Having a mentor got me laser-focused
Set Goals, Slay Goals
I first met Jia during my third year of university under the Tableau Student Ambassador Program through KJ, my supervisor from Tableau. Jia runs the SEA operations for Interworks, one of the renowned tech consultancy firms and the first-ever Tableau Gold Partner. Knowing that I had an interest in consultancy, KJ introduced Jia, and our mentoring relationship began from there.
He became my mentor at the start of 2020, which was a tough period for most of us, including myself. My student exchange plans to Hong Kong got canceled, and I was transitioning into my final year at university, which starts in early June.
The first session
Mentors are usually busy, and they are taking valuable time to invest in your growth. Ultimately, we all own our career and development, and we are the ones who have to make the final decision. This starts with taking ownership of the goal setting for the year before the first meeting.
After the initial introduction, I shared my goals, career aspirations, and most importantly, expectations out of this mentoring relationship were set from the start where we promised to commit our time and effort. This provides clarity and gets both of us on the same page, which helps form the baseline for a successful mentoring relationship from the start.
Goals I set out to achieve for the year 2020 :
- Securing an Internship
- Skillset Mastery (Business Analyst skillsets)
- Portfolio Development
We agreed to have 30-minute sessions (might extend into an hour) every Friday to catch up with one another. Preparations are key to having productive one-on-one’s. I will usually have a list of both non-technical and technical questions before our meet-ups: Solution Architecture, Dashboard design best practices, Scenarios, etc. I will organize these thoughts and have a mental rehearsal on how I will approach the questions.
During our one-on-one sessions, we will go through the questions or share about a particular experience I have and get his thoughts on it. I will write down key concepts and feedbacks for me to research further into.
Setting SMART goals
We will always set weekly goals/actions to be completed before the next session from our discussions. This ensures accountability and progress, and it gives us both something to look forward to.
“I’ve been setting goals all wrongly”
Previously, I will set myself monthly goals, which I usually fail to achieve. This will cause me to be demoralized that eventually led me to a downward spiral of unproductivity.
The goals I’ve set with Jia's guidance all follow the SMART framework.
There is a specific task that I have to complete. (e.g., Create a dashboard from Monday Makeover, Ask XXX out for lunch to find out more about the job)
I can track the progress of my work. I can track the duration I took and the quality of dashboards I’ve built every week.
Within my control. My actions can directly influence the outcome of these goals.
Actions/Goals are aligned with the goals I’ve set out to achieve for 2020
Setting goals weekly instead of monthly make the goal achievable and motivates me to start. There is also a sense of urgency instilled in me.
I met with multiple roadblocks along the way. During the first few weeks, my perfectionist mindset kept me from completing the dashboard challenges. I will usually take 1–2 days for a 1-hour dashboard challenge and still not be satisfied with the outcome. I’ve sounded off to Jia during our weekly meetings and was greeted with these questions and advice.
“Are you happy doing this?”
This hit me hard as I‘ve always enjoyed getting myself and others excited about data and building dashboards. Having a perception that my work will be constantly compared presents a huge amount of resistance.
“It’s about quantity over quality. It is like going to the gym where you get the repetitions and build the muscles (in this case your brain muscles). ”
“No one is gonna judge you and it helps to get feedback!”
Keeping these encouragements in mind, I am glad that I overcame the initial inertia and kickstart my weekly dashboarding journey!
Like many others, networking is not second nature to me, and I find it hard to reach out to others. To secure an internship, Jia constantly pushes me to get out of my comfort zone and reach out to people in the industry/company. He encouraged me to be more proactive on LinkedIn and connect with people from companies I am interested in. On the side, I will reach out to seniors who’ve worked before in the company to get referrals.
“You have nothing to lose”
With a new mentality and encouragement, I found myself arranging coffee sessions and proactively networking, which is totally out of my comfort zone.
In the process of obtaining my Internship, Jia was proactive in getting me connected. I was meeting actual product consultants from various companies and people in the industry via user groups. I even got a chance to be one of the speakers for the Singapore Tableau User group, which I am always grateful for.
It was always my goal to Intern at Tableau, but conditions were different then. The product consultant Internship was a 6 months period, which means that I have to delay my graduation for a virtual internship. I always fear that I will not get the full experience even though it is always what I’ve wanted.
After a long conversation with Jia and better clarity of the pros and cons, I went on to accept the offer with greater assurance knowing that I did my due diligence. It was the best decision of 2020, hands down.
Some pointers brought out during our conversation of the pros of a virtual internship:
a) Experience of a remote working experience
b) Getting polished before graduation. Learning all sorts of skillsets of being a consultant, from arranging calendar meetings to delivering value and managing stakeholders.
Mentor turned Gaming / Food Hunt Buddy.
I am glad that we had similar interests, and we are gaming/food hunt buddies now. We usually go on food hunts and board game sessions with our better halves.
Talking Data to Dota
The takeaway from our hobbies is that we can connect with people from different backgrounds over such activities. We meet each other friends over games and food, and there is so much to learn from one another. It is all about being genuinely interested and patient.
A successful relationship/bond takes a ton of upfront work to define your goals and a pinch of bravery & humility to seek help. It is not easy and might take time to cultivate.
Such relationships/bonds are helpful for a driven young person in starting a career these days. Most importantly, when you start learning amazing things, please pay it forward, and help others! There’s always something to offer, and your guidance and advice might spearhead someone into reaching their goals.