The Value of Mentorship

By Neil Bazley, Vice President, Chapters, IIBA

imageIn my journey as a business analyst, I have benefited and grown from many different programs and people. Training courses, workshops, presentations and my personal relationships have all contributed to my being a senior analyst with a strategic focus. I've gained considerable experience and knowledge from discussions with peers and from my own work over the years. When I look back though, some of the most influential and important relationships have been those with my mentors.

For a long time I've been a believer in the value of mentoring. It’s been a rare time when I haven't had at least one informal relationship with a person who has been around the block a few more times than I have, who I could contact when I had questions or wanted to bounce around a few ideas. As a matter of fact, more than once I've had one mentor for career development, one for business analysis core skills and techniques, and a mentor that I could use as a sounding board for problems that I encountered in navigating through the politics and challenges of working in a globally distributed Fortune 100 company. That last mentor coined a phrase that I've carried with me since, describing an action as a ‘career cul-de-sac’ when I might be put at risk by not taking into account the various values and underlying motivators of powerful stakeholders. 

Every one of my mentors has influenced me and moved my career forward, probably more than they even realize. I'm more confident in my ability to make decisions, in my judgment when working through complex issues and in the tool kit I utilize daily as a business analyst. It was mostly due to the work I did with one of my mentors that I learned a valuable lesson: I realized that to relate well to executives I had to know what mattered to them and to speak to them in a way that provided the information they needed without wasting their time. I've learned techniques and skills on decision and risk analysis and in scenario planning that were well above my pay grade as an intermediate BA. And likely the most important lesson learned is that by watching and talking to these men and women, I've learned how to be the kind of leader and influencer that can motivate my teams to action. I do not underestimate the value that the discussions with these smart, skilled individuals gave me as a protégé.

Without one of my mentors, I wouldn't be writing this article today. In the mid-2000s I was looking for a way to start giving more to the BA community, and a way to help grow my speaking and leadership skills.  My mentor suggested that I get in touch with the President of the local IIBA® Chapter as he knew she was looking for people with lots of energy to help to reboot the chapter. Less than a month later I joined the Board of Directors of the Calgary Chapter as the Vice President of Marketing and Communication. The rest, as that particular overused colloquialism goes, is history.

My growth didn't stop when I started to scale back the protégé side of my mentoring relationships. Becoming a mentor was a huge factor in my continued growth as a professional and a leader.  Being a mentor gives me an opportunity to interact with smart, engaged business analysts that are in the early stages of their professional journey. I often have to brush up on core skills that may have become rusty and think about how to solve problems from another perspective. I have my own assumptions challenged, and often even my methods. I learn new viewpoints from people of other generations and cultures, and I've learned things about myself, including strengths that weren't apparent to me. I can't say enough about the personal growth that I've achieved from mentoring younger BAs.

I haven't stopped growing, and to this day I haven't stopped engaging with influential people who are willing to share their wisdom with me.  And on the other side of the coin, I don't see a time when I'll stop giving back as much as I can to the next generation of business analysis leaders. My best piece of advice would be to find those mentoring relationships, both as a protégé and a mentor. We all can use the help sometimes. And we all have something important to give back.

© Kabele