I’ve been thinking quite a bit about mentorship lately. I suppose that at this age, looking back on those who’ve taught me key lessons in my life, and in my career is almost to be expected. I’ve had some amazing professors, coworkers, friends, girlfriends (and a couple wives), my amazing parents, and most of all, of course, my amazing daughter. All of these wonderful people have taught me many things, none, quite as much as my daughter, but all valued in my life.
I can say without question, that not all of these life and career lessons have been easy, and not all of them have been actually desired, but I have learned much about myself, and how I am perceived, as well as how I’d like to be perceived. I’m not going to go into any sort of diatribe about those things I’ve learned, though I would be happy to touch on a couple that don’t go too personally.
A big piece of those lessons I’ve learned, particularly since I’ve become part of the sales process, is to, in the immortal words of Chad Sakac, “Stay Humble.” At the outset, in my pre-sales career, I had a tough transition. Previously, I’d run a large VMware infrastructure, and was relied upon to have answers at my fingertips. This was part of the job. I wasn’t necessarily arrogant, but nobody knew this environment as well as I did, and nobody had the answers that I had, and as such, I was expected to have the answers. When I changed from the engineering side to the presales side, I carried that approach with me. As a result I struggled. In pre-sales, one must appear to be considerate and ask the questions necessary to help those customers come to the solution that you think they should have. Guide them, listen to them, but never allow yourself to appear as if you’re that far ahead of them. The problem was, most specifically, that I went into these conversations with the solution in mind. Nobody wants to feel, particularly in such complex choices as enterprise technology sales, that they are being sold to, or that their problems, or solutions are ever easy. They want advocacy, and logic. In that way, the decisions that they make are their own, you’ve just provided the options and variables that they require to help them to make their decisions. If you do your job well, then you get the sale, the customer gets the correct solution, and they will choose to return to you. So what I learned through this example, was to not only appear humble, but to allow my vulnerability, and my humility to be a part of my personality, rather than masking it with bravado and arrogance.
I learned many other things along the lines of the above story. Most of these, due to the thickness of my skull, took a while to take root, and become part of me. The hardest part of it, for me, was that I perceived myself as humble and respectful, but those hearing me were not perceiving me that way. Consider this a hard lesson learned.
Fast forward a decade or so… I find myself as an elder statesman in my industry. Not necessarily the oldest, but I certainly have battle scars. So, what does that mean? To me, it means that I have the chance to help those who choose to listen to me. I want to help. I want to be there for my customers, coworkers, and friends. Sometimes, I even get the chance to talk through some of the issues they’re experiencing, help them see those issues differently, and maybe to try to understand the motivations behind the person who’s given them their stressors. I find that I know a lot more about the situation, when I empathize, and attempt to think as the other. By doing so, I get the chance to work through the scenario.
Recently, two friends from my circle, have requested career advice from me. I’m no superstar, but I have moved forward in my career over the years. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, learned a lot of lessons in the hard way, and my peers desired to talk through some of their issues, goals, and desires for their careers. I truly care about these great guys, and all I want for them is that they get to achieve in their worklives as well as their homelives everything they hope. I was so very touched by their reaching out to me. I only hope that the advice I’ve given them has been received with the intent it was given, and if I was helpful, and I do believe I was, that the advice helped.
If anyone reading this feels that I am a good ear to hear you and your desire is to talk to me, please reach out, let me know, and I assure you that I’ll be available for you. Twitter is always the easiest method. Reach out to me at @MBLeib if we’re not already friends, get me to follow you, and if I don’t, send me a message to do so. Then, direct messages to ensure your conversations do not get peered into. I’m on my timeline regularly.
I want to help, and I will do what I am able.
To all those who’ve been there for me, I am overwhelmed with appreciation and gratitude for you. And can only hope you’ve received from me something approximating equity.
Thanks for reading this. And thank you for your continued readership.