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Neeran Gul – Meet the Mentor

10+ year industry veteran with experience in working with major cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) and open source contributions to Terraform and Ansible.
Neeran Gul

Lead SRE, Neeran Gul

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I firmly believe that the little things make the bigger things happen. Throughout my career I found myself in a place where I would regularly mentor other colleagues and friends of all levels to achieve a common goal or solve difficult problems. At the same time I had a keen motivation to write courses online and share my technical experiences. Deciding to mentor was a marriage between the two aspects of my job and my hobby.

What is the benefit of mentorship over courses?

The best way I like to describe a mentorship is having your own personal knowledge expert who you can reach out at anytime. This is fundamentally different from a course which is one-way communication and the content is fixed. A mentorship is flexible in this sense, it is possible to ask any question or pair on any task as the communication is both ways. When picking a course, the personal development plan is left on yourself to decide but with a mentorship an industry veteran can be a powerful guide-post to achieve goals significantly faster. Lastly a course only covers the theoretical and/or practical aspects but it does not cover anything beyond this, for example team work and communication is a fundamental part of any job, there might be 10 ways to do something but the industry prefers a certain way, all this and more is covered in a mentorship which makes it highly valuable than a course.

How did you get your career start?
At the start of my career I worked in a small start up of 5 people. This small number allowed me to work very closely with my colleagues and learn the ropes very quickly. I was fortunate to have a set of great mentors to help my understanding as I was beginning to grasp the concepts of how software development and operations work. They really inspired me in my career, with their patience, willingness to go the extra mile and always being available for my questions. I’ve always been a self learner, their guidance along with my desire to learn really gave me an early boost along my career path and helped shape the person I am today.

How has mentorship impacted your early career?

When starting out besides self-learning I was given tasks to complete. In many scenarios it was very difficult to apply theory to the real world tasks as they were more complex than the examples provided. Having a mentor helped me to get domain knowledge and learn industry best practices. Observing how a mentor would act in certain scenarios and how they would approach problems helped me to develop my soft and technical skills in a real workplace. This gave me a very strong start and gave me a boost in my career which helped me land a dream job in one of the leading software companies in the world. Even after joining a large company, observing and working with the mentors really enabled me to excel in the DevOps field at a larger scale. 

How do you usually set up mentorships?

I believe in forming a bond with my mentees, to really understand their level of experience and their motivations. Once a mentee applies, I setup a remote meeting with them and discuss their goals and what they would like to achieve whilst introducing myself and I explain what they can expect from this mentorship and how payments work. I believe it is important to cover the financial aspect of a mentorship since mentees do generally have a fixed budget and how MentorCruise facilitates that with flexible discounts and plans.

Beyond the first meeting, I encourage mentees to setup a Trello board or Jira board in which I create a personalised road map for them with specific topics that need covering. We then meet up once or twice a week (either remotely or in person) to work through the individual work items making notes to the items so even after the mentorship ends the mentee has comprehensive road map that they can continue to pursue.

What do you typically work on with mentees?

After we have setup a personal development plan, I typically alternate between theory and practical sessions. One week we cover the theoretical aspects of a particular topic, for example DNS. The following week we cover the practical real world scenarios, such as setting up a DNS server, changing DNS entries and what impact they have on the web, delegating DNS over multiple zones. Typically after a topic has been covered, I do a knowledge test to gauge understanding or a mentee brings a problem they are stuck on during their course or at work. We then rinse and repeat until the development plan is covered to the satisfaction of the mentee.

What’s been your favourite mentorship story so far?

My favourite aspect of mentorship is meeting new people and understanding their motivations. Mentees come from different backgrounds, some from completely different professions trying to break into the DevOps space. Many mentees have transferable skills from these professions which already gives them a head start whether that is their soft skills or their technical skills.

One of my success stories was of one of my Mentees who was looking to transition from IT support to DevOps and he managed to land the job within 2 months of him starting the mentorship! I loved how small nudges in the right direction can really have such a positive impact on people being able to get into their professional career.

Who is your ideal mentee?

My ideal mentee is someone who is willing to learn and is motivated to achieve their goals. At the same time every human being is different, people come from different cultures and backgrounds. Understanding the temperament and individual characteristics of a mentee helps me decide if I can help them, as such I general do not like to define a criteria on why I would pick one mentee over another. But having the fundamentals (motivation, willingness, hunger to learn) helps me to cultivate the other qualities that I’d like to call my ideal mentee. My ideal mentee is someone who shows their true personality and acts like themselves.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?

From this Mentorship I get to share some of my work in progress courses and articles and get feedback on them from my audience. I am able to build leadership qualities by coming up with development road maps for individual personal growth which is a sought after skill for an engineering manager role. I am fortunate to meet up and network with amazing people many who have become my friends even after our mentorship has ended, all over the world.


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