Paul Randal, please mentor me

Today I’m going to go a bit off schedule and deviate from my usual technical content. Paul Randal (b | t) is the owner of SQLSkills which is a consulting and training organization. A few weeks ago Red-Gate announced their Tribal Awards for 2014 and Paul won in the, “Person You’d Most Like to be Mentored By,” category. I am not surprised by this at all and I believe that Paul deserves this honor. Proof of this is that Paul’s reaction to the award was to give six lucky people the opportunity to be mentored by him. Before I go any further I just want to thank Paul for not only offering this opportunity to the community but also for, in general, being the type of person who would make this kind of offer. Paul is a respected member of the #SQLFamily because of his many contributions over the past several years.

Why Paul Randal should mentor me

When I first read Paul’s blog post, making the offer to mentor, there was no question that I was going to submit a post of my own. What made me hesitate, however, was the broad nature of the requirements.

Requirements

  • Write a blog post.
  • In said post, explain why Paul should mentor me.
  • Post a link in the comments section of the original mentor offering.
  • Make the post about me, not Paul.

At face value this process is easy and I should be able to simply write a few paragraphs about myself, but this didn’t feel right. There were two sticking points that prevented me from typing. The first was in the wording, “explain why Paul should mentor me.” My first thought was that Paul is making a generous offer, which already moves the scope away from what he should be doing and into a realm of what he wants to do. I also began thinking about what makes me a more deserving candidate than any other person. This was frustrating as well because there are a lot of people who would benefit from Paul’s wisdom and experience. I couldn’t treat this post like an interview where someone would arrogantly pretend that they are the best candidate.

The second sticking point for me was that I needed to write a post which was about me, since Paul already knows a lot about himself. I understand why this requirement was explicitly stated, it’d be easy to turn this post into empty flattery and Paul is not fishing for compliments. However, I do believe that a mentorship is a partnering of two people and cannot be a one-sided analysis. For this reason, I’ve interpreted this requirement to mean, don’t tell Paul anything that he doesn’t already know about himself. I’ll get to that piece in a little while.

After over-analyzing the requirements, I waited a couple of days and watched submissions start showing up on Paul’s blog. I read their point of views and looked for signs that I was approaching this process all wrong. Then I realized that, now, I continue to over-analyze the situation. I cannot stop, however. I am a DBA and take pride in my technical abilities and problem solving strategies. Both of those qualities are born from an inherent desire to analyze and break problems down into smaller pieces.

I decided that, rather than conform this post to what it should look like, I’m going to allow it to be an expression of who I am.

Defining metrics for why “Paul should” mentor me

What makes someone a better candidate, for anything, has a lot to do with the end result. If someone was applying for a particular job, it is important to express how you can provide value to the company. This is more important than listing skills because skills are simply evidence that you will be able to provide value. Value is truly what the company wants to pay for. If they can receive the same benefits from someone who is less skilled, they would be equally happy.

In this case, I believe that Paul is attempting to provide value to the community. This, however, does not turn the discussion around on him. He does not need to prove his ability to provide value because his actions have already accomplished this goal. Instead, it is now my job to prove that I can help Paul offer that value, within the bounds of a mentor / mentee relationship. I feel that I would be the best choice to be mentored if…

  • Paul’s impact on my life and career would be more significant than another.
  • Paul’s impact on me has a larger effect on the community as a whole, through me.

Potential impact on me

I am at a stage in my career where I have a number of important decisions to make, some of which I have an idea of what to do and others where I am clueless. Some of these decisions include; selecting a specialty within SQL Server, deciding between seeking out consulting as a long-term goal or sticking to a more traditional permanent hire situation, and how to manage the work to life ratio.

I feel that I have just enough experience where I can start laying the ground work for being known for something in the future. Being, “the guy who solves this problem,” seems to be an important defining factor in the careers of those who have found success. I also have a family and have made some decisions on location and travel tolerance which I am not sure how it will impact my future.

None of those topics are structured as well formed questions or issues. That, in and of itself, is a problem in my eyes. Having an experienced mentor, such as Paul, would go the distance in helping me understand not only how to shape my decisions but also to shape my questions.

Potential impact on the community, through me

I am an active member of the SQL community and I am here to stay. A while back, I met Jes Borland with Brent Ozar Unlimited and she has been an inspiration to get involved. Since then, I’ve become the co-leader of the Hampton Roads SQL Server User Group in Virginia, I blog regularly, and have joined the conversation on Twitter. Everything about community involvement excites me. I tell you this because my success, as a product of Paul’s guidance, will have an indirect affect on the community. I embrace the PASS mission statement of Connect, Share, and Learn. So, any benefit I gain from being mentored will, later, become a benefit to the community as I continue to pay-it-forward.

On that note, I will make a public promise at this time. When I reach a point in my life where I can be of value to someone as their mentor, I will reach out to the community in this same way and offer my time. I will do this without regard for whether Paul chooses to mentor me or not.

The opportunity multiplier

In conclusion, selecting me as one of Paul’s mentees is an opportunity to produce a greater impact on the community as a whole than simply the impact that it would have on me. This multiplication of value does not start and end with this offering. Rather, it is the beginning of something that can grow and expand over time. It is my hope that I can be apart of it and help encourage others in the community to reach out to those in need of guidance.

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