I heard a talk on building a mentor program for business analysts (BAs) by Dave Ramauskas from HTSC, along with 2 people from his mentoring program. They started by describing a challenge which we’re familiar with – that it is hard to recruit really good Bas, and very few of those found are hired. That’s why it’s important to use mentoring to grow the junior BAs and retain the senior ones.
They did a nice role playing skit to demonstrate what the mentoring relationship might look like in a specific scenario. As a side note – there were only a few talks I’ve seen here that did something like this, and they are all my favorite talks.
They walked us through the details of their mentoring program. And like with most companies, it’s a challenge to get a program up and running certainly, but they seem to have done well for a first cut. Here are the things they did, with my comparisons to how we handle this at ArgonDigital.
- How to match mentors and mentees: Some suggested using personality profiles, others suggest just matching based on skills. They tried a variation on “speed dating”, they call it “speed matching”. In our organization, we let them pick each other. The mentors decide to be mentors, publish a little piece about their mentoring style, and mentees get to leisurely browse the profiles and talk to the people until they find someone they want as a mentor. The two parties then decide if there is a fit.
- Implementing the program: They suggest using a written development plan for the mentee to help focus the mentoring efforts. They referenced a Harvard study to demonstrate the value in writing goals. We use something similar where we have mentees work from an organized list of skills areas for the growth path we want people to go through.
- Wrap-up: They do a graduation from their mentoring program. This is different than our mentoring program, which is always ongoing. I believe their structure to it suit their need of growing a set of highly talented newer resources for a period of 9 months each year.
Mentoring requires time and resource commitment from both parties and management to put time in it, and for the most part they seemed to have that. Also, it’s worth mentioning that some of the specific BA skills are not trivial to mentor. They didn’t really address this aspect at all, but from my own perspective that the average person isn’t necessarily going to be good at mentoring something like elicitation or facilitation skills. In the end, I think they do some things very well. I cannot stress enough that our mentoring program is a work in progress to say the least, so I’m thrilled to hear about some others trying to set this up as well.
They suggested a couple of books on mentoring: