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How an Agile Mindset Founded an Offset of Mentorship

Innovation / Experiment
Personal Growth
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Agile / Scrum

2 February, 2022

Alishah Novin

Alishah Novin

Sr Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation

Alishah Novin, Sr Program Manager at Microsoft, shares his experience creating a viral LinkedIn post that led to a specialized take on mentorship, micro-mentorship.

Going Viral on LinkedIn

Recently, I made a post on LinkedIn that ended up going viral. I don’t have a huge following, but my post was centered around mentorship, which seemed to resonate with a large audience. The post itself was a take on the emblem featured on users’ profiles that says “open to work.” At the time, my company was not hiring; however, I wanted to make myself available to these job searchers.

On a whim, I duplicated LinkedIn’s emblem, changing it to yellow and titling it “open to help.” The meaning was simple, I would review job seekers’ resumes, help them practice their interview skills or anything else they needed. At the time of writing this article, the post had over 2 million views on LinkedIn. While the social media fame was exciting, the most notable part of this experience was that others added the emblem to their profile, labeling themselves “open to help”.

What Exactly is Micro-Mentorship?

Starting with an Agile Mindset:

Five years ago, I really started to shift the way I thought. I realized that an agile mindset could be used in other places outside of software development. Implementing agile into the rest of my work and life was a fundamental shift revolving around maximizing value, while minimizing effort. I became more iterative and had faster cycles, allowing me to have more immediate feedback loops.

With that in mind, I began taking on a larger workload without becoming overwhelmed. The agile mindset put focus on incremental, bite-sized work that led up to the completion of full-time projects. In the same light, I came to realize that standard mentorship programs can be overwhelming when tasked with mentoring multiple individuals.

Using Agile While Mentoring:

So I thought about creating the yellow emblem on LinkedIn to represent a micro-mentorship program. From an outside perspective, it seemed like a lot of effort, but what I learned was that the challenges that mentees face are fairly similar.

There are always specifics related to an individual, which is where standard mentorship begins to diverge, but many of these common challenges are simple to solve without a customized program.

During regular mentorship, there are a lot of things people can accomplish. The only problem is that it takes a significant dedication of time on both sides, which can be difficult for senior-level leaders. Instead of 30-minute meetings on a recurring schedule, micro-mentorship is tailored to the individuals in the program; it’s mentorship framed in an agile mindset.

Micro-mentorship happens via Slack, email, or another communication platform, meaning that it’s not necessary to schedule zoom meetings. On the other hand, a video chat would suffice when these conversations become more of a back and forth and involve an emotional tie-in.

Micro-mentorship falls short when it comes to considerable career challenges, such as those looking for mentorship based on growth. These problems require more traditional relationships and a longer dedication of time.

Why not just content creation?

The challenge I've seen with just publishing mentoring-related content is it too one-sided and impersonal. At the end of the day, mentorship - in any form - is a relationship between two people around a specific need or needs. An article, video - while helpful, misses the value a one-on-one mentoring connection provides.

Micro Mentorship is the happy middle. It is smaller in scope, more immediate in value, while still directly relevant and personal. It's incremental, and therefore easier for one person to scale.

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