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First-time mentoring – New Stars of Data

No technical blog post this time. I want to stand still for a moment to something completely different. Last week, on Friday, October 27th, 2023 the New Stars of Data conference had its 7th run.

If you are not familiar with New Stars of Data, this wonderful event is a conference organized by William Durkin and Ben Weissman. The conference’s goal is to give newcomer speakers a virtual stage to present for the very first time. New speakers are paired with a more seasoned speaker for support and guidance.

For me, it was the very first time that I got the opportunity to guide someone to deliver a session. I teamed up with Damien Jones (LinkedIn / Twitter) at the end of June 2023.

During the future months, we met several times via Teams. During meetings, we discussed a variety of things.

First, we started by going through the general idea of the session. To make sure that I knew as well about the intent of the session. Afterward, we started to go through the general session flow.

As soon as we had a general idea of the session flow, we started to work on specific parts of the session. Starting with the first 10 minutes. When I started speaking, I had a mentor, Rob Sewell, who taught me that the first 10 minutes are key for the flow of the remainder of the session. So first we emphasized these first 10 minutes.

Afterward, we continued with the other 40 minutes since we were targeting a 50-minute session with room for 10 minutes of Q&A.

At the end of September, we had the first dry run of the session. I know for a fact that Damien wasn’t happy with his first dry run. Just because a specific section of the demo didn’t work very well. For me on the other hand, I still believe it went pretty well. Finding the parts in the session where he was struggling was very important to me during the first dry run.

This would allow him to make changes to certain sections and would give him motivation to do better during the next dry run.

Finally, we finalized the presentation 2 weeks before the event (at least the slide deck and general flow) which gave Damien 2 additional weeks to prepare and rehearse the presentation.

At the beginning of the week of New Stars of Data, we had our final call. Not to have another dry run but to have a chat about other things. During this chat, we spoke about what the plans were for the last days before the event, and what he was planning to do on the day of the event. During this talk, I tried to give some advice that helps me on days when I’m speaking. Especially since these last moments before and after you’re giving or have given a session are really personal.

On the conference day, his session was scheduled as the closing session of the day. As soon as his session kicked off I enjoyed following the session, every single step during the presentation went well. He handled his very first session with so much confidence.

After the event, I was so glad and proud that everything went fine and that he handled everything so well. A week later, I can look back at a fantastic first-time experience as a mentor. Experiencing the journey that a newcomer makes from start to finish was very rewarding.

I will definitely mentor again in the future!

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