If you can’t see the value in that site, let me explain.
Balance and Entertainment
I’ve been helping people since I’ve started teaching classes in 2006 and I’ve always enjoyed that. It’s challenging to explain a concept, technology or an idea to someone else and it’s a process that actually entertains and educates both sides. If you’re a senior engineer with a team formed by seniors, try getting a junior on board and get him involved in the project planning process – you might get surprised by some plain and simple ideas suggested by the freshman while you were considering few layers of abstraction and design patterns that wouldn’t be needed anytime soon in that project.
Remember you very first year in the industry? I’ve had a few “first years” and every time I had to start from scratch. Catching up with the “big guys” in a new industry/field, learn dozens of new things, prove myself, get better, learn a lot, don’t fail, keep up with projects, etc. Nowadays, if I could see the virtual spark in the eye of a newbie developer or a freelancer, I’d be happy to share my experience and help them avoid the casual mistakes that I learned the hard way.
Ever since I stepped into the PHP world after a few years of Java development, I was surprised by the amount of freelancing gigs coming my way for fixing ridiculous projects. Critical code quality, exceptions and notices, useless code. It was easier to say that the code works in some “edge cases” rather than “breaking after clicking 72 consecutive steps in a given number of clicks”.
Whenever a mentee is asking for best practices and improving his/her code skills, I’m more than happy to help. If my freelance or business expertise could contribute to a new member who is actively looking for help, then why not?
Improve the Community
The WordPress community is getting more open to new contributors: creating handbooks for developers, improving the codex, rearranging the Core Trac components, adapting tickets for newbie core contributors, increasing the number of annual WordCamps around the world (and meetup groups). Mentoring folks is a great way to monitor the progress of new community members and help them start the right way. It’s easier to shape these relationships at the beginning.
My Agenda and Flow
What I like about the mentorship program is that it’s individual. There are mentors in different areas (both geographically and niche-wise) and each expert has a different approach.
After trying different ways to help my students over the years, I’ve found out a single process that works for the type of people I like to work with. I enjoy working with smart people, fast learners, individual and motivated. People who don’t need constant monitoring or someone holding their hand all day.
We start with an intro email and a test video/chat where I assess both the person and my ability to help out in the given field. Then we schedule our sessions twice a month, in the course of a few months (usually 3-9 months). Depending on the type of mentorship, we tend to break into two sections: development or freelance.
As an “old school” developer I believe that basics are the king and getting involved with plugin/platform development without an in-depth knowledge of data structures, concepts of different programming languages, OOP, basic computer architectures and algorithms is impossible. So part of the program is finding the weak points based on existing products and planning for homework. Over the next sessions we could revise the progress and solve some tasks, proceed with code reviews, plan a plugin development process or anything related to that, as the Open Source culture is also a must (personal requirement).
The freelance mentorship also involves a review of the current progress of the mentee – existing profiles in networks, social presence, Open Source projects, community involvement etc. Depending on the type of freelance we plan for use cases (local or remote), improving online profiles, the process of bidding, rates, portfolios and other relevant components.
Dear mentees: Everything is subjective and that’s the good news here (see my Reading the Leaders post). My advise is to apply with a mentor that you respect. Don’t go blindly and apply to several mentors at the same time – do your homework and define your goals. Apply only if you’re serious about your life and future – don’t waste their time either.
Dear WordPress experts: consider dedicating a small portion of your time for a huge impact to the community.