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Mission Impossible: BYO Mentor

What is mentoring

Mentoring in Europe has existed as early as Ancient Greece. The word’s origin comes from Mentor, son of Alcimus in Homer’s Odyssey. Mentorship is the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor. Mentors have hands-on experience that their mentees can learn from, so that the mentees can gain proficiency. [1] Mentoring is like a professional relationship similar to an apprenticeship but without command and control.

Why mentoring is important

The IT industry is a fast-moving industry and it is extremely important for IT/project services professionals to keep their skills up to date. Technologies of today and tomorrow will always require you to learn new things. Regardless of what you want to learn, you want to know the best way to begin and a reliable way to track to completion. This is where mentoring can add value to your own process – it will give your learning process more certainty by providing trust, advice, support, and discipline. My own experience proved the benefits of mentoring. I have had 3 mentors. The first one advised me to widen up my eyes in terms of career path, rather than adhering to the shallow and limiting views of IT occupations. The second fast-tracked my learning of a new skill set. The third gave me a different lens to see sustainable productivity. They all played a very vital role in my career development and I truly appreciate their help and effort.
To give back to the community, I have also become a mentor through 3 different not-for-profit organizations in Australia. Thanks to their careful mentor-mentee matching processes, I have been able to advise my mentees with my stories of success and lessons, so that they feel well informed in critical decision making.

BYO Mentor

Traditional mentorship requires 2 people to be involved: the mentor and the mentee. Due to different reasons, connecting yourself with a mentor may not be suitable for you. If that’s your situation, don’t give up: think bold: BYO Mentor (Be Your Own Mentor).
Is BYO Mentor a mission impossible? Absolutely not!
Actually, you know yourself better than anyone else. You have trust in yourself and you surely will support yourself. All you need is some methodology on structured advice, plus discipline.
Let’s find the answer together by looking at a real example of BYO Mentor lifecycle.

BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Be familiar with the concept of SMART goals prior to this session.
  • Allocate 60 mins (of uninterrupted time) for this session.

You need to know what you want to achieve by setting your goals. Your goal may be as simple as to master a new skill or understand new knowledge, which is straightforward, or as complex as to advance your career, e.g., by being appointed to a different position.


Session 1 – Goal Setting

BYO Mentoring Advice: Big or small, you’d better follow the rule of thumb by writing down your goals in a SMART way.

The acronym SMART means your goal is:

  • Specific (Concisely state the expected outcomes)
  • Measurable (Make it both quantifiable and verifiable)
  • Achievable (Make it challenging but realistic or state if it is aspirational)
  • Relevant (Make it relevant to your long term objectives)
  • Time-bound (Be clear about the timeframe that it should be achieved by)

SMART goal example:

  • For a Business Analyst professional: I want to pass the IIBA CBAP exam by 30th November 2021.
    By following the above guideline, you should be able to get your own SMART goal. If you come up with more than one goal that’s fine, you just need to prioritize them and focus on the first one first.

Session 2 – Gap Analysis

BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Session 2 should start no later than 2 weeks after session 1 completion.
  • Determine the reliable industrial/official source of information, prior to the session.
  • Allocate 60 mins for this session, in the following sequence:
    a. 40 mins for Future State Analysis
    b. 10 mins for Current State Analysis
    c. 10 mins for Gap Identification

Future State Analysis:
Once you have specified your goal, do your own research on what it takes to achieve your goal.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Analyse industrial/official sources.
Want to become a Senior Business Analyst? Download 10 Position Descriptions from jobs websites. Want to pass the IIBA CBAP exam? Go to the IIBA website to understand the detailed process of certification. Put your research outcome into an Excel spreadsheet in the “future state” tab.

Current State Analysis:
Equally important, make sure you do a reality check on where you are at now.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Align your current state analysis to the future state analysis.
Have you got some of the essential experience for your dream job already? Have you met the eligibility criteria for your preferred exam? Put everything in the same Excel spreadsheet to the “current state” tab.

Gaps Identification:
Now that there is the “future state” (your goal) and the “current state” (what you already have), you are ready to identify the gaps.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Compare your future state v.s. current state, and work out the gaps.
Example: To Pass the IIBA CBAP Exam

  • Future State analysis:
    o Meet Exam Eligibility Criteria
    o BABOK Knowledge Study
    o Prepare for the Exam
    o Take and Pass the Exam
  • Current State analysis:
    o (✔) Met Exam Eligibility Criteria
  • Gaps Identification:
    o (X) Study BABOK Knowledge
    o (X) Prepare for the Exam
    o (X) Take and Pass the Exam

Session 3 – Action Plan

BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Session 3 should start no later than 2 weeks after session 2 completion.
  • Allocate 60 mins for this session, in the following sequence:
    a. 30 mins for Action Options Generation
    b. 15 mins for Options Comparison
    c. 15 mins for Decision Making and Due Date

With the gap analysis done, you are on track to create a customized action plan, which takes your availability and circumstances into account.

Action Options Generation:
Refer back to your gap analysis outcomes. Each gap identified should lead to relevant action options.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Action options can be generated by analyzing the industrial/official sources. Action options must add direct value to bridging the gaps you identified.

  • Gap: “Study BABOK Knowledge”
  • Action Options generated:
    o Join an IIBA Chapter hosted BABOK Study Group
    o Register a commercial education provider’s training course

Options Comparison:
Simply list the advantages and disadvantages of each action option. Bullet points will be sufficient.
BYO Mentoring Advice: If you don’t know how to compare action options, start with cost, time, and frequency.

Decision Making & Due Date:
Decide which action option you will go on with, and assign a challenging but realistic due date.

BYO Mentoring Advice: When choosing from different action options, as long as you pick a good option, that’s fine. There is no need to navigate to the very best option, as this will consume too much time.

  • If you prefer weekdays: choose “IIBA BABOK Study Group”. Join the next available group.
  • If you prefer the weekend: choose “Training Course”. Enroll in the next available course.

Session 4: Ongoing Inspection

You need to inspect your progress and track it to completion.
BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Remind yourself of your actions on a weekly basis
    a. Send delayed email to yourself
    b. Set up calendar appointments
    c. Ask your family or friend to check your progress

A lot of email tools/apps can support delayed emails. Send yourself delayed emails targeting key milestones in line with your action plan. Plus, you can add calendar appointments to remind yourself of key dates. If these are not enough, ask another person for help.

Continuous Improvement
Mentoring or BYO Mentor are meant for our continuous improvement. If you want to be a better self. Do something now. Remember If your circumstances changed, consider participating in a human-led mentoring program.

Lawrence Dong

Lawrence Dong has extensive experience of over 15 years in the field of business analysis and project delivery gained by leading complex transformational projects for various Tier-1 organisations like ANZ, AustralianSuper and Telstra, etc. He has a track record of providing pragmatic project services backed by his certifications in Professional Scrum Master (PSM), Certified Business Analysis Practitioner (CBAP) and Project Management Professional (PMP). In addition, Lawrence enjoys giving back to the community by volunteering. He was on the Board of Directors for IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) – Australia Chapter, where he promoted the best practice of business analysis and to serve the local business analysis community. He has been selected as a mentor for IIBA Melbourne Branch since 2015 and was recently selected as a mentor in Mentor(SHE) program, which aims to promote female representation in ICT industries. Outside of work, Lawrence enjoys reading, bush walking and soccer playing. Wet or fine, he plays (social) soccer every Saturday with friends for 3 hours.