Mentoring at DrupalCon - Fostering a New Generation of Contributors

People lifting Drupal drop doodle

DrupalCon is more than just a conference for networking and learning; it provides an avenue for contributing back to the project during code/contribution sprints. Being a beginner to the issue queue can be daunting and overwhelming. With the help of mentors, novices can get the tools and support they need to jump in and start contributing.

Chris, AmyJune, Daniel, and John took it upon themselves to volunteer as mentors at the DrupalCon Nashville Sprints and we thought we’d share their afterthoughts to empower others to help with mentoring in the future.

Chris:

Never having mentored before, I signed up for mentoring on a whim... Mostly because I felt it was something everyone should try to do to help out, in as much as their abilities allow, but also for all the glory that would be bestowed upon us mythical beings at the end of the week.

DrupalCon Nashville Sprint mentos meeting in the morning

Photo credit: David Needham

Seeing that I spend most of my professional life in the land of D7, that I was wary about how much I could contribute, and that I was rather worried about messing up and giving the wrong advice, I started off helping people get set up. Having the Sprint Package was incredibly handy for getting people on a standardized setup, one that I was able to test and retest earlier on in the week to find all of the 'issues'. For the few that wanted to do something different, where I wasn't able to help, there was always someone else around to give a hand, so I never felt like I had to resort to spending 20 minutes on Google trying out different solutions!

From there moving to the first time sprint workshop and helping a team work on some issues collaboratively, reminded me that you don't need to be a D8 guru to help out. Most of the issues were not particularly D8 related, and had us looking for answers in accessibility, finding and reporting new bugs, and working on small CSS fixes. I really enjoyed the energy in the room, the fact that people left feeling as inspired as I had on my first sprint workshop various years ago, and that I had been part of that.

AmyJune:

I love contributing to the Drupal issue queue. I enjoy the feeling that comes along with knowing I am moving the Drupal project closer to perfection. Even more than that, I love sharing my knowledge with others, so volunteering to mentor at the sprints was a no-brainer. I don't spend the majority of my time coding, but I have been an active participant in the issue queue for over 2 years. Sharing what I know and inspiring others who are either new to tech or who have roles that have traditionally prevented them from contributing is the real reason I chose to mentor.

Early in the week, Dan and I sat at the Mentoring booth in the expo hall and invited all who would listen to the Friday sprints. We encouraged people from all backgrounds to swing by and check it out.

Dan and AmyJune sitting at the DrupalCon Mentoring table talking with a potential sprinter.

Photo credit: Mike Gifford

I started Friday by welcoming sprinters and directing them to either the First Time Sprinter Workshop if they needed help setting up their local, the Mentored Sprint Room, or the General Sprints. From there, I moved to the First Time Workshop and the Mentored Sprint Room to help folks contribute to documentation. Documentation is so important, it removes a huge hurdle to entry. It’s difficult to feel empowered when you’re lost from the beginning, so helping others to improve documentation feels especially good.

Daniel:

Dan helping a sprinter at DrupalCon Nashville First Time Sprinter Workshop

Photo credit: David Needham

I chose to volunteer because I really enjoy working with the Drupal community. It’s a great way for people to meet other developers and non-developers alike. There is a lot we can learn from one another. We all have different perspectives and hearing/seeing how someone else does something could be a great learning experience for both mentor and mentee. The same goes for general collaboration in the community. I enjoy reaching out with questions to the Drupal slack channels and reading feedback on issues in the issue queues. I love learning from others and seeing things from different perspectives.

Of course, being a mentor is also rewarding. I enjoy the feeling of helping someone learn something new that potentially unblocks them at work or breaks down a barrier to the community contrib space. I enjoy helping as a way of paying it forward for those that helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am without their help.

John:

I was raised with the mentality that whenever you can help out, you should help out. Maybe one day that kindness gets returned, or maybe it doesn’t, but you still leave the world in a better place, and that’s never a bad thing. That being the case, I like to give back to the community wherever I can.

I’ve always enjoyed being a mentor and trainer at camps and cons, and in particular working with people who are just getting started out with something. I remember what it was like to be there, and how things would have been so much easier if I had a guide to point me in the right direction and walk me through those first few steps. While you may not know everything about a given topic, any experience you have is more than someone who’s in the early beginning stages, and the knowledge that you might take for granted as obvious can be worth its weight in gold to someone hearing about it for the first time.

John helping a sprinter at the First Time Sprinter Workshop

Photo credit: David Needham

Even if you’re not super technically savvy in mega hyper fighting web development skills, there are still a great many things that you can do to help out. I mean, one of the things that I did was take attendance, and that’s something simple that anyone could do! Don’t be shy, put yourself out there, and lend a hand where you can. Any little thing that you can do will lighten the load for everyone, and that makes every contribution important.

We hope to see all of you next year in Seattle!!

Remember, you don't have to be technical to contribute to the Drupal project. And, you don't have to be a master to help mentor people on how to get started in the issue queue.