A survey to gauge the interest of the community for a technical mentorship program.
Image credits: Julia Damerow
As a result of the DHTech survey it came to our attention that quite a number of people said they were working in DH as single programmers. Additionally, many people doing coding related work in DH don’t have a formal computer science degree but are self-taught or taught on the job. For RSEs in such a situation it can be challenging to get guidance and support in all phases of a project; be it the project planning phase, where knowledge of existing tools and workflows can greatly improve the reusability and long-term accessibility, or during the actual software development phase, where a simple question sometimes takes a day to answer (we have all been there!).
Thus, the idea formed to develop a technical mentoring program that provides mentees with a technical mentor who can answer questions and can offer guidance on, for example, design and infrastructure questions. Such a program would not be a replacement for training or workshops that teach specific skills, but could support people doing technical work in DH by providing a means to have low frequency but high quality conversations with experienced RSEs. Of course, such a system of mentoring could also be valuable for more experienced RSEs who enter into a new field such as data modelling or 3D visualizations.
There are several questions that need to be answered to successfully implement a technical mentorship program. How could such a program give appropriate credit and recognition for mentors (e.g. acknowledgement in publications or on websites, allocation in institutional workload)? What would be the expectations of mentee and mentor? How would mentor and mentee be matched? How much time should a mentor commit to the program?
We plan to work on providing a guide to these questions in the next few weeks. Anyone interested in joining the discussion is welcome to join us on Slack. The first step, however, will be to gauge the interest of the community for such a program. For this purpose, we have created a short survey that can be accessed here. If you would consider becoming a mentor or a mentee, please fill out the form. Filling out the form is not a commitment to either yet, just an indication of interest. If there is enough interest in the community for a technical mentorship program, we will follow up with a registration process at a later time.