Unlocking Your Potential With Mentoring

The Linux Foundation Spring Mentorship Program is now underway. This is a great opportunity for students and developers looking to improve their skills and get more involved in open source projects. But what exactly is a mentorship?

Read on to learn what Jono Bacon, leading speaker on community and author of People Powered: How communities can supercharge your business, brand, and teams, has to say.

You’ve probably been hearing the term “mentorship” for as long as you’ve been alive. The generations that are now of working age in 2021 have added to it technologically and expanded on how they can be executed. Technology has also opened the doors for new mentorship opportunities, especially in technical skills like open source development.

New industries, and therefore mentorship opportunities, are popping up every day because the world needs more people with specialized knowledge. That’s good news for anyone entering a new industry.


What Is Mentoring?

Still, in 2021, what does mentoring really mean? The Linux Foundation expands on the definition used by the Association for Talent Development,

“Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative at-will relationship that most often occurs between open source experts and new developers for the purpose of the mentee’s growth, learning, and career development and adding new talent to open source projects for their health and sustainability.”

To further that definition, not all mentorships are created equal. There are ways to be more or less formal about the arrangement, depending on many factors. The key difference when it comes to the formality of the arrangement relates to the boundaries.

In a more formal mentoring relationship, a mentor might set strict goals and deadlines with the mentee, whereas an informal relationship might be more open-ended and self-guided by the mentee. Also, some mentorships are paid, and some are not. What you choose will be dependent on your goals and circumstances.

Something that’s always consistent about mentorships, however, is that there are countless benefits to taking part in one.


The Benefits

Networking opportunities, insider perspective, closing skill gaps, and being in the right place at the right time are just a few major benefits that mentorships can afford you, especially in hyper-competitive niches like tech.

Networking potential itself is worth its weight in gold. Your mentorship experience will expose you to an entirely new pool of contacts and knowledge! This can open lots of new doors for you, and it’s a much more natural way to network as opposed to networking events.

For example, the Hyperledger Mentorship Program was created specifically to educate new-to-tech mentees on their blockchain software know-how, while also exposing them to industry leaders they’d otherwise never get to meet. As a remote program, offering networking opportunities is a huge value to offer mentees who might never see such chances.

The pressure to be in the right place at the right time can feel enormous at times in your career, and that’s why being around the right people and the right industry training is so important.

Another way mentorships can benefit you is by granting access to resources during a very important time in your career. The pressure to be in the right place at the right time can feel enormous at times in your career, and that’s why being around the right people and the right industry training is so important.

Linux Kernel Mentorship Program on the LFX Mentorship platform

For example, the Linux Foundation offers a mentorship working on Linux Kernel that, upon completion, will provide access to career opportunities and relationships in tech. Last year, eight mentees graduated from the Linux kernel bug fixing project, and one mentee is now a project maintainer. This is just one case where these programs are offering mentees the hard skills they need, and the right resources to put them to use.

Getting a mentor also offers an insider perspective to a career you think you may want to pursue! This can be enlightening to make sure you’re not diving into something you don’t know you enjoy. There is so much that learning a topic in school simply doesn’t prepare you for. Mentorships will provide you first hand experience within an industry, and that’s something only time can teach! That’s part of why the Open Mainframe Project has started their own mentorship program, focused on building the mainframe engineers of tomorrow.

You’ll have a serious leg up in an interview by showing that you’ve gone the extra mile to learn the programs they already run.

Finally, being mentored is a way to identify skill gaps that were not addressed in college. In many ways, a mentorship will offer you a head start over your competitors in the job market by providing you with a skill few other applicants have yet. You’ll have a serious leg up in an interview by showing that you’ve gone the extra mile to learn the programs they already run.

There are many different ways to structure a mentoring situation, with few wrong ways to do it. Whichever form of mentorship you may pursue, it’s a winning choice! You never know what you’ll learn, or what you’ll be inspired by within a mentorship opportunity. However, you can always be sure it will make you a stronger applicant.


Mentoring at the Linux Foundation

The Linux Foundation has a three-pronged approach to mentoring, which provides you with unstructured webinars, training courses, and structured mentoring programs. All of these efforts combine to advance a diverse, healthy, and vibrant open source community.

The Linux Foundation Mentorship Program was expanded last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing support for programs that help displaced people and less visible projects focused on tackling the crisis. Since then, it’s become an invaluable resource for students whose traditional internships were canceled due to the pandemic, as well as smaller projects tackling critical problems such as contact tracing and climate change.

Additionally, over the past several months the Linux Foundation has launched the LF Live Mentorship Series, morphing its speed mentorship style format into an expanded webinar format. This series compliments traditional mentorship programs, tackling specific technical areas in software development in 90-minute virtual sessions.

Of course, mentorship programs can only be as successful as the people who participate. This is why the Linux Foundation has built a self-service platform, LFX Mentorship, where anyone can come in and start their project. Since its launch in 2019, it has become an invaluable tool for mentees to find open opportunities, manage their progress in a mentorship program, and connect with their mentors.

The LFX Mentorship program has received 4,900+ applications, with 190+ mentees being accepted, and 270+ active mentors participating. In addition, $530,000 in stipends have already been distributed through the program.

Do you want to get involved? The Linux Foundation hosts mentorship programs seasonally, so there are plenty of opportunities to join. The Spring mentorship program is currently underway, and applications for the Summer program will start on April 15th. Be sure to check back regularly for open mentorship opportunities.