Mentoring can be one of the strongest tools for growth in your professional career. Finding and connecting with people that strengthen your skillset and provide advice in areas that you have less experience in, are imperative to developing your career. Building a meaningful relationship with a good mentor means having someone to guide and support you through the challenging moments in your career.
We spoke to Jason Fischer, VP of Engineering, about how he’s benefited from mentoring and what it takes to be a great leader.
Hi Jason, tell us about a time when mentoring has helped you in your career.
I had just moved to Australia and helped grow out a small team of developers. I was singled out for doing well and was asked to start getting the group of developers to follow in my lead. I had two glaring issues at the time.
Firstly, I may have been good at what I was doing, but had no idea how to get others to do the same. Secondly, I was terrible at letting things go and having others do it instead of me. At the time, I truly believed that I could do it much faster and better than them.
I remember having a call with my old mentor in South Africa, who had originally pushed me to take the role in Australia. I called him to complain about the team I was placed in charge of as they weren’t learning fast enough. After letting me vent, he started telling me why he thought I would succeed and why he wanted me to come across. He then said something that has stuck with me to this day:
“When you were the person doing the work, there was only one person not pulling their weight if you failed to do what you are meant to be doing. Now, however, if you are not doing what you are meant to do, you have an entire team that is not going to be performing well.”
These words have always stayed with me and brought me back to focus on what the team needed. They didn’t need a know-it-all who could take things from them and do it quickly. They needed a teacher and a mentor who could guide them through the journey of being able to find a solution, instead of dictating one to them. He taught me the importance of teaching people to fish instead of giving them a fish.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a great leader?
One thing I would like to call out is that everyone is a leader at some point in their career. Having people report to you doesn’t make you a leader. Trying to make a difference in the world and how you go about it is a big part of what being a leader is.
I believe in always learning. Constant growth and learning are crucial for any leader. This can be professional development workshops or other things like video training, such as LinkedIn Learning, Pluralsite and UDemy. There are lots of good options for learning more about different topics and skills.
Becoming an engaging speaker is also important for any career. You need to understand your audience. Make sure you know who they are and try speaking to what they want to get out of your talk. Something you can do is tell your audience at the start what you’ll be talking about, then talk about it, and summarise your talk at the end. It sounds basic but it works if you can do it well. Doing something like Toastmasters is also a great help in formulating your talk.
What makes ELMO a good place to work for leaders and thinkers?
At ELMO, our people are at the heart of our culture. We’re passionate about what we do and the customers we do it for. There is a lot of emphasis on people and learning. We encourage people to own the products they work on. This allows people to take lead roles for larger projects that might have or require domain experts. We never say no to a challenge and love being able to achieve awesome results with our peers!