Career Watch: Mentoring, from both sides

Judy Novak and Jennifer Allen

A vice president of finance and a program manager at Xerox talk about mentoring, from both sides.

How did you benefit from participating in Xerox's mentoring program? JN: As a mentor, I benefit in many ways. First, it keeps me connected to a community of people that I might not otherwise be engaged with. In order to do my job at Xerox, I need to understand customer requirements and employee perspective. Mentoring allows me to understand challenges that our employees encounter in the business, whether in my immediate work area or elsewhere. Second, mentoring gives me visibility into a broad network of individuals. Xerox's level of success is totally dependent upon the quality of its employees. Senior managers have a responsibility to develop employees to become future leaders of this company, and mentoring is an avenue to do that. Last, I enjoy mentoring. It's very rewarding to feel that you've helped others move their careers along or increase their satisfaction in their current role.

JA: The benefits are far-reaching. The program has connected me to resources that are outside of my immediate organization and area of expertise. It has offered me a safe place to explore various career options in a very big, diverse global corporation and develop concrete goals toward attaining them. It has also helped me partner for continuous improvement. I can reveal my insecurities without fear of judgment, learn more about myself and my strengths, receive coaching on how best to maneuver challenging situations, and then concentrate on areas for further development.

What are the relative benefits of formal and informal mentoring relationships? JN: I currently mentor several people, two formally and many others informally. Both approaches are good for different reasons. With a formal relationship, you tend to meet on a regular basis and have topics that you discuss at each meeting, as you work an agenda over a set time period. With informal relationships, the mentoring tends to be more on an as-needed basis. I have informal mentoring with several people who have worked for me in the past. Our conversations are typically very focused, such as when they are looking at making a job change.

JA: While our mentor match is formal, we collaboratively set the tone and expectations for our sessions. The goals are primarily driven by the overall objectives that I have. My mentor counsels and holds me accountable to follow through. This works for us. It balances our leadership styles and gives us the opportunity to be flexible and shift gears if needed.

Was gender a consideration when you chose your mentor/mentee? JN: Gender is not a consideration when choosing a mentee. That being said, I have more female mentees than male, and over the years many more women have approached me regarding being a mentor than have men.

JA: Gender was not an attribute that I considered, but having a female mentor is a plus. It adds a dimension of unspoken understanding, and has allowed us to quickly bond on some non-work-related topics. Judy understands my work/life balance concerns, and I have benefited from our shared experience as parents.

Getting Away From It All?

It's summer vacation season. How free are you to get away?

If you're like the 200 IT professionals polled by TEKsystems in May, the answer might be "not very." No less than 67% of the senior IT professionals responding to the IT staffing firm's survey said that they're expected to be available during vacation, and 44% of the senior-level respondents said they're expected to be available 24/7 while they're away. (See related story: "Working Vacations Are an IT Mainstay.")

Things are better lower on the career ladder: Just 29% of midlevel and entry-level IT pros said that they're expected to be available during vacation.

Help Us Find 100 Top IT Leaders

Chances are you know an exceptionally talented IT executive who stands far above the rest -- someone who's a skilled technologist, a thoughtful manager, an IT visionary or all of the above. You can help give that leader a well-deserved honor by nominating him or her for recognition as one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders for 2014.

Nominations can be submitted here through Friday, Aug. 30.

For more information about the program, please visit our website.

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