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Mentoring New Requirement Analysts

I have recently had the joy of working with several of our newer (OK – you can read that as much younger) requirement analysts that have joined Seilevel in the past few months.  I have always enjoyed working with individuals who are just entering or have recently entered the workforce.  The energy they bring, the optimism, the lack of bad habits, the eagerness to learn…it all makes it fun and enjoyable.

So when mentoring new team members, especially ones that are relatively new to the workforce, there are a number of skills that must be taught, skills that are above and beyond how to write a good requirements statement.  One thing to remember, these young professionals do not know many of the very necessary skills that many of us take for granted.  We forget how we learned those skills…perhaps through a mentor (if you were lucky), but most likely through life experiences.

  • Time Management – This is probably the most important skill to learn (and one that I’m always trying to improve upon myself).
    • The most basic concept with time management is never be late.   Anticipate your commute.  If it is raining, know it will take longer.  Monday mornings have heavier traffic than Friday mornings.
    • Even for conference calls, be early.  Allow yourself time to resolve unexpected technology issues.
    • Learn to prioritize tasks and projects.  If you are not sure what your priorities should be, ask.
    • Realize people tend to estimate optimistically.  When asked how long it will take to complete a task, realize this…and add some time to your estimate.
  • Email Etiquette – Understand that emails are not the same as texting.
    • Use complete sentences and proper grammar/punctuation.
    • Remember that emails live forever.  Do not send an email that you would be embarrassed to see again.
    • Take time to proof-read.  Spell check is not proof-reading.  Spell check will ensure that the wrong words are spelled correctly.
  • Meeting Minutes – Learn to take good meeting minutes.  This can be very hard, especially when it is important to capture the main points of the discussion as well as any decisions made and action items assigned.  Meeting minutes are not the same as taking notes in a class.  Practice and ask for reviews from peers and constructive criticism.
  • Research, Research, Research – Google is your friend, use it.  As a new professional, and even for anyone who enters into an unfamiliar content area, there is a lot to learn.  Take the initiative to research new terminology.  The internet offers a ton of information at your finger tips.  Ask questions of your peers for concepts you do not understand.  Do not be afraid to admit that you need to clarify your understanding.
  • Dress Code – Every organization has a dress code, be it causal, business causal or professional.  Understand what that dress code is and stay one notch above it.  This does not mean wear a suit when everyone else is in jeans and t-shirts, but it does mean do not wear jeans with holes in them.  Remember that you are projecting the image of your organization.  A good rule of thumb is if you question if an outfit is appropriate, it probably is not.
  • Deliverable Polish – Deliverable polish is the little things that can make a deliverable appear professional.
    • Spell Check – this goes without saying.
    • Proof-read – as I mentioned before, spell check is not proof reading.  Make sure that you are communicating what you intend.  Are you clear?  Did you use the proper words?  Get someone else to take a look at your deliverable.  A second set of eyes can pick up on the little things that you may miss.
    • Formatting matters.  While it may sound silly to say that formatting matters…it does.  You want your reader to focus on the content of your deliverable, not get confused with bullets, paragraphs, line spacing, etc.  Give your format some thought, and be consistent.
  • Presentation Skills – Public speaking is always difficult, and may never come easy for some people.  But with practice, it can become less difficult.
    • Find opportunities to practice.  Research a topic within your field, and present to your peers.
    • Learn PowerPoint.  Putting together an effective slide deck is just as hard as delivering the presentation.  Your slides should compliment your presentation, not be the presentation.
    • Organize your presentation appropriately.  Tell your audience what they will learn, present your material, and finish by summarizing (and reminding your audience) what your key points were.
    • Practice your presentation before giving it.  This could be practicing to yourself in front of a mirror, to a friend or a significant other or to a small group of peers.  Practicing allows you to work out some of the rough spots, as well as help smooth some of your jitters.
  • Non-Verbal Communication – Learn to read non-verbal communication.
    • Voice intonations can tell you a lot.  It helps tell if you if the person was asking a question or making a statement or is perhaps confused or angry.
    • In a meeting, look at how people are sitting.  Are they leaning forward and paying attention?  Or are they checking their email on their smart phone?
    • Look for eye-contact.  Lack of eye-contact can indicate that someone is uncomfortable with a decision or a discussion.
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