When we talk about mentorship we often focus on how it benefits young professionals who are just beginning to carve out a career path. And it’s true that a mentor can make a huge difference in that frenetic period just after college, but the benefits of mentorship can be just as powerful for those further along — especially when it comes to learning the intricacies involved in management or leadership roles.
Bruce McKay was 20 years into a career in the software industry before his company, Jive, offered mentorship through Everwise. And though McKay is currently the Director of Sales Engineering for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, he didn’t hesitate for a second. “I got to the age where I’m thinking — right, I really want to shift gears and move upward,” he says. “I want to create an impact at a more senior level and move away from the weeds.”
McKay’s openness to mentorship this far into his career might be thanks in part to the great informal mentorships he had at the beginning, when he was in his early-twenties. The relationships he built with his mentors during that time still influence his career today. “You learn a lot by opening yourself up to other people’s views and experiences,” he says.
For his Everwise mentorship, Mckay was paired with Dinesh Bettadapur, Business Development Executive at Coventor. It was a partnership that worked out so well the two requested another six months after the initial half-year mentorship came to an end. We spoke to McKay to get a better understanding of how they managed to construct such a successful relationship, what it’s like to work at Jive, and what those early mentorships have meant for his professional development then and now.
What was your first mentorship experience like?
I was 21. I was working as an administrator in a department selling aviation fuel and oil. Basically, I ended up running the department.
Wow. How quickly did that happen?
Almost immediately. There were two of us in the department: there was the senior guy and me. He was always on planes going to the headquarters of all these airlines companies — being a sales guy. So I did everything back at the office.
How long did that informal mentorship last?
Certainly for the first year. After that, I worked with him in the department. He had a huge part in getting my foot on that first rung of my career ladder.
What’s it like working at Jive?
A roller coaster. An absolute roller coaster. I’ve never experienced anything like it, the change and the pace. But I like it, that’s why I’m here.
Is the intensity because you guys have grown so fast?
Yeah. When people join Jive, I often say, “Do you like change?” And the stock answer is always, “I love change. I thrive on change.” And then I say, “Just wait.” A few months later they come to me and they say, “When you asked me if I liked change, I had no idea.”
Were you surprised that your company offered a mentoring type solution and do you have a lot of cool perks like that?
Was I surprised? I was delighted, I would say, rather than surprised. I didn’t even know that such a thing existed in terms of a formal company-organized mentoring program. As soon as I heard about it, I wanted in.
Did you have any specific goals in mind for the Everwise mentorship?
Yeah. I had some high-level goals — my mentor actually helped me to distill them down. The first goal was around my own personal visibility within my company; to increase my visibility. The second one was to become a better leader and motivator for my team. And then the third one was helping me focus my team.
How has your role changed since the mentorship?
I’m still doing what I was doing at the start of it, though I did have a promotion during the process and I’m getting more involved in leadership activities. There’s still a ways to go, but certainly I have moved forward and the mentorship helped with that.
Did you come up the plan on your own or did your mentor, Dinesh, encourage you to do that?
No, this was all me. It was less about skills — and more around tangible things that I could do to achieve my objectives. Part of gaining visibility comes with achievement of results; I had to motivate my team to provide and generate results, and then make those visible internally. And then there was the other aspect with my own visibility, getting in front of senior executives at Jive so that I can connect with them and form a relationship.
What was that first call with Dinesh like?
From what I remember there were the initial pleasantries and a little background about each of us and where we were at with our careers. I had an impression of where I wanted to go, but I hadn’t necessarily distilled it down into specifics. Dinesh helped me to crystallize my ideas into more tangible and measurable objectives. Any kind of plan needs measurement — It’s all very well saying, “I want to be a better leader,” or, “I want to be more visible,” but what does that actually mean? You need to know what that actually means in order to then be able to quantify it, and it’s the quantification that helps you to find a plan.
What’s Dinesh’s mentorship style? Many mentors are a bit like teachers, they give homework; others are more like friends.
The latter. He’s a good sounding board. Just talking things through with him in a fairly informal way helped me to see the wood from the trees, in a way that I hadn’t seen before. In some cases it helped me to validate my own thoughts.
What was the first development or progress you noticed as a result of the mentorship?
That’s an easy one. So one of the aspects of achieving greater visibility was to make sure that I was actively trying to get in front of executives in my company. It sounds simple, and it is. One day, we had the global VP of sales over in the office, and I’d never spoken to him before. He was in his office and I just popped my head around the corner and said, “Got a minute?” expecting some five minutes of pleasantries. But it ended up as a one-hour conversation talking about the direction of the company, the future strategy, the way we sell our software to businesses. This conversation then led to a chain reaction of events: I got invited to help redefine global sales methodology, which ended up with a thanks on stage at our annual kickoff in January this year. And it all started by just popping my head around the door and asking, “got a minute?”
And did you have specific targets for each meeting, each call?
Yeah, we did some of that. In the first six months it was more structured than it was in the latter, because in the first six months it was all about defining the plan, getting the plan nailed down — which took time — and then working through it. From a job perspective, we talked a lot about milestones in the plan and my progress against them, along with any additional subtasks that I needed to incorporate.
Tell me about the decision to add another six months to the mentorship.
Because of the positive aspects, like this experience with the VP of sales, I wanted to do a longer period. If you undertake any kind of exercise like this where you want to see real benefits occur, if you have the ability to continue and get more benefits, why wouldn’t you do it?
Are you still in that final six months?
No. No, actually I spoke to him last week, and that was our last call.
Did you and Dinesh ever meet in person?
We did, in San Jose. The [Jive] kickoff that happened in January happened to be in San Jose. So I got on my regular call with Dinesh and he said, “You know, we should try to meet one day. When are you next in the US?” And I said, “In January, I’m coming to San Jose.” And he said, “I live in San Jose.”
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