Looking back to my education and career journey, there were times when I felt like it was totally stagnant, and other times of leap and bound moment. I have came to realize the importance of a mentor.
I have been fortunate to have some great teachers helping me to build a strong foundation in math, engineering and logical type of subjects in my school years. I know my stuff and it wasn't hard to get a good grade in these fields.
When it comes to my choice of educational advancement oversea, that was my first taste of lack of concrete direction. There were some information on the internet and material provided in university. However, there all seem no difference to me at that time and I wasn't sure what to look for. It wasn't too long until I met the then head of degree transfer program who I worked part time for. He shared some of his experience, led me to some relevant resources based on my question and what I was trying to achieve. The next thing happened was I picked up my bag and flied to United States myself.
Fast forwarding to a few years ago when I was a manufacturing engineer. I found strong interest in .net and database development during company transitioning to MES (Manufacturing Enterprise System). I was surrounded by engineers and occasionally some IT folks, but I couldn't seem to able to find a path that would take me to the next level in this new field. Eventually I took an opportunity to become a .Net developer in a small company which allow me also work closely with database.
I learned as I work, through online tutorial and documentation, books and blogs. Despite the success of replacing company website and internal application with wide acceptance, there wasn't really anyone I could get help or work with on discussing different development approach, performance improvement methods and other things that would potentially reveal a much efficient and effective way.
Things started to change when I discovered user group. .NET user group, C# user group, SQL user group, I attended them all as much as I could. There are so many dedicated and passionate folks on the technology and everyone are there to learn, help and share knowledge. Wow!
Another best thing I came about is the SQL community. I stumbled upon a few blogs and they blew my mind. Folks at BrentOzar unlimited, awesome people at sqlskills and many many more who actively and voluntarily share and help others.
On the awesome community spirit of SQL community, Paul Randal at SQLSkills who recently voted for most desired mentor, is offering to mentor a few people. Personally, I feel that he would be one of the ideal mentor for me. Reasons are some of our similar technical backgrounds, his previous and current involvement as Microsoft employee and manager, community contributor, consultant and a business owner in SQL server field, and last but not least his principles on time management with his 50% traveling and the other half for his family. Although I know a few great resources where I could learn and improve my technical skills, I constantly have questions in some other aspects which keep resurfacing for more decisive direction. Questions like generalist vs specialist, consultant vs employee and others. This may seems like common questions that has been widely addressed, but I am looking into something more specific to my own and some insight from someone in the same field personal experience.
Whoever he picked as mentee would surely be lucky ones!
Although these guys were not my mentors, I have learned so much from them through their blog, videos and interactions. They not only improve my technical skill set, it changes the way I view work and career advancement. Work is so much fun when everyone share their knowledge and make everyone better.
Last note, from personal experience, regardless if a person is in school, workforce, or business, having right mentor play an important role and has great impact to the mentee. By sharing his/her personal experience and valuable insight with guidance and resources, often times broaden the vision and expand the horizon for the mentee which he/she would never thought of. On the other side, it is important for the mentee to willing to open for other opinions and to have some idea of his/her goal and what he/she is trying achieve in order for the mentoring process to be effective.
Update: Class of 2015! I can't imagine a person (busy consulting owner) volunteers to mentor the whole class! But here I present you, Paul Randal!