27 June 2008

How to get the mentoring you need

In this post, Craig talks about how mentoring helps in learning to be a great Business Analyst (BA) or Project Manager (PM). A master-apprentice style relationship is very helpful but if you can't find a mentor, what are the other options?

I think that Craig has hit on a good point. In order to improve as a BA or PM, one needs to see a senior professional in action. The problem is that it isn't always possible to work directly with a mentor. Even in organizations with multiple BAs or PMs there are rarely more than one assigned to a given project. So how does one get quality mentoring when on-site help isn't an option?

The first resource I have found is professional conferences. If you can convince your employer to send you to one of the excellent business conferences out there, you can use the opportunity to make connections with other professionals. I have found at every conference I have attended the speakers are more than willing to talk about what they do. I have never had a single person turn me away during a networking event at a conference and there is a huge amount of information sharing that occurs. I have also had the luck to meet several professionals whom I have been able to stay in contact with for advice when needed.

If you aren't lucky enough to have an employer who will send you to a conference, then you can turn to the internet. Social networking isn't just for teenagers anymore. Better projects is just one of the many excellent resources available on-line to mentor business analaysts. Even a straight up networking site like LinkedIn can offer useful business networking information if you take advantage of their forums. There are yahoo groups that are focussed on specific areas of interest that you can access by email. These resources require a more proactive approach by the individual but if you put forth the effort you can definitely find people to mentor you (or at least commiserate with you on your problems).

While the ideal situation is to have a mentor available to you in a one-on-one situation where they are familiar with your work environment and the people you deal with, participating in conferences and online communities is a not insignificant replacement.