By Norris Krueger, PhD Photo Kimberlee Miller
Thanks for all the great responses to the first iteration of “Meet the Mentors” in Greenbelt Magazine. I am grateful, the mentors are grateful, and Greenbelt’s advertisers are grateful! In keeping with Greenbelt Magazine’s ongoing, joyous coverage of Boise’s great innovators, please meet Stephen Spector. Stephen has moved from a lofty gig at HP to Chief Marketing Officer at RackN, which is revolutionizing data centers and cloud provisionings. He definitely qualifies as a “hidden gem” mentor, helping grow a more innovative Idaho.
When Stephen moved here, I was told two things. First, he was a wizard of all things cloud-related and, second, he was a fellow Ohio State Buckeye! I was struck immediately at his ability to ask great questions and was always learning. I was struck equally by how he helped others to ask the right questions. Like many great mentors, he doesn’t see himself as a great mentor.
Stephen brings 23+ years of experience in the IT industry having developed real-time embedded software, founding developer programs in the mid 90’s, managing two open source communities, and building global alliance and licensing programs. Prior to RackN, Stephen delivered global marketing programs for cloud solutions at HPE/HP and Dell and managed the OpenStack and the Xen.org open source communities at Rackspace and Citrix Systems.
Stephen graciously agreed to answer the questions that other mentors did, so enjoy!
What makes a good mentor?
Good mentors want people to succeed independent of their own gain from the relationship. They must be willing to set aside their own “self” to better understand the issues being raised and offer real-world advice, not just high level talking points. Of course, listening is key in the relationship; the best mentors parse through the issues to find the true problem needing a solution. I find that the best mentors have the unique ability to solve the core problem I didn’t even realize I had.
What should I know/ask/do to see if a mentor is good for me?
I find that spending time meeting a mentor, chatting about various un-related topics gives me a chance to better know the person. Do they interrupt me often? Are they engaged in the conversation? Are they paying attention or lose focus quickly? Is this person someone you can speak with, be comfortable with and have a useful background?
What do mentees really need to know (and do)?
Mentees need to be specific up front with mentors about the purpose of the relationship, what they hope to get out of it, and be incredibly flexible in your schedule as most mentors are busy and are taking time out of their day to assist you. Try booking a lunch with a mentor (and paying), always a good way to fit within their schedule and lunches are typically less formal providing better a more relaxed experience.
I also recommend that you work out a communication preference in terms of method and frequency so neither of you feel overwhelmed by all your outreach.
How do we grow good mentoring in Boise/Idaho?
Having moved here three years ago from Austin, I find that Boise offers an amazing chance to meet significant mentors. Smaller cities provide access that you wouldn’t normally find in a big city. Finding that key person who “knows everyone” is tricky and I think we as a community might create a single channel for people to leverage when looking for mentors. Maybe Trailhead!
What is one thing that each of us can do to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem? What would you like to do, and how can we help you? Hire Local! I believe the best thing each of us can do is to find a local company to engage with for services beyond your own organization. RackN outsourced website management to a local Boise business which has benefited RackN as well as the local company.
I anticipate hiring additional companies here in town, especially as the opportunity to expand RackN here in Boise is a real possibility. If so, I will certainly reach out to local mentors to assist me in the process.
Keep your eyes peeled for another mentor Q & A in Eagle Magazine!