Friday, June 21, 2024

Mentoring Program for Code Contributors

Yesterday, I announced a call for applications for a new mentoring program for PostgreSQL code contributors that I'm trying to start. I'm posting this on my blog as well for better visibility, and also to offer a few more comments and thoughts on this general topic of mentoring.

I've recently had the opportunity to talk to a number of people, mostly committers, about why they persevered as PostgreSQL developers. After all, it's grueling work. As far as I can recall, every single one of those people told me that what caused them to stick around was that they got meaningful positive feedback of some sort. The details varied:

- Someone told them that their work was good.

- Someone took an interest in getting a major patch they had written committed.

- They unexpectedly were made a committer.

What I'm hoping is that an effort like this can help increase the chances of such positive interactions, and maybe create opportunities for new types of positive interactions that will also make people feel supported on their PostgreSQL hacking journey. I'm hopeful that it will help to democratize access: some promising developers work at companies where there are few or no current committers, and so probably have less access to mentoring than people who work at companies where there are a bunch of committers already. And even for people working at companies that employ a bunch of committers, they probably have much more knowledge of what their colleagues think about their work than about what other people think about their work.

I'm sure that it's going to be a bit messy. This is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that anyone has tried to organize something like this in the PostgreSQL community, so ... we don't know what we're doing. Each mentor and each mentee will likely go about this a bit differently, and some of those approaches will turn out to be much better than others. A bunch of things will go wrong, as happens any time you try to organize a large group of people to do anything (including, say, go out to lunch).

Furthermore, we don't have the capacity to give everyone who would like it 1:1 mentoring at this time. Nine committers volunteered to act as mentors, largely I think on the understanding that they'd be asked to mentor people who are already fairly well established on pgsql-hackers, but I've already got more than nine applications, and a good number of them are from people who don't participate regularly on pgsql-hackers at all. I don't think those people are going to be a good fit for this particular effort, but I'm thinking hard about what else we could do for them. The very fact that all of those people read my email and responded to it within 24 hours of it being posted shows that there are people who are currently not participating in PostgreSQL development who might do so with the right support. I'm not sure whether we can give them that, let alone how, but I think we should try to figure it out.

Thanks to all who responded, as well as to those who volunteered as mentors, volunteered to help me organize this, or just said something nice. More soon.

1 comment:

  1. My first thought is that you're better off getting existing contributors up to the level that they can mentor people too. Focus on the people that are nearly there _and_ interested in joining your mentor pool. The larger your mentor pool, the less drain it will be on a mentor's time and energy, and the more people the group can mentor.