What makes a good mentor-mentee relationship within the framework of the Drupal Career Online (DCO)?
- Set up a consistent, scheduled meeting time. For example, agree to talk on Skype every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am EDT. This is the best way to ensure open lines of communication. Furthermore, set some informal ground rules for communication. Both mentors and mentees are busy people, so please show respect and restraint. All mentors have agreed to spend 1-2 hours per week working with their mentees, please don't abuse them!
- Focus on building a relationship with each other before diving into setting goals and expectations. Little tidbits you share about each other's lives and personality will provide perspective and respect for each other.
- Determine both short- and long-term goals for the mentee. Examples of short terms goals include fully understanding (with confidence!) the concept of entities/bundles/fields, working in the drupal.org issue queue, or making a first Drupal community documentation contribution. Long term goals could include an independent web site or a Drupal community patch contribution.
- Discuss each other's expectations. Mentees should not expect mentors to be at their beck and call 24/7 (this is why consistent, scheduled meeting times are key), nor should mentors be considered a hotline for DCO homework assignments or projects. Mentors, on the other hand, should understand that the first few weeks of the DCO are a bit of a "firehose to the brain" for students. Use these first few weeks to help us cement Drupal core concepts in the students' minds by suggesting complementary activities, such as core documentation improvements or alternative exercises to help students gain the confidence they'll need moving forward.
- Mentors should lead by example, asking the mentees where their pain points are, what Drupal niches they’re interested in, and look for ways to guide the mentee down meaningful paths. Set goals for the mentee to contribute something (code, documentation, meetup organization) back to the community.
- The mentor should consider themselves a guide to the Drupal community for the mentee. If the mentee hasn’t been part of an open-source community before, they’re likely require some guidance in navigation and communication. They should be encouraged to ask questions on IRC, update documentation on drupal.org, attend local Drupal events, and to learn use the community as a networking tool.
- If the mentor is a code or documentation contributor to the Drupal community, then they should encourage the mentee to participate in that activity as a means of growing their experience.
- Mentors should always provide “best practices” advice and solutions to questions.
- Mentees should list their mentors on their Drupal.org user profile (via the “Drupal” sub-tab on your Drupal.org user profile “edit” page).
Students (mentees): it is crucial to understand that mentors are meant to provide guidance in your Drupal journey, not step-by-step directions. Look to them to provide perspective, be a sounding board, and to provide you with a valuable "sanity check" as you grow your skills. Leverage your mentor's knowledge and experience to help you evaluate options and avoid common pitfalls. Resist the urge to pepper your mentor with questions throughout the week, instead, compile a list of potential questions, and utilize the scheduled face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) time.
Mentors: please remember that, in some cases, your mentee's first hands-on experience with Drupal was probably just a few short weeks ago. Remember how you felt when you were first learning Drupal; all of the questions, confusion, and uncertainty that you had - this is how many of our students feel during the first few weeks of our program. The DCO focuses mainly on Drupal core for the first five weeks. We cover the "big five" Drupal fundamentals (content types, menus, blocks, users/roles/permissions, and taxonomy) in a repetitive fashion, diving a little bit deeper each time we revisit a topic. Along the way, we introduce various contrib modules to help extend and reinforce these main five concepts. Ask your mentees about what they're doing in class. Ask them pointed questions about their understanding of these topics. When you feel that they're ready, suggest community contributions or alternative exercises that will help reinforce and extend their knowledge. If you maintain a module or theme, show them how to get involved in your issues queue or make suggestions on areas of research that can help you both - for example, have them investigate what the options are for responsive HTML tables. As your mentee gains knowledge and confidence, use it to both of your advantages!
Once again, we're so fortunate to have an amazing group of community mentors, I can't thank each of you enough. If anyone has any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly. Good luck!