Iron sharpens Iron
by Aaron Russell (Check out his interview here)
When I was kid, I remember my youth pastor sharing a verse with me that states “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Each year, this verse resonates with me just a little bit more than the previous. I feel the weight of these words and have really begun to grasp their meaning as I reflect on my life experiences and those individuals who have edified and invested in me. I have found that there is a pattern that exists. Each accomplishment in my life was preceded by someone sacrificing their time to share their knowledge with me.
When I ran track and field, it was my high school coach and my college track teammate who was an elite athlete. When I was in college pursuing a career in investment banking, it was my finance teacher that helped me prepare for interviews, gave me advice, and allowed me to use him as a reference. When I worked at an investment bank, a few of my peers took the time to help develop my skill sets, even if that meant falling behind on their projects at times and staying at work later than they normally would. When I first joined the tech industry, there were a few engineers and the founder of the company I worked for at the time that helped ease the career transition from finance to telecom and put me in the position to be a contributor. So, who were these people? They were each a mentor at various stages of my life.
This summer, Fortune.com gathered demographic data of multiple tech companies. Although some improvements are being made in increasing ethnic diversity in tech, there is a common theme: the industry still has a long road ahead. I find that sharing my story and passing on the knowledge that I’ve accumulated throughout my career to those who aspire to work in tech is the greatest resource that I can contribute to this effort to increase diversity. By spreading that wealth of knowledge that you have accumulated, you position the next generation for future success, equipping them with the life tools that they’ll need on their journey. There’s a person out there who needs to hear your story and your voice. Whether it is ensuring that your name and contact information are listed in your college’s alumni directory, volunteering at local organizations, finding opportunities to speak, helping a new work colleague get acclimated, or just encouraging someone, find a way to be a mentor…because iron sharpens iron, and someone out there needs your help to break into tech!