Seek teachers that continue to be taught

In 2002, I signed up to compete in an Ironman Triathlon. I had been participating recreationally in triathlons for a few years and had just completed my first Half Ironman. After watching a friend complete her first Ironman, I figured I should give it a shot. So, in November, I reserved my spot and started planning my year of training. An Ironman is a pretty significant undertaking. The race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a traditional 26.2 mile marathon, executed in sequence all in one day. I wanted to ensure I was prepared for what would no doubt be the biggest physical challenge of my life.

A key component of my training was working with coaches who could teach me how to train for such an extreme endurance event. I considered several factors when looking for a coach: training expertise, triathlon experience, and—most importantly—philosophy on learning. I wanted coaches who were not only strong teachers, but who also valued continued training and education for themselves—a swim coach who participated in masters swim classes, a cycling coach who rode several times a week with a team, and a running coach who trained with a local club. I wanted coaches or teachers who were students too.

Right now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “What does this have to do with me? I’m never going to participate in a triathlon.” While you may not physically participate in a triathlon (though I do encourage you to give it a shot!), there will be many other “triathlons” in your life—your career being one of them. As you undertake those life events, you will need many teachers, mentors, and coaches to help you along the way.

At your first internship or job, or even as an entrepreneur, you will look for mentors. Just as I did with my coaches, you too will choose individuals with experience and expertise. Just as I did, you should consider individuals who continue to work on their own skills through practice—a technology manager who still writes software, or an architect who still builds models. These individuals will come with a unique perspective on your challenge—not just from their professional accomplishments—but from their own experiences as learners.

As you grow in your career, never stop being the student you are today—make time to continue honing the skills you’ve developed, and keep challenging yourself to learn new ones. Every great mentor began as a student, but the greatest mentors are the ones who remain students throughout their lives.

Paul Steven Frio ’92 is a Vice President and Senior Engineer at Goldman, Sachs & Co., as well as a Vice President of the Rensselaer Alumni Association Board of Trustees. He has worked at Goldman Sachs for over 23 years, playing a number of roles in software development, technology management, and technology risk. He received his BS in Industrial Engineering from Rensselaer. You may reach him via Linked In at: frio/0/a73/692.

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