Mentorship: Mentor Guide

[ratified 2016-10-13]

So you wanna be a mentor? Great! The WeAllJS Mentorship Program is intended as a way for members of the WeAllJS community to help each other grow, and to open up new opportunities for each other through sponsorship. Mentorship can have a huge effect on the personal and career growth of mentees, and by volunteering your time, expertise, and network, you’re potentially having a huge effect on someone’s life. Thank you.

Mentorship isn’t a one-way relationship though: By connecting with your mentee, you’ll find that there’s plenty you yourself can learn from the relationship, whether that be directly from the mentee, or from the opportunities and experience that comes from being the one responsible for packaging up what you know and offering it to someone.

This document describes the processes you, the mentor, will go through in this program. It includes some ground rules, some advice, and some processes you can follow. It is designed to give you a good idea of what you can expect out of the program.


  1. Minimum 1 hour/week availability.

  2. Willingness to answer occasional emails, slack messages, and other such communications in a timeboxed and timely manner.

  3. At least 5 years of experience in the industry and/or the general field you’re mentoring in. You don’t need a ton of experience with the topic you’re mentoring for, but it’s expected that you have some level of mastery or expertise with it.

  4. Be able to participate for at least 3 months, preferably longer. Mentor/mentee relationships can potentially last a long time.

  5. While part of the program, help support other mentors in the #mentors channel, and help with mentor recruitment and matching.

Your Responsibilities

  1. Follow the WeAllJS Code of Conduct in all interactions. Ask admins for help if you need it.

  2. Respect your mentee’s valuable time by keeping time limits on interactions, being reasonable about tasks for weekly targets, making sure you make it to your arranged meetings on time, etc.

  3. Notify your mentee in a timely fashion about sudden schedule changes or conflicts that might affect your meetings.

  4. Communicate respectfully, openly, amicably, and professionally.

  5. Respect the mentee’s confidentiality. Don’t share things they’ve told you unless you have been given clear, explicit permission.

  6. Be proactive in helping find connections and opportunities for your mentee, outside of simply the things you can teach. Err on the side of assuming they can handle it.

  7. Work together with your mentee to promote their growth and success.

  8. Be aware of intersectional issues and power dynamics: You are in a position of power as a mentor. Your mentee very likely looks up to you. They are also more vulnerable to you. Be particularly careful of things like ‘splaining (offering unsolicited explanations), inappropriate jokes, and crossing boundaries.

  9. Be open but empathic in both receiving and giving feedback. Communicate about the relationship regularly.

  10. Seek outside help when something isn’t working right or you have a serious problem. #mentors and /admin are both available. Remember to respect their confidentiality!

Signing Up

  1. Join the #mentorship channel in the WeAllJS Slack and add yourself to the spreadsheet, filling in whatever relevant information you want to share.

  2. Leave a message in the channel to let others know that you’ve signed up.

  3. You will be contacted some time after if the other mentors have found a potential match, and they’ll discuss it with you first.

  4. If the match seems good to you, they’ll do the same with the mentee.

  5. If you both agree, you’ll be invited to #mentors, introduced to your mentee, and then you should plan your First Meeting.

The First Meeting

  1. Schedule the meeting directly with your mentee.

  2. Timeboxed to 1 hour with a hard stop. Video chat or in person are preferred, but Slack chat is fine.

  3. Discuss with your mentee what the overall goals for the relationship will be. Discuss how you would measure success.

    a. Specific project?

    b. Mastering/improving a specific skill?

    c. General career advice and support?

    d. What opportunities can you make available for your mentee?

    e. Who can you connect them with?

  4. Discuss and agree on time commitment and personal boundaries.

    a. Apart from the 1hr/week, how much extra time will you dedicate, if any, and in what contexts?

    b. What are appropriate mediums and times for communication?

    c. Apart from general appropriateness and respect boundaries, is there anything, such as discussing certain technologies, outside of the bounds of what you’re willing to discuss?

  5. Agree on a general schedule for your weekly meetings: you can and should verify that the next week’s meeting can still happen, at the end of every meeting, but try to find one or two times that can be blocked off on your calendars and be reserved in advance.

  6. Discuss any potential gaps in time commitment that might happen, and how to manage them.

  7. Write down some general targets for the next 30/60/90 days.

  8. Finally, discuss some task or goal that the mentee can work on before the first regular weekly meeting, to be discussed or reviewed at that time. Let the mentee take the lead with this. You can give ideas, but this is their show, and you’re just here to keep things rolling.

The Weekly Meeting

You’re free to structure these meetings how you see fit, but it’s recommended they have the following constraints/goals:

  1. Timeboxed to a minimum of 1 hour, respecting your agreed-upon time limits.

  2. Review and discuss last week’s task and help answer any questions.

    a. Was it completed/achieved?

    b. What went well?

    c. What could have gone better?

    d. Where is your mentee as far as meeting the 30/60/90 goals?

  3. Once a month:

    a. Review the past month and any relevant 30/60/90 goals that were set. Talk a bit about them, what went well, what could’ve gone better.

    b. What’s the next set of 30/60/90 goals?

  4. Spend time answering questions, working on something together, talking about career stuff, or just chatting about general things and getting to know each other. Again, let the mentee take the lead: remember that you’re a guide, not a professor.

  5. Reserve the last 10-15 minutes of the meeting to answer these:

    a. What is the mentee focusing on for the next week?

    b. What will you, as a mentor, keep an eye out for, opportunities-wise?

    c. When and where is the next meeting?

    d. Anything else that either of you should think about or do before the next meeting.

Mentor Matching

Apart from helping your mentee, the WeAllJS program asks that mentors take some time to participate in leading the program and helping match mentors and mentees.

  • Make sure the mentor and mentee fit the requirements.

  • Try to match people who have more in common, specially intersectionally – a woman mentoring another woman is preferable to having a man be the mentor, or having a white mentor and latinx student. This isn’t a hard rule, of course, but it’s more likely that similar folks are able to make a better connection and avoid some of the trappings that power differential might bring. This also helps strengthen the bond by building on shared experience.

  • Get a sense of the mentor’s potential teaching style: by far, the preference is for them to be willing to give a mentee the space they need to learn, rather than try to jam knowledge into their heads.

  • Check if the mentor’s position, network, etc, might open doors that the mentee is or might be interested in.

  • Try to match people who are are closer to each other, career-wise, while still having a noticeable experience difference: it’s very hard for someone who has been programming for a very very long time to empathize with someone who literally just wrote their first hello world.

  • Cap the number of mentors and mentees that anyone can have at 2: any more and it might be too overwhelming to provide the people they’re matched with with the best experience.

  • Keep in mind the individuals’ personalities, and how they might mix.