A long time ago in a life far, far away I got involved in the development of an international standard for a programming language – C++. The developers among you may have heard of it. It is the language used to write, among many other things, the NetWeaver kernel – the layer that sits between ABAP and the server operating system. When I went to my first meeting, there were a dozen other people already there, none of whom I knew. One of them was Bjarne Stroustrup – the guy who invented the language! And so discussions started. We were talking about faults in the language in the presence of its inventor. Imagine taking about faults in the design of HANA while Hasso Platner is in the room. I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. Why was I there? What could I possibly contribute? Surely these guys know so much more than I do about C++?
Fast forward 20 years and I have the same feelings again. I’ve known a few Mentors for a number of years now, I’ve met a few briefly, and I know many via SCN and Twitter. I respect and admire them all. They know so much about SAP and many other things, know how to apply that knowledge, and are so willing to share it all. And they’re all really nice people too! And now I’ve been asked to join them. It is, of course, and honour and a privilege to be asked. But who am I to be included in their number? What can I possibly contribute?
I was involved in the C++ standardisation process for 5 years. Over those years I got to know those scary, smart people quite well. Many of them became friends. I realised that although they were very smart, they didn’t know everything and that there were things I could contribute after all. Most importantly, I realised that they could occasionally get things wrong and that it was OK for me to get things wrong too, and that willingness to make mistakes would sometimes lead to great discoveries. And I contributed in more ways than I imagined. Looking back on those years I find I really enjoyed them. Looking forward from day one, though, I saw nothing of that.
I’m now at the start of a similar journey into Mentorship, but at least this time I’ve travelled a similar road and I know not to be too scared of it. While I may not yet know what form my contributions will take, I’m sure they will come. Maybe not immediately, but they will come. In the meantime, there’s fun to be had along the way. I’m looking forward to it. Mistakes included.
And remember, Mentors aren’t scary. Smart, yes, but scary, no. To mangle a quote from Finding Nemo – “Mentors are friends, not sharks”