Mentoring and Open Source

Mentoring and Open Source

Hear Luciano discuss mentoring at ApacheCon North America in Vancouver on Thursday May 12.

Enterprise adoption of open source software is at its peak. But while we see corporations in general consuming more and more open source software, the amount of open source contributions (also called “giving back to the community”) hasn’t followed the same growth chart.

For engineers to actually start contributing to open source, I’ve learned that many of them have one big barrier to overcome: fear. This fear is present even in the most talented engineers. Very often, even a simple task of asking a question on a public archived project mailing list becomes a big thing, as people are afraid of the perception others might have, for example that a question they’re asking might be too simple. I’ve seen this situation time and again for over a decade while working with open source at the Apache Software Foundation.

As with various aspects of professional life, having a mentor tremendously helps to break down these barriers.

Mentors can help to:

  • Quickly understand a project’s dynamics

  • Identify project areas that might require better support — and which are aligned with a new user’s skills

  • Ask the right questions with enough information that others can provide helpful guidance

  • Sometimes even navigate the project politics

With the “Community Building Hat”, various organizations provide mentoring programs for different contributor levels, ranging from high school students to general professional level.

To learn more, attend my talk at ApacheCon North America: “How Mentoring Can Help You Start Contributing to Open Source.”

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