Whether it has been in an official capacity or just as part of a job that I have been in, I’ve always found myself teaching others and doing what I have been able to do to make others successful.
However, it has only been in recent months that I have decided to start mentoring someone officially and it has been going quite well, although we both have a lot of ideas on how to improve the process.
What is a Mentor?
The word Mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey and is the name of the teacher that Odysseus leaves his son with while he goes off to fight in the Trojan War. In time, the word Mentor evolved to refer to a teacher, friend, or trusted advisor.
A Mentor is someone that can not only help teach a particular subject, but can also impart real world knowledge and experiences in whatever area they are assuming the mentor role in. It’s the difference between learning the ropes in an academic setting with professors and learning it on the job with someone that has been doing it for years. While both have their places, the type of education and experience gained is different.
A Mentor can impart not only the technical knowledge needed to be successful, but also provide guidance on topics that aren’t routinely discussed or don’t have simple answers, such as career development and real world practices.
Mentoring can provide both the Mentor and Mentee with an incredibly valuable experience that is not possible elsewhere. Teaching is an effective way of cementing one’s own knowledge on the subject, but often times we only teach a particular student for a short amount of time. Either in a workshop, a college course, or teaching something on the fly in a job setting.
The relationship between a Mentor and Mentee will often involve into a real long term and close friendship. This has been at least true to those who have served as my Mentors, some going on ten or more years now.
This results in an incredibly deep, satisfying, and rewarding relationship for both parties involved.
The Mentor and Mentee Relationship
The relationship between a Mentor and Mentee (or Apprentice, Padawan, Protégé , etc.), can take on many forms and dynamics. I may only talk to my own Mentors once every few months or weekly. All of my relationships with them are very unstructured where I may only reach out if I have a specific question or need advice.
When I am acting in the role of a Mentor, I prefer a bit more structure. I prefer to instruct and guide those I Mentor and have a plan around how that is accomplished.
My Mentee and I often meet weekly or at the very least bi-weekly as schedules allow for about an hour or so. We use Google Hangouts so we can share our screens and see and talk to each other. We also frequently communicate throughout the week on Semaphore.
What do I hope to get out Mentoring others?
I chose to jump in and Mentor as an acquaintance was asking if someone would be interested and I jumped at the opportunity. Working in application security it is hard to find people that are able to hit the ground running or knowledgable in the needed areas such as performing vulnerability assessments, threat modeling, or code review.
It can be extremely difficult to find someone that not only understands how applications are developed, but also understands the common vulnerabilities and how these vulnerabilities manifest in various technology stacks. The ability to write code to accomplish some tasks is also, in my opinion, a necessity.
That being the case, I found that as we brought people onto the teams that I was a part of, they often needed some help getting up to speed in some areas, so I would always offer to help tutor or guide them.
Application security involves a cross section of knowledge that we need more of in the Information Security community and is a role that a lot of companies are struggling to fill and I think it is our responsibility to ensure that we are creating and maturing those that will be needed to fill these ranks and one day replace us.
I hope to continue to work at growing my own skills and knowledge in Information Security but also as a Mentor. I want to challenge not only my Mentee but myself as well and build a successful practice doing this where I can share what I have learned with others in the hope they will pick up the torch and start Mentorships of their own.