Mentor or Tormentor

As I was reading some articles to develop a case study, as a part of the work that me, my colleague Binoy and one our Professors are working on at Great Lakes, I stumbled upon an article which talked about Mentoring in the Indian Medical Industry. Well closed the tab by mistake and could not relocate that article to link here, but certainly there seems to be a dearth of good mentors in any industry!

I have had the chances of having many good mentors in the five long years in the Information Technology industry as a consultant and probably even before that! Thought early morning four AM, is the right time to probably remember them as its been long since I even recollected those names! Yes, I dedicate this blog post to those who guided me across the past five years :).

First, it was Jayashree, Ravi, Vinay and Dr. Shekar Bhorgaonkar at HP Labs, Bengaluru. As I moved to Bangaluru, when it was still called Bangalore, in Feb 2001, the aura of the newly opened Forum, the taste of the McD burgers (one reason I hope, my ex-team understands why I detested them going to McDs for all those unwanted parties we had :)) was probably driving me away from the core research work I was working on with Dr. Shekar – a part or the extension of his brainchild the GKB. It was then that Ravi n Jayasree who drove some sense in getting both me and Dushyant back to work and understand the criticality. It was mostly through their action and not by coercion. We were influenced by their dedication and hard work! Vinay on the other hand was a perfect guide and we did learn quite a lot technically from him which are of great use even today! On the other end Dr Shekar, was the Director of HP labs and well on the first looks you could never bet upon that, he sat with us, worked with us, dined with us without any air. Clearly a management lesson on leading your team forward by involvement. On my last day in labs, he asked me and Dushyant as to what our goals were, there were some 20 odd BITS, Pilani interns with us and were well decided on their future. Well Dushyant was clear that it was one of the IIMs and was probably offered to continue his role, which he declined and spent an year cooling his heels before heading to Ahmedabad. I was confused, now I had a mouthwatering offer in a niche firm to the internship there to higher studies, to which Dr. Shekar said – well hit back the bed think, if you are not going for studies now, I do not think you must continue in this role! Straight and honest :).

I did just that and well as I pursue my program here at Great Lakes, I think five years of work experience has given me much more of an edge and understanding capabilities which probably was what he was referring to at some point of time.

Moving on in Torry Harris, where I spent a relatively unheard of five years (Yeah! Somehow I was too lazy to move or attrition was unheard of in Floor #3), I did have a chance to interact with a few great mentors like Lata, Manasa and Dhana who even today guide me in times of crisis. Dhana to a large extent tries to own up things and plan when your mind reaches a blank. The philosophy that these people followed in Torry, which I presume I continued to some extent after they exit was probably Team Oriented Management Mentoring – what has been defined as aiding individuals to develop abilities in high performance organizations while battling for space in competitive environments – which you can see as perfect examples in Maddy, Harsha, me et al…. I had seen the exact opposite also, so probably can differentiate between the two pretty easily and the legacy left behind by the team that was built from the mid-2000’s still stays on.

In Orange, I met one heck of a person. Yeah I am sure he would not mind me using such words. He was a bar bouncer by night, a Line manager managing their operations by day. Wow! He just meant take life seriously, but take it easy! I have never seen anyone who could hop between clubs, drink shots after shots of tequila and still come back, stand straight in office the next morning and positively attend all the high-profile meetings and schedules with such little preparation! Only Dhana probably gave him some competition in that aspect. No one else did. People called him rude, brash, but trust me many would agree that in that environment he was the most ‘people-friendly, objective-focused, logical’ manager. Sad that Vic, is not in Orange anymore but still his charismatic leadership was an example for anyone and working for a long time under him, probably maximized by learning!

As I move on probably, today, I have meetings with my officially nominated mentor and unofficially accepted mentor. I would not argue who is better here, its probably known and not the right time/ place to pick it up! The only point that I wanted to make here is that its through great mentoring that great teams are built up. Mentoring processes must not be focused on individual development but much more of a team development and organization oriented. That is when, it would probably reach the pinnacle. Mentoring is more than initiatives, competencies and approaches, its about maintaining relationships.

Its probably time that I went back to Bengaluru and meet Naveen, Navya, Kapil, Alok, Reshma, Vishal, Ranjana et al… and figure out if I was their Mentor or Tormentor?