Finding a mentor can be a difficult process. However, when you do find a good match, it can be an incredible opportunity to grow and have doors opened for you that would otherwise remain closed.

When I was setting out to become a data scientist, one of the first things I did was reach out to my network for introductions to data scientists. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of different data scientists across several industries, one of which ended up referring me to their team at Apple. In this post I wanted to write about how you should approach finding a data science mentor.

Find Common Ground

The first thing when trying to do when trying to find a mentor is to identify common ground. This could be anything ranging from college connection, to an interest in a particular technology. I recommend looking at any public profiles your potential mentor has, so you can demonstrate that you did some research before reaching out to them. My heuristic is that if I can replace my name with someone elses, and the message stays the same, then it’s likely a copy+pasted outreach and the person is less likely to respond.

Be Direct

One of the worst things you can do is message someone to “pick their brain”. In most cases the person you’re reaching out to is likely very busy and so if you don’t have a specific ask in mind that this person is able to answer, then you should hold off on messaging them until you do.

Come Prepared

Once you have your first meeting set, come prepared! If the person you’re talking to has a blog, read their posts to see if you have something you can talk about there. Once you do get advice, take action on it and then follow up later letting them know how your advice worked out for them.

Also, it depends on the person but I generally think asking someone to formally be your mentor may be a bit over the top. Instead, you can simply ask if they’d be open to you following up in the following months with any questions that come up.

Once you have a mentor and you’ve started to establish yourself, remember to pay it forward by mentoring others as well.