What a ride… we sure did come a long way! Or to paraphrase one of Finnern‘s most favorite quotes: “Oh, the places we have been!”
I still remember my first days in the Mentor program: the introduction rite, the warm welcome and being completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere in the room – full of so many high calibre community members.
I still remember taking a back seat in my first Mentor meetings with executives (one of my wiser decisions!) and I’ll always remember the impact it had on me to have had the privilege to witness heavy-hitters like Vijay, Jon Reed, Dennis Howlett and Graham Robinson in action. Realizing that I would seriously have to up my game if I want to get even close to their level.
“Always judge a (wo-)man by her/his questions!“
They were truly able to challenge executives and provide clear feedback on behalf of the community/ecosystem. That’s when I realized that if I wanted to maximize my Mentor experience I would have to sit and learn, watch – copy – adapt and broaden my horizon to get the bigger picture, to get a glimpse of how deep the rabbit hole really is.
It’s not on me to decide how I faired on that journey, yet looking back I do clearly see how big of an impact it had for me to join the program. This is something I’ll ever be grateful for and it’s been Mark Finnern whom I need to thank – for his trust in me and for giving me this truly unique opportunity to grow.
I know that I’m not the only one among the Mentors who feels that way. Having been a part of this program has enriched both my professional and private life and all of us made lasting relationships and friends along the way. Some of us are even referring to it as our Mentor family, others simply call it the wolfpack. It may be hard to grasp from the outside and for bystanders it may be hard to believe that such a strong bond is possible within a group formed within a corporate setting.
(Note: The program has always been non-exclusive and the best way to get to know the Mentors is to simply engage and hang-out with! them Most of them are great fun to be around.)
In the early days many of the new Mentors struggle – unsure what to do. The best advise have always been: “You’ve been picked for what you’re doing, so keep doing that and take it to the next level.” That’s the approach I took. Since I started my community activities by sharing experiences about using emerging technologies to develop custom solutions I continued to do so.
And in short: yes, being a Mentor allowed me to create my dream job within SAP. I was able to turn my interest and passion for engaging with our developer community into my day-time job by becoming the developer evangelist for our cloud platform. And yes, I do have to say that I’m happy being able to claim that I personally onboarded some of the early adopters and nowadays thought-leaders on the topic!
Indeed being a mentor gives you a platform & more visibility, but this is for sure a two-sided sword to be used carefully. I tried hard to make the best use of this opportunity and act in the best interest of the community. If I’d ever get asked what has been my greatest accomplishment of being a Mentor my answer would be the HCP developer edition.
Based on my Mentor status I have been able to operate outside of company reporting lines and get direct access to executives. It did help to convince management that a perpetual, free developer edition is the only way forward. Of course it meant that someone had to fund the expenses, but finally we achieved that. Of course it was a team effort, yet I do take comfort in knowing I have been able to weigh in.
And while it has always been a struggle to figure out how exactly an employee Mentor fits into the program, I tried my best empowering others by providing them access to information or by connecting them to the right people. It’s never been upon me to publicly criticize the program or those who own/run it. Yet, I have always tried to stay true to the values of the program: open thinking and open communication! (Kudos to my Mentor’s Mentor and good buddy Oliver!)
So, whenever I felt I had something valuable to contribute to a conversation, discussion or argument I did speak up. Sometimes that resulted in conflicts which fortunately could be resolved and ultimately the people involved got even closer.
Can’t provide a reference, but I once got the following feedback from the outside:
“One of best things Mentors can do is to have a controversial discussion in public!“
On that note I came to the conclusion that I cannot simply step down and turn Alumni. Especially not now, with Mark being gone and the program in transformation. Otherwise some may speculate that me leaving the mentor program now has something to do with Finnern no longer being in charge. I guess it is in the best interest of the program if I provide reasons and answer the question – why now?
So let’s get this one straight right away: The Mentor program is bigger than a single individual and while I won’t even try to decompose its magic, it’s about chemistry and like-minded individuals. It’s hard to measure and impossible to put into metrics…
In retrospect it may would have been wiser to turn Alumni 18 months ago, when – due to private reasons – I had to reduce my mentor activities close to zero. Yet, at that time I received so much support and friendship from people on the program and that feeling of belonging really helped at the time. #afriendinneed
And yes, it probably was that hope that … one day I would be able to come back and things would get back to normal. Oh well… the world is not standing still, and hence it’s the most natural thing that the program evolved and is undergoing transformation to adapt to a changing environment.
So, why now? Well, I wanted a final ride! To run with the pack one last time… to step up one last time and try to do the same thing for newcomers I saw the veterans doing when I was a noob. To speak up on behalf of the community, to act as its sounding board – leaving titles and ego at the door – and to ask questions that matter!
Of course, I also wanted to say thanks to all those that mentored and accompanied me all these years. I wanted to say good-bye (surely not fare-well!) and I know we’ll still get to hang-out regardless of whether I’m Mentor or Alumni!
I realize that the transformation is already underway and that the tracks have been set. I see old veterans and young guns alike leading the charge. There’s an amazing group of volunteers leading the transformation process: Aslan, Martin, Tom and Phil ! (in alphabetical order)
Together with the rest of the group they have the collective experience and knowledge to truly take the program to the next level – given they continue to get the empowerment and support from the executive sponsors. I believe it has been a good decision to bring the program back under the community leadership and from personal conversations I had with Jeanne Carboni I know she understands that this where the program belongs.
Of course this re-born mentor program will not be a 1:1 copy of what it used to be, yet that’s just the way it goes. We all have to adapt to changing environments: “if you’re not moving ahead, you’re falling behind!” I know many will watch with interest how the program will transform and of course there’ll always be controversial opinions on whether this change is for the worse or better! Time will tell…
Right now some may see the program evolve into something with more of a marketing touch, others may see the forming of an independent advisory board that provides feedback to SAP based on technical expertise. Who knows, maybe some sort of slingshot maneuver will be required to get the program back to its root of being a sounding board of the community – if that is the plan at all.
Whatever the case I know I’ve been privileged to be a part of it and I did try to live up to it and play it forward. And the things I learned & all the friends I made along the way will remain. As my good friend and fellow Mentor Robbo keeps saying:
“Once a Mentor, always a Mentor!”
As such, I’ll continue to mingle with the community and provide honest and direct feedback. I just cannot commit myself as much anymore and I feel I did had more than a fair share – now it’s time to make room for the next gen.
I’m not a superstitious person in general… but the day Mark Finnern left, was the day my son was born. Hard to not take it as a sign to set priorities. And I know that for me it’s best to focus on my family these days (#pickyourbattles)
Let me conclude by saying thanks for having me – I’m resigning with nothing, but fond memories and best wishes!
PS: Most/all pictures courtesy by Martin Gillet – special thanks and gratitude for capturing all the magic!