Some thoughts on being a good mentor

I have done a good deal of mentored bugs as well as mentoring new Mozillians (gsoc, interns, employees) on their journey.  I would like to share a few things which I have found that make things easier.  Most of this might seem like common sense, but I find it so easy to overlook little details and forget things.

  1. When filing a bug (or editing an existing one), make sure to include:
    • Link(s) to getting started with the code base (cloning, building, docs, etc.)
    • Clear explanation of what is expected in the bug
    • A general idea of where the problematic code is
    • What testing should look like
    • How to commit a patch
    • A note of how best to communicate and not to worry about asking questions
    • Avoid shorthand and acronyms!
  2. Spend a few minutes via IRC/Email getting to know your new friend, especially timezones and general schedule of availability.
  3. Make it a priority to do quick reviews and answer questions – nothing is more discouraging when you have 1 thing to work on and you need to wait for further information.
  4. It is your job to help them be effective – take the time to explain why coding styles and testing are important and how it is done at Mozilla.
  5. Make it clear how their current work plays a role in Mozilla as a whole.  Nobody likes to work on something that is not valued.
  6. Granting access to Try server (or as a contributor to a git repository) really make you feel welcome and part of the team, consider doing this sooner than later.  With this comes the responsibility of teaching them how to use their privileges responsibly!
  7. Pay attention to details- forming good habits up front go a long way!

With those things said, just try to put yourself in the shoes of a new Mozillian.  Would you want honest feedback?  Would you want to feel part of the larger community?

Being a good mentor should be rewarding (the majority of the time) and result in great Mozillians who people enjoy working with.

Lets continue to grow Mozilla!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Some thoughts on being a good mentor

  1. Great to see this post. From my experience, I think that a newcomer generally knows the language, but is unaware of the coding styles and practices and thus there is a bit of fear in him. A good mentor makes him overcome that fear. I agree with the things that you have said. Cheers!

  2. Great post, Joel! Mozilla’s known for having a steep learning curve for newcomers and anything mentors can do to help ease that pain can only help keep them in the fold.

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