I came across a new site that has completely captivated me: Mentii. It’s a matchmaking site for people looking for mentors and people willing to be mentors.
The signup process was simple – you can import your profile from LinkedIn, you can import your contacts (I always skip this step), and write a statement of what kind of mentoring you can provide. The next screen is a list of people that have recently asked for advice.
I feel great about my career now, but I made some uninformed choices earlier in my career that cost me a lot of time and money. If I had a trusted mentor when I was at those junction points in my life, I might have ended up where I am much earlier. So giving me the opportunity to be that helpful person for others is irresistible to me.
I contacted a few people still in school who were in situations I could help with. It felt great!!! Thank you to the Mentii team for creating such a rewarding service.
[to a student graduating in marketing but wanting to get into technology and startups]
I’m a software developer in San Francisco who has been around startups for a while. Here are some things I would recommend for you:
- [background] Nathan Marz from Twitter (a seriously great developer) wrote about why having a blog in Silicon Valley is a great idea, especially for non-technical people. Read and take to heart: http://nathanmarz.com/blog/break-into-silicon-valley-with-a-blog-1.html
- Get permission to write about some of the projects and experiences you’ve done at internships, part-time jobs, etc, removing the sensitive business bits
- Find out what kind of startups interest you – is there a domain (metrics, developer tools, social good, etc) or technology (rich web applications, horizontal scaling technology, smart hardware, etc) that interest you? Find out the companies working in that space and get involved with them. Follow and comment on their blogs and tweets.
- Identify some individuals that work at those companies and reach out to them. Don’t come in saying you want to work for them or with them, but instead offer them some insight you have about their product, marketing, etc and describe your background to put your advice in context.
- If when talking to them, they describe a need that you could meet (introducing someone you know to them, referring them to potential customers, offering to include them in a Meetup talk comparing competitors in their space, writing a review of their service on your blog, build a demo integration of their product they can add to their portfolio, etc), offer to do it for them, then do a great job at it and follow up with them when it’s done. The important thing is that they bring it up – most people are too polite to shoot down ideas but they probably won’t have much use for things they don’t already know they need.
I find this targeted, strategic approach to give more results than going to meetups and general interest coffee dates. The biggest personnel risk most startups have is getting someone who will a) suck up a lot of resources in explanation, training, followup, and b) not deliver work. By finding something they could use and delivering it and informing them, you’ve alleviated both of their main concerns. Normally, price is not the concern, risk is – a person who is unproven to them probably has a negative value because the possibility of failure is so high.
[to a freshman CS student who just moved far from home]
- People in the Bay Area are very open and friendly. It’s a mix of the attitude, the weather, and the fact that most people know they want to work on projects too big for one person to do.
- Don’t wait for graduation or a job to start working on projects – engineering is a skill and a craft that takes lots of practice and self-guided discovery, and you can’t get that in a pre-scoped project for school or work.
- Think about what kind of work you’d like to do and become really familiar with that space – the companies, open source projects, thought leaders, etc. When you dig in, you might find out you don’t actually care for it, but if you do like it, you’ll be more competent and prepared to enter that space.