First, I really enjoy and appreciate the useful “hands on” style to all your podcasts.
With regards to your mentoring cast, I have a question regarding mentor selection and conflict of interest.
Should you avoid selecting a mentor from another company with which your company does business?
Here is a little background on my situation. I am a Sr. Manager in the Technical Support group for a mid sized, world wide software company. I am based in a small city on the east coast of Canada. I am starting to gain some respect and am being given a fair amount of additional responsibility outside my day to day role. The majority of people I deal with are in the US (both customers and internal, head office is in California).
If I were to look for a mentor within my own company I would have to look to someone based in the US as the only person above me in the local office is my Boss. There are certainly people I respect who would be perfect elsewhere in the company, however face to face meetings would be a little challenging to schedule on a regular basis.
With the small IT community in my area, I would have trouble finding anyone with the type of international experience of the person I am thinking of, and I believe that experience is going to be important.
So here is my perceived issue, this person is the head of a consulting firm that does business with my company, in fact some of his people are on contract to my group, although I was not responsible for setting up the initial contract. I feel this person would be a very positive mentor for me, he has a lot of experience, a high degree of integrity and good work / family balance.
Should I look for another mentor because of this prior business relationship? Do you feel there are boundaries that should not be crossed when selecting a mentor?