Mentor Spotlight: Chris Williams
Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Today we're talking to Chris Williams (@mistwire), a Multi-Cloud Consultant for WWT. There he helps customers design and deploy the next generation of public, private, and multi-cloud solutions.
Chris is an active community leader, co-organizing the AWS Portsmouth User Group, and both hosts and presents on vBrownBag.com.
Chris is a certified AWS Solutions Architect Professional, an AWS Hero, a VMware Certified Implementation Expert, and a VMware vExpert.
He also blogs about virtualization, technology, and design at mistwire.com.
Hey Chris, could you tell us a little about your career path and what brought you to your current work?
I really really liked playing video games and at college, I had set up a local area network in our dorm room to connect all of our computers so I could play video games with my friends. One day the dean of the CIS department visited our dorm to talk to my roommate. He saw the environment and immediately assumed it was my roommate (given I was a Pre-med student at the time). He was so impressed that he contracted me to setup all the computer networks at the university. It was then I realized I loved IT and didn't want to be Pre-med so I changed to a psych major so I could graduate as quick as possible with my focus to leave college to start my IT career.
You mentioned your love for video games—but do you think there were other reasons you were led to become an Enterprise Cloud Consultant?
I started studying on my own outside of college and as soon as I finished a class, they would ask me to teach classes. So now I'm a cloud consultant for GreenPages and go around the world to help companies set up their infrastructure. I've really come full circle - one of my customers is Warner Brothers and I've helped them with their BatMan video game!
So how did you get into mentoring? How would you describe your approach, and what you try to achieve when working with mentees?
When I was working for Dannon yogurt, they had an internal mentoring program. One day I was helping to design internal data center for the plants and the CTO asked if I was interested in being a mentor. Once I heard more, I was in!
I had been a mentee in the program and learned more about the business side and fleshed out my professional veneer. I was taught how to ask the right questions of the business people, because I could talk to the nerds all day but I wasn't comfortable talking to non-tech people. That was a big deal in terms of my evolution as an architect.
I am the older brother to 5 sisters and two of them are in IT/Tech and I see the challenges they have that I don't have as a tall white guy. I wanted to give back to pass on my knowledge to them. I don't know if I have a particular style - I just talk to them and ask what is it about me that they think can help them.
What’s the biggest buzz you’ve got during your time mentoring?
Whenever I show value and my mentee says "Cool - thanks I didn't even think of that!" and I feel like I helped someone with their life goals.
What would you say that you get from mentoring, both personally and professionally?
I don’t get anything out of it professionally, but personally it is a huge sense of fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment. Anything I can do to give back really gives me a sense of fulfillment after watching the struggles my sisters have gone through.
One word -- verb, noun, adjective, adverb -- that describes a Mentor's role.
Are there any tips you’d give to new mentors who are unsure what they’re letting themselves in for?
Listen - don't walk into the relationship thinking you know what they are going to want or what they should do.
Put yourself in their shoes.
Don’t regurgitate what you did because it's how you lived your life.
And finally, how about mentees who’ve never experienced 1-on-1 mentoring before—do you have any advice on how they can approach the experience to get the maximum benefit from it?
Ask lots and lots of questions.
Even ask the uncomfortable questions – don't be afraid to insult your superiors!
Really get to know your mentor – you are asking their opinion on how to live your life.
Want to know more about being a mentor or hosting your own mentoring program? Give us a shout!