying to… This is what I’m trying to make a decision about.” And sometimes they’re saying, “I’m talking to four or five people.” Shit, that’s like this year for me has been multiple people who I have reached out to because I’m trying to figure out what’s next and…

0:37:52.6 MH: Still waiting for your call Tim. I don’t know…

[laughter]

0:38:00.9 TW: I figure I’d tap that one out. I’m remembering how much…

0:38:03.1 MH: You’ve learn… There’s no more… Yeah, that’s right, “Fly, grasshopper, there’s no more I can teach you.”

0:38:07.6 TW: Yeah. I’m like, “How’d the last four ones work out?” Like, geez, Louise.

[laughter]

0:38:11.7 MH: It’s like, “Never talking to that guy again.”

[laughter]

0:38:16.5 TW: Is that a good way to start with the, “I’m trying to make a decision… ” And this is a little theoretical, ’cause I don’t know if that’s… Or is that just reaching out to someone for advice and it could be a one and done conversation and it’s not a mentorship?

0:38:30.8 MH: Yeah, that’s interesting.

0:38:32.2 VK: Yeah. Is it a… Yeah, I was thinking about it too. Advice, short-term versus when does it turn into mentorship? I think when I’m in the mentee seat, I do feel accountability a little bit to like at the top of our next meeting to close the loop a little bit on some of the things we were talking about last time, like, “Oh, I took your advice and I ran my meeting this way,” or, “I made this choice and… ” ‘Cause it’s like they’re invested in the long game, a little bit. And so there’s steps along the way or progress to share because they can get excited about that too, which always feels good. So if it feels discreet like, “Hey, I’m serving a bunch of people to get some opinions,” maybe it is more just advice and not mentorship, but if you really want someone who’s gonna help you sort it out long-term, maybe that’s when it turns more into mentorship. And again, even if you were to reach out to someone for advice and it turned into a, “Do you mind if I put time in your calendar two weeks from now and then again two weeks from now?” Is it okay if you never say, “Will you be my mentor? Circle one. Yes/no.” [laughter] And that’s the…

0:39:37.6 TW: I like that. That was really helpful advice. I didn’t follow it exactly but it was useful. Made me think, “Hey, I’ve got another one. Would you mind doing this again?”

0:39:47.0 MH: Yeah. It’s interesting, most of my mentors historically have not been a formal relationship. It’s been just one-offs where it’s been like a person you can trust or they had a good advice or those kinds of things. And I think of when I started my own company, I’d created an advisory board, that was very purposefully set up. And I do look at that group of people as mentors in a way, but that’s a much more structured, much more rigorously defined relationship. And it’s fascinating. It’s interesting. But most people I go to for advice, yeah, it’s like really not an everyday or every other week thing, it’s a, “Okay, here’s what I’m struggling with. Do you have thoughts on this? And here’s what’s going on.”

0:40:43.1 VK: It’s just really great to have someone in your corner, just focused on you, and what’s important to you, there’s no other priorities in the mix, it’s a great time to just be selfish and just focus and prioritize what you’re working on. So special, those mentors in our lives. And when someone asks for me to take on that role for them, I take that pretty seriously, ’cause that’s not… It’s a big deal for someone to ask, especially if it could have been informal and they asked for it to be formal. You know what I mean? It’s a really special thing that, I had multiple mentors invited to my wedding, [laughter] because those relationships last forever. So that’s pretty cool.

0:41:29.4 MH: Yeah. You know what’s funny as you’re saying that, Val, I realize that when people approach me and asked if I will be willing to be a mentor to them formally, I’m more likely to say no, that if they just ask for advice or ask for time, or informally, I’ll… ‘Cause if anybody wanted to chat, I would be totally okay with that. But I take it so seriously like, “Oh, mentorship? Woah. Geez.” And the reason I usually do is ’cause I’m like, “I don’t know that I’m qualified to take this on, so I better say no.” [chuckle] That’s really weird you just said that, ’cause I think sometimes when people approach you, maybe the approach is also kind of like, does it have to be formal or not? I don’t know. ‘Cause… Yeah. I get nervous as soon as somebody’s like, “Hey, I’m looking for a mentor,” and I’m like, “Uhh, I can’t be your mentor. I don’t know anything. ”

[chuckle]

0:42:28.6 TW: “You want me to make some suggestions?”

