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Juniper Networks’ CTO On Combating The IT Talent Shortage And Creating A Diverse Pipeline Through Mentorship
‘I have always argued for this whenever I have to review somebody’s promotion to vice president. I always ask, who have they mentored? I use it in the evaluation of a person [because] they should be paying it forward,’ Juniper Networks’ Chief Technology Officer Raj Yavatkar tells CRN.
How can mentorship help people reach the next level in their careers?
I’ve noticed a lot of people want to have a mentor, but they don’t know what they want out of the mentor. They think the mentor will simply tell them what to do and they will advance in their career or something. So, the most important thing was to start making this distinction that the mentor is there to help you in a very different way — to ask you about possibilities and whether [you’ve] considered this or that. I’ve noticed that, over the years, the engineers are really poor at telling somebody what they want in [their] career. And what happens from company perspective, is that when they get an offer from somebody else, offering them something higher than the work they are doing, they leave to do that. That’s why I started this program at Intel first and then at Google. I called it Career Development 101. It’s like a software development lifecycle … you set a target. What you want to be in three to five years? Once you set that target, you need to demonstrate if you’re already operating at that level. Once you do that, then you start asking questions to different [people]. Ask your manager, ask your peer: “What do you think about my goal [and] is it what my abilities are?’ This is the feedback, so then let’s do a gap analysis: ‘That is my goal. This is where the gaps [are] and based on the gap analysis, let’s develop a plan. That could be communication skills or working on something completely new — [maybe] you have to expand your technical skills. Once you do that, every quarter, you ask your mentor: ‘How am I doing toward that goal?’
It’s almost like a machine and people understand that because that’s why they do software development or product development. I used it first at Intel and VMware when I started teaching that [career development] class. I found it really useful [and] really effective. I use it myself for my own career. It’s useful [at Juniper] as part of our HR process that leads to [identifying] people who are going to be mentors and leaders and how they should use their mentorship role to help in this process.