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Re: mentoring programs in Debian

Ana Guerrero <ana@debian.org> writes:

> - For some DDs in previous years, this seemed to be a way to have students
>   doing stuff from their TODO lists...

Just a quick note on this part: I don't think this is inherently a bad
idea, although of course it should be something the student is also
excited about.  But I remember what I was like when I was in high school:
I really wanted to program, but I was horrible at coming up with useful
things to do.  I needed a good problem stream that I could work on and
then I enjoyed finding ways to solve the problems.  Not everyone is like
that, of course, but I do think there are people out there who just want
to put skills to use and learn how to do new things but don't know how to
select good and useful problems to work on.

On the general topic of mentoring, though, I think one of the hardest
parts of helping new people join the project is that people need to start
with relatively easy tasks so that they can get their feet wet.  That
often means that one needs to step back and let new people do things that
are easy for the mentor, which in turn means leaving easy work undone for
long enough to give people a chance to do it.

I think this can be a real struggle with mature teams.  I know I'm not the
only person in Debian with a strong interest in time management techniques
(it's even already come up in candidate statements), and one thing that's
virtually universal in time management literature is that one should do
easy things immediately rather than letting them accumulate.  Part of what
I've always found challenging in mentoring is that I have to step back and
*not* follow my normal work process to give someone else a chance to work
through the easy things that will help them build familiarity with the
overall structure.

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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