I can't remember if I am in my third or fourth year as an SAP Mentor. Whichever it is, time is flying by.
During that period I've been privileged to meet and learn from some of the brightest, congenial people I know. And in all the years I've been in and around SAP - which goes back to about 1994 - I've probably learned more in the last few years than at any other time.
There is no current time limit on serving as a Mentor but I think there comes a moment when it is time to move on. As volunteers, we're not tenured and I don't believe in elitism being bestowed either on a temporary or permanent basis. I also believe that an ever expanding group of Mentors runs the risk of losing its heart and soul that has to date been bound by an intimacy among 100 or so people.
If the program was to grow substantially in number, I sense that intimacy would be lost, that value would decline and that ultimately, like all large organisations, silos of people would emerge. I can't imagine SAP enjoying the prospect of that occurring.
In other words, the very things that make the Mentor program so good for all concerned would be lost. And with it, SAP would be the biggest loser.
But should Mentors simply drift away or suddenly be chopped out of the program after a specified period of time? Neither seems appealing and especially not when so many great relationships are formed along the way.
I prefer to think that SAP could establish an alumni program. It doesn't have to be that complicated. Neither does it have to be funded to the extent that the Mentor program receives an allocation from SAP. But it would serve to allow SAP Mentors the opportunity to decide whether they wish to continue in a semi formal program that brings people together while allowing SAP to both maintain contact and, at the same time benefit from past experience.
If SAP is able to work this out then it also provides a clean mechanism by which Mentors will both know the limits of their expected commitment. It would also serve as an incentive for SAP to hunt out the next generation of bright minds.
In short, an alumni program tied to clear time periods for serving as an SAP Mentor provides SAP with a system of constant renewal, fresh thinking and a way of keeping the program valuable to everyone.
As to myself? Regardless of what SAP decides, I've reached that point where I think my time as a Mentor is coming to an end. I have therefore decided that once this year's crop of TechEds are out the way, then I will bow out.
It wasn't a difficult decision and yes, there is a tinge of sadness. But I'd like to set the example of stepping aside and let someone who I'm sure is far better than I, to step in and take a turn.
I wont be going away...I will simply take a different role - whatever that might be. And yes, I will maintain the solid relationships I've built over the years. Those are too valuable to let die.