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WordPress Selects Inaugural Cohort to Launch Experimental Mentorship Program

WordPress’ Community Team kicked off its experimental mentorship program this week, announcing that the inaugural cohort has been assigned to a group of mentors who will guide them forward on project contribution across various teams.

“Our mentors offer 1:1 support to each contributor in our cohort,” Automattic-sponsored Community Team contributor Hari Shanker R said. “These mentors check-in with mentees each week to offer them support and guidance on the program and to answer any questions that they may have.”

Mentees graduate from the program after completing self-directed courses, participating in “learn-up” sessions, selecting a contributor team, and making an initial contribution to the team. Optionally, mentors may guide their mentees through a three-month contribution plan. The goal is to create new ongoing contributors through the program.

A group of 13 mentees have been selected from 50 applications and will participate across eight teams, including Core, Training, Community, Documentation, Photos, Test, Polyglots, and Support.

“While our group is not in a position to assign mentors to everyone, the activities and tasks of our cohort will be shared in the newly-formed #contributor-mentorship channel of the Make/WordPress Slack, where interested folks can join most of our contributing sessions and onboarding sessions which will also be shared widely with our community.”

Other open source projects, such as Drupal, have supported mentoring programs that have been used to successfully engage new contributors at events, inspire more collaboration, and foster a learning environment.

Earlier this year the Linux Foundation published a report from a recent study on Mentorship in Open Source. It surveyed more than 100 mentees from the LFX Mentorship graduating class of 2020 and 2021, and 99% reported the program was beneficial. Nearly half of the graduates (47%) said it helped them get a job.

The report explores the additional benefits of mentorship programs beyond increasing contribution to the open source project itself. Quality mentorship programs can have an economic and career impact on mentees, as well as increase diversity across the project and help new contributors get more connected to the community.

WordPress’ Community team has already invested time from 22 facilitators and 13 mentors in getting the program launched. The structure offers a somewhat more formal experience similar to a short internship, but it’s still in the early stages and may change based on feedback from participants.

“This program is an experiment—our hope is to learn as much as possible from the same to improve mentorship in the WordPress project and to support and empower more contributors,” Shanker said.