Chapter 28. Find a Mentor

“Get the f—k out of there, Lopp.”

Startled. I was startled. I was not expecting this advice. Months later I realized it was this very descriptive advice at this precise time from this specific human that helped me “get the f—k out of” that place at the right time. That surprising, colorful, and helpful bit of advice was from my mentor. His name is Marty.

The act of choosing a small thing to learn and practice is the easy part. The difficulty arrives in discovering for yourself why a particular small thing speaks to you. I knew and had been told for years that I needed to find a mentor, but it wasn’t until I was a first-time director—when my situation was truly heinous—that I acted on the idea.

What Could Go Wrong?

First-time director. I’d been promoted because I’d written a couple of leadership books and had developed a strong support network of bright humans within the current company. They were looking for fresh blood, but the role was poorly defined and not running an engineering team. What could go wrong? Quite a bit.

While the leadership skills I’d built over the years were helpful, there was no way to quickly gather the immense domain context of a different job like, say, human resources. I was capable of leading, but the gaping hole in domain-specific experience caused the gig to go sideways within six months. I adopted the advice I’d readily given to many others, but had not yet followed. I hired an external human—who would eventually become ...

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