40 discussions later

My experience in mentoring
2024-01-10 mentoring


Last September, I ended my 16-years career at Google. I was a manager at Google for the last 3 years, averaging close to 30 hours of meetings per week. I loved brainstorming, coaching and solving problems with my team members and colleagues. After quitting my day job, I ended up with an abrupt social deprivation.

While I love discussing with my family and friends, I missed the technical and career discussions so I decided in mid-October to do an experiment! I created an open door Google Calendar and announced it to my LinkedIn network, without really believing that anyone would sign up. I allowed two registrations per day on the sign up form and opened wide hours as I was not really expecting it to work out.

The response has been overwhelming! I immediately reduced my availability to 1 meeting per day, tighter hours and decided to block the 4th week to make sure I had breathing room. I kept it going for two months until I closed it in mid-December. 46 people signed up within the 8 weeks that the calendar was open. I ended up meeting with 40 people. The only day when no one registered was on Black Friday. 🦃


In the second week, an issue came up: people didn’t show up for the discussion. I got two no-shows at the end of the second week and one on the third week. I took the 4th week off and got one more no-show at the start of the 5th week. This was frustrating to me because I was blocking time, preparing myself and I ended up wasting a significant amount of time.

Me over video conference, ready for a new session

I didn’t feel my time was valued. To counter the problem, in the middle of the 5th week, I started sending a personalized email reminder to attendees one day in advance. I authored the emails on Sundays and used “Send Later” so I wouldn’t have to write an email every single day. This was super effective! I only got two no-shows since I started doing that. While it took me some time to do it manually, it was really worth it. I believe what happened is that people saw the LinkedIn post, got excited and registered with a low friction sign up process but a few days/weeks later they simply forgot about it. Here, “they” specifically refers to men. I ended up with a global no-show rate of 18% for men and 0% for women and non-binary. Take this data point the way you want.


One of my biggest worries when I was deciding to embark on this adventure was to only meet with folks with a very similar background to mine. I was happily surprised, it didn’t end up being the case at all. Folks who signed up had very diverse backgrounds, early careers, ex-coworkers, founders, retired, mid-career folks feeling stuck. A quarter were non-binary or women. It helped me gain perspective on so many different life experiences. I followed up with many by connecting them to other amazing mentors in my professional network when I knew other people from my network could help them more than I could.

So many people showed vulnerability and I’m very thankful for that. Stories of immigrants stood out, they made so many sacrifices to achieve their goals and the lack of safety net was a recurring topic. Many talked about the feeling of loneliness or feeling stuck. It was very emotional. Thanks to the connections I made, I ended up giving a talk about hardware failure stories at Concordia University. I loved connecting with students curious about OS and hardware level programming and I’m grateful to the organizers for inviting me.


While this whole exercise was purely done on a charitable basis, I couldn’t help getting the hiring manager out of me. I estimated I would have likely hired over 40% of the people I talked with if I could. That was significantly higher than what I had expected! I suspect part of this was due to self-selection. Folks who registered must have not been afraid of reaching out to people they don’t know and that’s a trait I found to be very helpful in a successful career.

It has been a truly enriching experience, my experiment went way above my expectations. It requires preparation, time, energy, and a good level of social energy. It’s not the kind of activity where you can just wiggle it and fake it until you make it. If you are interested in doing a similar experiment, first, read a lot. There’s a ton of great books on learning to listen actively, build empathy and become a better coach. Start there. Only then it’s great if you want to challenge yourself professionally.

Testimonials (with permission):

Follow up

It ends up being quite time intensive. As such, I’m not taking new reservations anymore but I’m not closing the door to try this experiment again in the future. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I started consulting part time and it’s quite exciting. If you need help with distributed system performance and profiling, observability, engineering productivity, hardware and OS level engineering, drop me a line.