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Tapping the power of reverse-mentoring in IT
My calendar is typically packed with meetings, but each month I have a single one-hour meeting that always promises to end with both people walking away having learned something new. That meeting is with my Millennial mentor, a 22-year-old early-career IT professional who comes prepared to talk to me about whatever she thinks I’d be interested in learning more about.
Each month she prepares a few slides on the topic of her choice. It’s a great way for me to learn what our younger IT employees are focused on, and what they think I should know about it. If I need to have an account on a new social media site, for example, she’ll makes sure I know the basics and walks me through it.
I’ve had two Millennial mentors in the last four years or so, and I’ve found the relationships so valuable that I’ve arranged for my entire C-Suite to have their own “reverse mentors.” These mentors are a melting pot of young professionals from the IT function. And while my younger mentor helps keep me posted on technology trends, the other young mentors help C-Suite executives by solving any of their IT problems and teaching them shortcuts and tools that can help them do their jobs more efficiently.
It’s an easy way for our C-Suite to get their problems solved by an eager-to-help IT professional. The informal program also makes us more adaptable to working with this younger population, which is only going to grow at the company.
But perhaps the biggest benefit is that it gives this younger generation more exposure to senior leadership, which they love. They enjoy walking into the offices of the CFO and CMO as if they’re buddies. Further, by empowering them, these young professionals truly feel part of the organization, which is one of the best tools for retaining them.
Venki Rao was named CIO of GE Digital Energy business in December 2010. He is responsible for driving the IT strategy for Digital Energy, synergies, operational efficiencies, key digitization initiatives and enhancing business’ go-to market efforts with their smart-grid solutions. Additionally, he works closely with the Software Solutions business team to grow it and strengthen connections with Utility CIOs.