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Justin Middler – Meet the Mentor

Hi, I'm Justin. I have 10 years experience in IT, with experience ranging from racking, stacking and patching network appliances, to travelling the world providing cyber security advice to Fortune 500 companies, and most recently, being employed by Microsoft as a Software Engineer.
Justin Middler

Software Engineer, Microsoft

Mentoring is about tailoring advice

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I would say the reason I became a mentor very closely aligns to the reason I entered into the field of software engineering and that is, I wanted to help people. I’ve always enjoyed sharing the knowledge I’ve gained over the years with close friends and family that were curious about Information Technology or even wanted to break into the field but had no idea where to start.

Very similarly to software development, mentoring is often a lot of work and investment of time, not only for the mentor but the mentee. Just like software development, the fruits of your labour can very quickly be realised and all of the investment of time and energy becomes worth it when you can impact someones life in a positive way. I take great pride and feel very humbled to be able to share what I’ve learned over the years, and even my mistakes and failures so that others hopefully don’t make the same errors I did.

How did you get your career start?
My journey in IT begun as a 17 year old IT trainee while still studying towards my year 12 certificate here in Australia. As part of my IT traineeship, I provided hardware support to various Australian education institutions which involved repairing and working on faulty desktop computers, assisting teachers and other education staff with IT questions, and working on various networking appliances and rack-mounted computing equipment.

The support I received from various people that I considered to be mentors at the time was invaluable. The guidance, sharing of past experiences and advice they provided ultimately I feel led me down the career I have followed which I believe has allowed me to become successful and do something that I am truely passionate about and that I love doing, you can’t ask for much more than that.

How do you usually set up mentorships?
Often when a mentee engages me on MentorCruise they ask me, “so how does this work? what do I need to do?” and the answer I always give is, it depends, where do you want to head in your career and what do you want to achieve? This ultimately allows me to learn about what they are passionate about and what goal they want to work towards achieving, because mentorship is not about the mentors style of conducting mentoring, it’s about tailoring advice to each mentee and ultimately helping them achieve their goals, in my humble opinion of course.

Mentorships with me once I understand your goals and what you want to achieve often result in me quickly devising a targeted plan of attack to kick-start your learning or development process. Whether this is providing resources required to study for an upcoming interview you have, honing your development skills or providing guidance for a current project you are working on. Once all of the initial hard work of planning is out of the way, we can both very effective make good use of our limited free time, and achieve the goals of the mentee even quicker than if they were to go it on their own, so to speak.

Mentors often learn more than mentees

What’s been your favourite mentorship story so far?
So far I have met so many great people through this platform that are extremely intelligent and passionate about life and what they want to achieve, it is seriously humbling and motivating for me to have this continued exposure to such great people.

One particular conversation so far stood out, and the reason is the person I spoke with had told me they wanted to reach out to me because my story that I told in my previous blog post on MentorCruise was very similar if not identical to their initial career journey, and they felt that if I came from that place to now working for a large company such as Microsoft then they could also achieve this if they had the right guidance and mentoring.

This was extremely exciting and humbling for me, and I really look forward to working with this person in the future to achieve their goals, and I feel that we can absolutely achieve said goals due to our past experiences being almost identical.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?
As mentioned above, it’s all about the people that I meet and the experiences they share with me. I feel very humbled and fortunate that they choose me to help them to succeed in whatever their goals are.

I find that mentors often learn more than the mentees when the engagement is all said and done. This might not make sense for everyone, but I certainly feel this is the case for me, because I not only grow from a professional experience was the engagement is over, from the experience I gained from mentoring another person and solving another problem for someone else, but I feel that I also grow and progress as a human, from an emotional intelligence perspective, because I’ve had to learn and grow my skills in active listening and mentorship, both in my opinion are extremely valuable and underrated skills for any technical professional, in any field of Information Technology.

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