The Anti-Mentor

Re-posted from Wise Hilda Knits, a delightful blog written by Kate Atherley aka Wise Hilda. She wrote this post about Michael’s wisdom and mentorship, which many of us have benefited from in the past.

Thank you Kate for letting us share your words.

The Anti-Mentor

Totally off-topic:
This story isn’t about me, but it begins with me.

I used to have another career. In an industry I didn’t really fit into. I liked a lot of the work, but I never felt passionate about what I did, and never really felt like I fit in.

About 15 years ago, my paths crossed with Michael O’Connor Clarke. He hired me to do a job for which I had neither the experience nor the qualifications. I’m still not sure how it turned out for him, but it was terrific for me: I got some amazing experience, learned a whole load of new things, and found myself a mentor.

Michael was my mentor for a few years, helping me out as I muddled my way through, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. And he listened to me and supported me when I went through a difficult time in my personal life.

And then at lunch a few years ago, he delivered his final and best act of mentorship: he told me to go away. We both knew that I was unhappy and hadn’t really found my place in the tech world, but I didn’t have the courage to get out.

He didn’t want to be my mentor anymore because he didn’t want me to be in the position of needing his help. He didn’t want me to be in his industry anymore.

I’m not, and I’m happier and more fulfilled professionally than I ever was in my previous career. And Michael gets credit for helping me make that jump. I’ll forever be grateful to him for that.

It was with shock and sadness that I learned yesterday of his illness. Michael has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, a very aggressive and difficult to treat cancer. I’m still processing this, I’ll be honest. There is a call for support that has been organized by his friends and colleagues.

And old and very dear friend lost his father to brain cancer recently, too. I just don’t know what to say.

Actually, I take that back. I do know what to say: Fuck cancer.

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