A CEO’s history of mentoring


mentorOne of my interests is virtual mentoring. I have a Google alert set for the term, but I rarely get a result. However, today my alert returned the story on Inside Philanthropy by of Keith Krach, who is just  now stepping down as CEO of Docusign.  He’s a very successful serial entrepreneur, having started and sold two high tech firms before joining Docusign as CEO in 2012.

After he leaves Docusign he is planning on focusing on philanthropy, mentorship, and education. Mentors played a critical role in Keith’s career:

“I look at my career after General Motors. I came out and, my God, I just had so many great mentors,” Krach said. One of those mentors was John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco Systems, the tech giant.

“He was saying, you know, ‘Keith, you can ask my any question, any question you like.’ Which I did,” Krach said. “And about a year into it, I said, ‘Why? Why are you doing this for me?’”

Krach said Chambers told him that when he first came out to California, another CEO had done the same for him. “And so he goes,” Krach says, “‘Keith, I don’t ask for anything in return. I just ask that you mentor the next guy and pay it forward.’”

Mentoring the “next guy” will be the focus of Krach’s second—or third, depending on who’s counting—act. In addition to his support of City Year, an organization dedicated to mentoring vulnerable kids, Krach plans to start the Virtual Mentor Network. He hopes to nurture the next generation of leaders through a free, online mentoring network that will connect young people with leaders in different fields.

The vast majority of mentors I’ve met and worked with have achieved a degree of success and believe it’s their turn to  “pay it forward.” What different about mentoring today from when Keith Krach transition from the automobile industry to the high industry is the formalization of the process via incubators, accelerators, and academic mentoring programs like MIT VMS, which has now created 87 sister programs around the world!

It appears that the Virtual Mentor Network has yet to launch, but Google will be keeping an eye out for me. In the meantime, I’m sure there will be plenty of stories of interest about the mentoring of high tech entrepreneurs and there’s something to be learned from all of them.


Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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