A lot has happened in the past four years after I made the decision to come back to Rackspace. More so than looking for the perfect job, I wanted to be a Racker again. If I could do what Rackspace needed me to do at the time, I knew I would end up in a place where I wanted to be. These past four years have certainly been challenging yet incredibly fun. Along the way, I was able to fit in having my son, Jacob, and what a ride it has been! I’m now finally in a position doing what I am passionate about (making content happen!) and more importantly, I’m helping others follow their passion.
One of my goals for 2012 was to find a mentor. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about being a good role model for our youth, we should never stop looking for our own role model. As we achieve our goals, we should set new ones. Living is to be learning. I pin pointed who I wanted as my mentor at Rackspace (I won’t disclose the name at this time) and asked if they would so kindly meet with me on a monthly basis to go over specific topics on how to become a better leader. They so graciously accepted my invitation and I put time on their calendar labeled, “mentorship over coffee.”
Our first discussion was truly amazing. Although it was meant to be merely an introduction of myself and what I was looking for in this ongoing mentorship, I got my first lesson and that was “building advocacy.”
This person has really made some significant strides at Rackspace to becoming a well known leader. When we talked about how they got here, they said “people have to be willing to bat for you.” Before landing a leadership position, this person knew they had the skill set to take their career to the next level but what they discovered was that even though they had the skill set, they didn’t necessarily have a well recognized brand. They needed people advocating for them. Through specific actions they took to build their brand, they landed a leadership position that anyone at Rackspace would describe as, “well deserved.”
What I took away from the discussion is that although you may have the knowledge and skill set to be an expert in your field, without followers, you’re not a leader. And followers does not mean people who report to you. Followers are people that are motivated and inspired by you; people that would stand up for you at any given moment. So how do you build your brand? I thought about this and came up with 3 things you can easily do to start building your recognition.
Look at the opportunities your company has to offer and choose one. At Rackspace, we have our Rack Gives Back program where you can volunteer your time for events that give back to the community. We also have groups like Toastmasters and CrossFit. Joining a group within your company provides you an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t normally interact with on a day to day basis. And if you don’t have organizations to get involved in within your company, start one! All the groups at Rackspace were initiated by a Racker that had passion and a vision.
Even within your own department, there are opportunities to take on new projects that aren’t part of your normal job duties. Of course, you never want to take on more than you can handle but if your department is looking at starting something new and if you have a little bit of time to squeeze something new in, go for it. It doesn’t mean you have to be responsible for every aspect of the project but if you can lead and find others to help see it through execution, you’re showing leadership potential and building relationships with others along the way.
I think many of us don’t give ourselves enough credit. I believe everyone has expert knowledge in something or another and yet, we don’t share the knowledge. I really think more people than not have a desire to help others but don’t have the confidence in knowing that they are experts in something. This is where “pat on the backs” are important. If you know someone that has helped you or you’ve seen them help someone, tell them how much you appreciate it and how you look forward to learning more. It’s a simple way to get people to share more knowledge.
This was my take away from my first mentorship session. It went so well that we plan on meeting bi-weekly versus monthly. I plan on blogging about each session and sharing the lessons I learn.
As always, I invite your comments.
3 thoughts on “Mentorship over Coffee, Lesson #1: Build your Brand”
Great article. Good amount of discussion around mentorship in the blog world lately. Curious if there was an event or circumstance that inspired you to make the 2012 goal of finding a mentor?
Mentorship is especially important for women in technology. I believe it’s key to having more women in executive leadership and board rooms. Looking forward to reading about your journey.
Hey Carolyn –
Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments! I really enjoy teaching and mentoring but know that if I want to do a good job at it, I need to continue my own personal growth so I have more to offer others. As I look back at my career, I’ve realized that I’ve always had someone there to help me grow (whether intended or not). I’m at a very happy place at Rackspace, doing things I love to do and so I think what motivated me to get a mentor this year was to help me figure out how to continue to do the things I love without becoming stagnant. I think sometimes we don’t know the next steps or realize our potential until someone tells us. And for women, this is almost always the case and I’ve certainly come to realize that!