The importance of mentors in the IT industry

Professional development within the IT community is essential both to address the skills gap and to ensure the industry continues to evolve and grow

Most people in the IT industry are aware of the perennial skills shortage and the need to find ways to address it effectively. One of the options that organisations could consider is implementing a mentoring program. 

While many people might already consider themselves to be mentoring others, it’s important that the experience is structured according to a best-practice framework to ensure both the mentor and the mentee get the maximum benefit. It’s easy, and beneficial, to chat with others in the industry and share information and advice, but a true mentoring program needs to include setting goals and holding each other accountable. 

At the CompTIA ANZ Community Meeting earlier in 2017, members were asked what initiatives they thought would have the greatest potential impact on the industry. They overwhelmingly agreed that a mentoring program would provide the greatest benefit. 

Professional development within the IT community is essential both to address the skills gap and to ensure the industry continues to evolve and grow. Across all industries, mentoring has often been a popular form of employee development. Larger organisations tend to offer more formal mentoring programs than smaller organisations but most successful businesspeople will agree that having a mentor or being a mentor is a valuable tool in personal development. 

This value can be even more pronounced in an era when people’s careers are less linear and structured. People aren’t necessarily entering organisations through graduate programs and following a clear path through the business. Instead, people are entering at all levels and are taking more personal responsibility for their own growth. 

Offering a structured mentor program is incredibly important for the IT industry. The more things the industry can do to improve and become more professional, the more the industry will grow and provide opportunities for people. 

It can feel awkward to reach out to someone and ask them to become a mentor and not everyone is interested in becoming one. It can also be difficult to know what makes a good mentor; finding the right mentor depends on a variety of factors that aren’t always obvious. 

CompTIA has developed a pilot mentoring program to make the process easier. Initially available to 50 people on a trial basis, the CompTIA mentoring program will help connect mentors and mentees. The program will also provide a structure for the relationship that includes goal-setting and accountability. 

Mentors can gain significant benefits from participating in a mentorship. Helping someone develop their career, providing a listening ear, keeping them on track with their goals, and challenging their thinking can be incredibly rewarding. As well as having the pleasure of seeing their mentee flourish and succeed, mentors can also end up challenging their own thinking and learning new things. 

For the industry, more mentoring relationships are likely to mean organisations get access to better talent and can offer better career opportunities. Keeping people engaged in the industry will help reduce the skills shortage and will increase the industry’s exposure to new ideas. 

Of course, for mentees the benefits are obvious. Having a champion in the industry who can help provide fresh perspectives and guidance, as well as act as a sounding board, can be invaluable. This is a fast-paced industry, so it’s nice to have a cheerleader who can help shape a person’s development.  

Karen Drewitt  is CompTIA ANZ Channel Community chair and general manager at The Missing Link 

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