Don't blow off mentor shadowing

Having just finished mentor month for two Techstars programs, an opportunity that Hackstars/Associates don’t necessarily appreciate is mentor shadowing.  Essentially, during the first month of Techstars, Hackstars/Associates should FIGHT tooth and nail to shadow mentors.  Here’s why:

Learning how to think like a mentor

I spent three years learning Spanish in high school, but I could never get the knack of it.  And then I spent a summer in Costa Rica on foreign exchange, and everything changed; I learned to think in Spanish.  And that’s when I realized the value of learning not what to think, but how to think.

Accordingly, shadowing mentors is an opportunity to learn how to think.  Want to be an entrepreneur? - then shadow an operator and see what questions are asked.  VC? - same thing.  If you shadow enough of the same industry types, you’ll learn to think like them as well.

Opportunity to demonstrate value

When you’re shadowing, you get to spend virtually the entire day with a mentor.  And instead of taking notes, you can add value by contributing to the conversation; help the mentor understand the team better if the conversation isn’t nearly as polished as it could be.  If you do this, the mentor gets more value out of their interactions, and allows you shine even more.

Taking good notes = training to think analytically

When I was a management consultant, everyone learned how to take notes towards the beginning of their career.  And very quickly, everyone learned that taking good notes is a key skill; it’s the ability to synthesize information quickly, and present it in a format that’s easily understood by meeting attendees.

Pretty soon, that ability to take goodnotes extends to learning how to extrapolate good insights from any live conversation, on the fly.  As a result, insights are more easily remembered and one learns how to add more value to any conversation on the spot.  Nothing trains you better to do so than starting from the fundamentals of taking notes.