[laughter]

0:42:32.0 MH: Yeah. “Well, there’s a lot of great people out there.

0:42:34.4 TW: “You should get one.”

0:42:35.9 MH: Have you met Tim Wilson?”

[laughter]

0:42:36.1 TW: Great idea.

0:42:38.6 VK: A great follow-up qualifying question is, “Well, what topics are you interested in exploring with me? What made you come to me? What are the topics?” And that might help calm your nerves a little bit, Michael, because there’s [chuckle] a ton of wisdom that you can impart on a lot of people.

0:42:54.1 MH: Well…

0:42:55.7 VK: It could also be the burden of time, maybe that’s like, “Oh my gosh, that sounds overwhelming,” or…

0:43:02.8 MH: Well, yeah, I know, I make a huge difference. Don’t get me wrong. No.

[laughter]

0:43:08.7 MH: No. It’s more just that I’m like, “Okay, that’s pretty serious, and I wanna take it seriously.” And then it’s like, “Yeah, do I have time for that? And is there a way that I can add value?” And sometimes I think, I look at somebody and I’m like, “I think you’re on a path that you’re gonna be just fine, and I don’t know how I can add value to that.” And then there’s other people who are like, “Okay, I can see you’re struggling. If you need a minute, I got it for you.”

0:43:32.2 TW: But I think asking that question, if the answer is, “Well, I think you’re… ”

0:43:36.1 MH: Yeah.

0:43:36.9 TW: “I like where you are in your career, and I just wanna get there.” That’s actually a shitty answer ’cause it’s all of a sudden being like, “I just wanna be like you.” As opposed to if they say, “Well, I’m grappling with X or Y, and because I’ve seen you talk about something or read something you’ve written,” or depending how well you know them, “I just think you’re really good at this, and I would love to… ” It does feel like there’s a part where the mentee, the more selfish they are, which really means the more focus they are and what they’re trying to get out of it. ‘Cause I think if it’s just a… I’m thinking of another person who was, basically just was a kiss-ass, and just wanted to… That was definitely gonna be in the company and wanted to be able to flaunt that they had been chatting with whoever and annoyed the shit out of those people because they’re like, “Oh, you’re not actually looking for advice, you just wanna able to say that you’re meeting regularly with this person.” That’s not useful.

0:44:43.1 MH: I do love to name them, so that’s been one of my tactics, for sure. Alright. We gotta head to wrap up. Yeah, Tim is giving me the signal and that’s a good mentor, does that, gives the uncomfortable advice that the show needs to start to wrap up. A last call, something we think might be of interest to those listening. Hey Val, would you like to go first?

0:45:07.1 VK: Sure. This was a read from Medium, I feel like that’s what half of my last calls are, but this one is a post called “Board game UX: Help and documentation” by Michael Molen as published on the UX Collective. And I’m not gonna do this intro justice, but the whole premise is, “Have you ever played a board game or learned a new board game and not had to interact with the rules at all?” That if you were to get a game you’d never seen before, of course you’d have to look at the rules to figure out how the players are supposed to move or how the pieces work. And this whole idea of… But that doesn’t really happen in web design and not all scenarios are gonna be based on user experiences where the pattern is already established, so how do you bring the principles of game design to web design? And it goes through game by game of things you can learn from Abandon All the Artichokes, I’d never heard of that game, but there’s a couple of fun ones on here and taking little discrete lessons and bringing it to the way you think about getting people to navigate through your digital properties. But it was well-written and fun and light-hearted and I think it makes some pretty good strong points, so that’s definitely a good read.

0:46:24.7 TW: I like it.

0:46:25.6 MH: Nice. Awesome. Alright. Tim, what about you? What’s your last call?

