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Creating an In-House Mentorship Program

Coaching / Training / Mentorship

11 January, 2021

Sabeen Syed
Sabeen Syed

VP of Engineering at Ockam

Sabeen Syed, Senior Engineering Manager at HashiCorp, shares her efforts to single-handedly establish an in-house mentorship program.

Problem

When I joined my current company, I joined a community of two hundred exceedingly smart and talented engineers dispersed across the organization. Since we have four to five different products, our engineers are working on these a bit siloed. I felt that cross-sharing some of the knowledge and skills our engineers have would be beneficial on multiple levels. They could learn a lot from each other, and we could establish some more methodical coaching and help more junior people grow in their career, etc.

Actions taken

Because of the most inspiring experience I had in the past, I was particularly eager to establish a mentorship program that would facilitate the exchange of experience and wisdom across the company. While I was aware that there were people who were more keen to share their competencies on a larger scale, I believed that one-on-ones would be the right format to start with. One-on-ones would allow for a more personal and open relationship and I was convinced if someone would run into an issue -- tech- or soft skills-related -- they would be more comfortable to open up in a more personal setting.

I reached out to my VP of Engineering and shared my thoughts on the mentorship program. After an appreciative response, I was left to figure out how to do it. At that moment, I went with the easiest path I could think of and that would be to create a Google form. I would ask people if they wanted to be a mentee/mentor, what skills they would like to acquire/mentor for and would break them down into two vast areas of technical and leadership skills (that included soft skills).

During the first round, I received applications from around one hundred interested engineers, and I had to match them manually, which was enormously time-consuming. My second round will take place in a month and I have already created an automated tool that would match a mentee with a mentor. This tool will give the ability to filter preferences -- what team a mentee/mentor is on, their seniority, skill sets, etc.

Another important aspect of any mentoring program is to get regular feedback from people. I was naturally curious to learn how it benefited people, what could be improved and what changes we should make. My latest add is to include a little checkbox on mentees from underrepresented groups and track the progress we are making to provide additional support to them, as well as to add minor convenient tweaks like time zone preferences, etc.

Lessons learned

  • I was glad to see how much engineers across the company were receptive and grateful and how much this initiative was needed. I was happy to see how these coaching relationships were evolving and how people were benefiting from them.
  • I personally benefited enormously from mentorship throughout my career. I am blessed and thankful for the mentors I had in my career and they had a massive impact on who I am today and what I became in my professional life.
  • In addition, mentorship is a great way to improve the morale of the team, inspire people, and help them grow in their careers.

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