10 years of the ‘Tiger Way’: Building a culture of mentorship

Author: Santhanakrishnan Ramabadran

Throughout the initial decade of being in business, Tiger Analytics has been fortunate to have a faster pace of growth, and opportunities to solve high-impact business problems for global clients. Of the many things that made it possible, a personalized approach to people development & collaboration stands out as unique.

It is a solid foundation that allows individuals with diverse skills to come together and function as a unit. This foundation, called the ‘Tiger Way’, is a clear articulation of our value system, roles & responsibilities, and ways of working. It is not a rigid code, but a set of guidelines that help navigate known, and sometimes even unknown, situations.

In my view, the mentorship program at Tiger Analytics embodies many of the principles that underlie the Tiger Way. In short, it shapes the individuals who make the company what it is.

Enabling holistic growth

Skills — both hard and soft — are carefully evaluated during the hiring process. Continuous training aids further development of skills. Mentorship, on the other hand, focuses on translating skills & competencies into a consistent demonstration of desirable behavior and outcomes in a broad range of work situations.

Right during my first week at Tiger, I could see the organization had many of the foundational aspects of mentorship very right. Along the way, it evolved and integrated very well into our people development and performance management framework which was developed through a tight collaboration of leaders from delivery and HR and has the following building blocks. You could see where & how mentorship fits in.

1. Career stream design – Early on, we recognized delivering high-quality analytics solutions require the development of capabilities in two key areas:
a) Technical career streams like data science, data engineering, ML engineering, application engineering, etc.
b) Consulting & Program delivery career streams like analytics consulting and technology consulting.

More new streams within these two key areas may evolve over time, in line with the needs of the industries we serve.

2. Stream-wise role descriptions – An essential part of enabling the steady personal and professional growth of employees is ensuring that roles are well-defined early on. This is addressed via clear job descriptions for each role within the 3 broad role groups: individual contributors, leads, and partners.

3. Competencies and competency-level definitions – Mastering competencies (e.g. problem discovery, solution design, model development & validation, data integration) is not a point in time activity. Most of these evolve over longer periods of time. Defining the levels of proficiency for each skill or competency helps individuals understand where they are (starting point), train, practice what they learn, and evolve over time.

4. Role-to-competency maps – A collection of competencies along with their proficiency levels serves as a clear map for a person performing a particular role. This also helps in understanding the (level of) proficiencies that are expected to be demonstrated as individuals grow.

5. Personalized mentorship – Articulating all these in the form of documents and just leaving it out there is not enough. As we continue to grow, it is important to ensure it is not just about learning new skills or competencies but to translate those into tangible outcomes for clients, career development for individuals, and as a derivative firm growth for Tiger Analytics. The mentorship process achieves this by a) ensuring regular engagement with individuals to help them understand their preparedness for the current roles, and b) providing inputs that help individuals to “continuously evolve and be better versions of themselves”

Key aspects of mentorship at Tiger Analytics

Mentorship works slightly differently across various streams with varying sizes – data science vs. engineering vs. analytics consulting, and even between locations (off-shore vs onsite). The core principles, though, remain consistent.

– A mentor is assigned early in an individual’s journey at Tiger

– Mentors have an opportunity to observe their mentees over a long period of time (some of the mentor-mentee relationships are more than 5 years.)

– The mentor may or may not be the lead or manager of the mentee’s current project.

– Mentors help mentees adapt well to the organization by helping them understand how their role fits into the big picture.

– Mentors regularly benchmark the proficiency levels of their mentees on relevant competencies: through independent observations and discussions with the project teams

– Mentors engage in dialogue with mentees to help convert the outcome of such benchmarking exercises into a comprehensive development plan. Areas for improvement, the pace of action, and the ideal sequence are provided as personalized recommendations. This ensures it is achievable and builds confidence and motivation through smaller successes all along the way.

– The mentorship approach is calibrated as an individual grows in their career. As a mentee moves from an individual contributor to a lead role group and from lead to a partner role group, the focus of mentorship goes well beyond technical competencies and transforms into a personalized approach to leadership development.

– Mentees become mentors too, as they grow. Donning their mentor hat, they give what they receive, contributing to developing people.

Talk the walk

While the aim here is to provide just a quick glimpse of the thoughts that shaped the mentorship process at Tiger Analytics, it would also be good to hear from some of the mentees and mentors who have experienced it a lot more intimately. Stay tuned for that.

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