0:46:30.8 TW: I’m gonna do a quick twofer. But the unifying theme is gonna be that they’re just like cool stuff other people have done. So, one, and actually, I do not know these co-authors, but they had reached out and I was like, “Oh, that looks like a cool book.” There’s a book that recently came out called “Unlocking Dbt: Design and Deploy Transformations in Your Cloud Data Warehouse”, which actually it looks like a pretty good book for anybody who’s in the dbt land. I have not checked it out, I’m not a dbt user, but this is not a paid endorsement, but it seemed interesting. The one that’s a little more fun, somebody that I think all three of us worked with, at least Michael and I did, Ciara Adkins, this was a number of years ago. And they recently put up this cool thing called Moozi Lyrics.

0:47:21.5 TW: You guys, I think you might have both looked at it, but what they did was… It’s M-O-O-Z-I L-Y-R-I-C-S dot com, is it’s basically doing translation, automated translation of song lyrics. As of this recording, it only does the first third of the song, but you basically can put in an artist and a song title and it goes and in what language you want to see it in. So the tagline is they’re trying to make the world a little smaller and a lot more harmonious. And they’re a musician in their own right and have done, really phenomenally talented individuals. So, just cool. That was a side project. And it’s an interesting way to look at things. I played around with some John Prine and looking at it in Spanish was interesting.

0:48:13.3 MH: Nice. I had visited the site, but it wasn’t quite working yet, and I just translated Bob Dylan’s ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ into French.

0:48:20.2 TW: Wow.

[foreign language]

0:48:23.6 TW: It’d be a lot more fun for me, I guess I need to find a French artist and translate them into English.

[overlapping conversation]

0:48:32.2 MH: English. There you go. Anyways, that’s so cool. Yeah. Hi, Ciara.

0:48:38.1 TW: What about you, Michael?

0:48:39.2 MH: Alright. Well, I do love a great contrarian, and one of the ones I found myself reading a lot of their stuff lately, someone named Lauren Balik, Balik, I’m not sure how to pronounce her last name, but I follow her on X, and she is very much a contrarian when it comes to the modern data stack and things like dbt, Tim, and things like that, and really has an interesting take. And I just… I always appreciate people willing to go against the flow. And so I’m not saying everything she says is right or anything like that, but I just enjoy getting other perspectives, and so that’s someone, I’ve been reading some of their Medium articles and things like that, and I’ve appreciated their view of the world. And, yeah, everyone will have their own opinions about whether they’re right or wrong, she’s right or wrong, but anyways, it’s… I do like one. So I’m calling it out. Good contrarian is a good time.

[chuckle]

0:49:35.1 MH: Alright. Well, as you’ve been listening, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Hey, I didn’t realize it, but this person has really been a mentor to me.” Here’s what you should do, you should reach out and let them know that you appreciate it. Or if you’re mentoring someone else, maybe reach out to let them know that you appreciate the relationship. ‘Cause you know what? That’s what makes the world go round, is those relationships. Don’t reach out to us, we don’t… Or unless one of us is a mentor to you, that’s fine, or we’re a mentee, we’ll reach out to you too, but that’s what I wanted to say as we wrap up the show. And, of course, no show would be complete without a huge thank you to our production mentor, which is Josh Crowhurst, I don’t know, replacing all the words with mentor, like smurf is like a thing. But here I go. Anyways, Josh, thank you so much for everything you do to help make this show possible, so, appreciate it. Alright. Well, Val and Tim, thank you. And as you go forward in your analyst career, I know I speak for both of my co-hosts when I say, keep on analyzing.

[music]

0:50:47.3 Announcer: Thanks for listening. Let’s keep the conversation going with your comments, suggestions and questions on Twitter at @AnalyticsHour, on the web at analyticshour.io, our LinkedIn group and the Measure chat Slack group. Music for the podcast by Josh Crowhurst.

0:51:04.1 Charles Barkley: So smart guys want to fit in, so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.

[music]

0:51:10.0 Kamala Harris: I love Venn diagrams, it’s just something about those three circles and the analysis about where there is the intersection. Right?

0:51:21.7 TW: Rock, flag and cocaine mentorship.

[laughter]

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