“How did you get into analytics?”
It’s the most common question I get from people when they learn about my work life. To be honest, I don’t know if I have a good answer for it. There is a fair amount of luck involved and a realized passion for it, but I never pictured my career developing this way. However, I do confidently know that I did not get here alone.
On paper, my resume doesn’t tell the story of how I found my career. I don’t have a degree in statistics, data sciences, business operations, or marketing—I graduated with an English literature degree. I had great mentors on each step of my journey that took a vested interest to educate me in the areas in which I wasn’t traditionally trained. I was, and still am, a very curious person. It was those mentors who saw my skills and helped ignite engagement with the work that we were doing and in an eventual career.
MRA often receives feedback from members on the constant need to attract and retain talent. That need will not stop anytime soon. While your organization’s benefits, compensation, and culture are essential to maintain and attract talent, it is also beneficial to identify and encourage high performers to actively seek out mentors within your organization to encourage skill development outside a defined job function.
Mentors serve many roles. They can be the key to take "what is" and promote "what could be" for an individual, which may unlock future benefits for the individual as well as the organization. Equally important, they can be a priceless resource to their mentees during a time of crisis and uncertainty, helping guide them through challenging employment situations.
Many of my mentor relationships started off informally with friendly conversations and getting to know each other. We didn’t give each other titles of "mentor" and "mentee"—the relationship grew over time and was based on trust in one another. The trust was built through collaboration, knowledge sharing, counseling, and genuine interest in my development.
My mentors gave me an opportunity to get involved in their work by giving me a runway to explore my capabilities, and providing an understanding of why I needed to fail and try again. It was small growth opportunities, like being invited to observe a meeting with the executive leadership or being asked to research something that was used for a solution so I could have an ownership in the results. Each opportunity showed me how I could get involved and how I could grow. It was a mutual benefit that enabled me to see the next steps of my career while providing impactful work contributions to my mentor and to the organization.
Now that I have been able to become a mentor for others, I try to emulate and practice these lessons I learned from my mentors.
- Be kind. Everyone has potential. I had a journey to get to where I am and I am not better than anyone else because my journey is at a different point.
- Share the conversation. I do not always talk about my personal challenges, nor do I only seek to listen to my mentee’s challenges. I promote equal communication in the partnership because I am learning from my mentee too.
- Encourage risk. Education happens through success and failures. I encourage people to push past their comfort of what they know and what they think they can achieve.
- Speak honestly. I discuss both success and failures of myself and of my mentee. I let my mentee do the same.
- Provide opportunities. I allow individuals into my working world by delegating tasks or showing them what it’s like to perform in the next step of their career.
These are the lessons that I benefitted from and how I found my career in analytics. Without my mentors, I wouldn’t be here.
Right now, there is someone in your organization who is destined to take on an existing role or one that is brand new to the organization. Encourage high achievers to seek out mentor relationships to help cultivate their potential and passion. It will be mutually beneficial.