March 5th was Data Platform WIT Day, a day of sessions by women in the data platform community. If you missed it, you can catch all of the sessions here. I had the honor of being part of the mentoring panel. I really enjoyed being on this panel with these women: Leslie Andrews (t|b), Gilda Alvarez (t), Deepthi Goguri (t|b), and Shabnam Watson (t|b) . All of us came here from different backgrounds and experiences and our careers have been affected in so many different ways from formal and informal mentorships.
There is a phrase that Rie (Irish) Merritt (t) says often: “Lift as you climb”. (It’s in her Keynote from March 5th.) This about finding ways to bring women along as you build your career to help them build theirs. This is something that I believe in but I feel like I constantly fail short in. I want to be someone who doesn’t just “talk the talk” but also “walks the walk.”
I seem to get drawn into the topic of mentorship over the past couple of years so perhaps it’s a sign that this is an area where I can be useful and help other women in our industry. Maybe this is a way I can help “pay it forward”.
During our panel conversation, the one thing that struck me was a common theme – “How do I find a mentor?” or “How do I find women in the industry I can mentor?” We do set up a lot of mentorship programs for speakers. New Stars of Data is designed to pair new speakers with mentors who are experienced speakers. (Full disclosure – I had the honor of being a mentor as part of this conference.) GroupBy is offering mentors to newer speakers as well. Plus, there is SpeakingMentors.com, which will connect new speakers with mentors as well. But there is more to our careers than just being speakers. Speaking can help gain visibility in the community, but sometimes that’s not necessarily for everyone.
Then it’s finding the right match. I loved hearing Gilda talk about the mentorship program she created for Latinas in Tech. This is a very underrepresented group in our industry so I appreciate Gilda’s efforts to find these women and find ways to help them thrive in their careers. If you are interested in learning more, you can find it on Meetup.
It still seems like it’s hard to find a mentor or mentee. I lucked out in seeing Paul Randal’s offer to mentor people but he’s just one person. And he’s not the only person available to mentor people. We can do what we can to keep track of when someone says they have an opening for a mentorship, but sometimes things get lost on social media. There is a mentor channel in the SQLCommunity Slack, but when I took a peek, it seemed rather quiet.
But I feel like there may be more we can and should be able to do. And at one point, I added that I didn’t know of anything that provided a mentor/mentee match for Data Platform WIT… yet. I added the word “yet” because it just felt like a need in the community that we don’t have anything for. And if there’s a need, shouldn’t we find some way to do something about it? It felt like we were lacking a concrete answer for helping people, especially women, find mentors in the data community.
I am sure there are opportunities for this in the general tech community but I don’t know where they are either. Is it because they aren’t well known or advertised or is it because I just haven’t done my homework and looked? I know there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, goals that need clarification, and most importantly, a team of people working together to help organize and make things happen. But it just seems like if there is a need, we should do something about it.
So, where do we go from here?
I’d love to see some action to help women in the data platform community find mentors or mentees. I don’t know how this would look or where to begin. But I’d like to start that conversation. I’d love to be able to help more women in the Data Platform community find their voices, their careers and just excel. I still overwhelmed as to where I can help but I’m going to make this my homework assignment for the next year.
I know I can’t do this alone and I will need help along the way. So I’ll just throw this out there – what does our community need and how can we start building it? What would you like to see and do you have a need for this sort of service?