by Katherine Walsh

The Importance of a Mentor to an Up-and-Coming IT Leader

May 01, 20072 mins
CareersIT Leadership

A Ones to Watch winner from 2005 acts as mentor to one of the 2007 winners

Erik Keller, VP of application development at moving services provider Sirva and a 2007 Ones to Watch honoree, doesn’t believe in the old adage “Those who can’t do, teach.” That’s because Keller’s mentor, Eric Dirst, is not only a teacher but also an accomplished leader. Dirst himself earned a Ones to Watch award in 2005; now Sirva’s CIO, Dirst wants to help Keller reach a CIO position too.

Keller credits much of his success to his relationship with his mentor. “The fact that he was a Ones to Watch winner and moved into a CIO role set a good baseline for our relationship. As I moved into my current role, he knew how he liked to be mentored and was able to apply that.”

Dirst has shared valuable insight into Sirva’s corporate culture, Keller says, which helped him make strategic decisions related to IT, as well as learn the best way for IT to communicate with the business.

Healthy mentor/mentee relationships are all about communication and respect, Keller says. Keller was reporting to the COO and not working directly in IT when he met Dirst, so they were able to build a nonmanager relationship first, which Keller says helped establish an atmosphere of respect that continued once Dirst became his boss.

As for communication, “You need to help your mentor understand what you’re looking for from the relationship and the kind of feedback you need,” he advises.