John Donohue and Ashling Team first connected over two-years ago. As a high-level information services executive in one of Philadelphia’s largest academic healthcare systems, John’s time isn’t always his own. However, he’s nothing less than generous with it— mentoring six to eight people at any given point—allocating two hours every month to each mentee (not to mention, as-needed time, too).
Why are You so Passionate About Mentoring?
When I was young in my career, an executive took me under his wing. He quickly involved me with preparing board reports and presentations, but I didn’t understand why. Then after some time, I realized he was grooming me for the next step in my career. He invested in me and took time to explain the what, how and why of things. His efforts and confidence in me left an indelible mark.
I believe in creating and fostering an eco-system of mentorship, so I’ve implemented mentoring into my department heads’ professional development plans. By investing in the success of new professionals, you further contribute to the success of your department, your company, and of your own leadership capabilities.
What’s Your Experience Been Like as a Mentor?
I’ve been excitedly paying it forward since my initial experience as a mentee— mentoring 50-60 people throughout my career. Investing in people early-on fosters personal and professional growth in both parties and, subsequently, supports business goals by mitigating turnover. When you take the time to build a company culture around people, rather than around a department, it will result in huge dividends for the organization and those involved.
Why Do You Continue to Mentor?
I gain as much as I give to the mentoring experience. When mentees ask questions and broach various topics— it forces me to step back and think. This reflection and the process of developing a response energizes and inspires me.
And as these professionals grow in their careers it’s incredibly rewarding for me. What’s great is that most of the people I’ve mentored— even those from years ago— have stayed in touch to share their career moves and decisions, and to let me know that they’ve become mentors themselves.
What’s Been Your Most Rewarding Mentoring Experience?
There was a mentee who was an entry-level professional who initially made a few mistakes, but was eager to learn from the errors. The person was willing to talk through what went wrong and take the necessary steps to improve. Strengths were harnessed and, ultimately, this professional’s reputation was rebuilt.
As a mentor, you can provide a roadmap and share insight, but a mentee needs to be receptive. That person needs to invest time and effort, and to utilize the insight and tools offered. And in this case, all of the above occurred— yielding success.
What are the Benefits of Having a Mentor?
For those who are still new in their careers, the benefit of having a mentor is that it creates context and, subsequently, explains the ‘why’ behind things.
And, the ‘eco-system of mentorship’ helps build a resilient, collaborative working environment. It gives professionals tools and experiences to build a foundation from which they can pull when faced with other challenges in their careers.
Why is Mentoring Particularly Important in InfoSec?
With the cybersecurity field being so dynamic and evolving so quickly, infosec professionals need to receive feedback that much faster. And the earlier professionals learn how to ‘marry’ cyber with the business side of a company, the sooner they’ll be able to more successfully ‘sell’ their concepts and priorities to ‘the biz.’
Why Did You Join the Ashling Team Cybersecurity Community?
I joined the Ashling Team community because you need to look outside your organization to discover new approaches and ideas. Networks, like mentors, are important to professional growth for you can learn so much. And they’re a great resource if you’re seeking a mentor or are interested in serving as one.
Do You Have Any Suggestions for Future/Novice Mentors?
- Prepare. Learn/know about the person you’re mentoring. Review her/his CV and online professional profiles, so you can provide some initial, immediate feedback.
- Understand. Ensure you’re clear about the mentee’s objective(s) and your plan to help her/him realize those goal(s).
- Set Expectations. At the onset, discuss how the relationship is going to work, on both sides.
- Be Accessible. Aside from your meeting schedule, make yourself available if/when something comes-up and your mentee needs a few minutes to talk through a challenge or idea.
Do You Have Any Tips for Mentees?
- Find the right mentor. Look for someone you respect. Notice how the person handles her/himself. Determine what you’re trying to gain. Then, align yourself with someone who aligns with those things.
- Apply the ‘Goldie Locks’ rule of thumb. Don’t be shy, but be respectful of the mentor’s time. Don’t ask for too much time, but enough that it demonstrates you’re invested in this person investing in you.
- Have Self-Awareness. Conduct yourself with confidence and ensure you can articulate what you need from this person and why.
- Prepare. Be ready to get down to biz by having two-three good questions in-mind before meeting with your mentor. This prep will prove to be an effective, respectful use of time, and it’ll engage and energize your mentor at the onset.