First, I really enjoy and appreciate the useful “hands on” style to all your podcasts.

With regards to your mentoring cast, I have a question regarding mentor selection and conflict of interest.

Should you avoid selecting a mentor from another company with which your company does business?

Here is a little background on my situation. I am a Sr. Manager in the Technical Support group for a mid sized, world wide software company. I am based in a small city on the east coast of Canada. I am starting to gain some respect and am being given a fair amount of additional responsibility outside my day to day role. The majority of people I deal with are in the US (both customers and internal, head office is in California).

If I were to look for a mentor within my own company I would have to look to someone based in the US as the only person above me in the local office is my Boss. There are certainly people I respect who would be perfect elsewhere in the company, however face to face meetings would be a little challenging to schedule on a regular basis.

With the small IT community in my area, I would have trouble finding anyone with the type of international experience of the person I am thinking of, and I believe that experience is going to be important.

So here is my perceived issue, this person is the head of a consulting firm that does business with my company, in fact some of his people are on contract to my group, although I was not responsible for setting up the initial contract. I feel this person would be a very positive mentor for me, he has a lot of experience, a high degree of integrity and good work / family balance.

Should I look for another mentor because of this prior business relationship? Do you feel there are boundaries that should not be crossed when selecting a mentor?



Mark's picture
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Thanks for the kind remarks. We're glad we're helping.

Nope, no need to look elsewhere. You can ask him to mentor you. I think it's a good call. Because you're not talking about a corporate sponsored program, it's your call.

That said, there will be times when you'll have to consider the ethics of sharing information with your mentor that may give him an unfair advantage/inside information which he could leverage for more business.

I think you can figure out when those moments occur, and you will GAIN respect by politely declining to discuss things. Unless you feel him wanting you to do so... in which case, RUN. ;-)


bilestoad's picture
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I just finished the summer 2006 pod casts on Mentoring and found this thread after doing a search. What fantastic information!

My situation is almost the reverse of Mark's. I'm the technology consultant who is near the top of the hierarchy at my office. The head of the office is the GM, who is my boss. Above him is the CEO at our corporate mothership in another city.

In looking about for a good mentor, several senior executives at companies who are current clients of my consulting company come to mind. Is it a bad idea for me to approach one of those executives to be my mentor? Does the fact that we have current projects in progress with the executives' companies affect the answer?

Mark's picture
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No, those folks could be GREAT mentors.