Joe Pearson, Open Horizon Chair of the Technical Steering Committee and Edge Computing and Technology Strategist at IBM
Late this summer, a representative from the Linux Foundation’s LFX Mentorship program attended the LF Edge Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) bi-weekly meeting and gave a presentation about their mentorship program. The program potentially gives open-source projects a turn-key mentorship program with minimal work needed to get it started, which sounded great to me! At the end of the presentation, they offered to speak to each project’s leadership teams if they would like to learn more.
The Open Horizon project eagerly accepted the offer, since we had plenty of opportunities for interesting work and few volunteers. We were told that once we began accepting applications, we would be flooded with more than enough well-qualified mentee candidates.
Easy onboarding experience
The project sign-up process was ridiculously easy. We filled out the forms and specified that we wanted to see each candidate’s CV/resume, a link to their GitHub repo, and a cover letter explaining in a single paragraph why they wanted to be a mentee of our project.
Incredible applicant pool
The applications began to come in. At first two (pretty easy to handle), then two more (great!), then four more (OK, this is quite a few). Within two weeks, we had over 15! By the end of our open application period, we had over 30 which was more than enough to handle. In fact, we ended up identifying both a primary and a secondary applicant for each open slot in our initial fall term.
Choosing our mentors
To select our project’s mentors, we looked for maintainers in our project with a natural teaching ability, approachability, maturity, and availability. We also assembled a pool of potential items for our mentees to work on. The four mentors selected were:
- David Booz (Dave) – Chief Architect and founder of the project, Chair of the Agent Working Group, and a member of the team from the start almost six years ago. Dave understands the project code from both the macro level as well as the specific details about how the client software — the Agent — functions.
- Liang Wang (Los) – Technology Advocate and Chair of the China Manufacturing Special Interest Group (SIG). Los is building up the SIG, overseeing translation of the project materials, and creating a community around manufacturing and industry 4.0 use cases.
- Troy Fine – Software Engineer and Chair of the Developer Examples Working Group. Troy oversees creation and maintenance of all code and services that demonstrate all project solution functionality from the simple to the complex.
- Joseph Pearson (Joe) – Project Chair and Chair of the Documentation Working Group. Joe ensures that people looking to use Open Horizon, develop it, extend or port it, and to build solutions with it have the information they need.
Choosing our mentees
We created a set of filtering criteria to shorten the list down to candidates who were not only qualified, but also exhibited a natural curiosity about our project, and were eager to get started. We also approximately matched the geographic location of the candidates as well as their linguistic abilities.
The mentors then interviewed those candidates on the short list over Slack, email, and Zoom or WebEx. It was not an easy task, and we wish that we could have accepted double our limit of four mentees.
For the work the mentees would be completing, the mentors identified tasks that fit the candidate’s natural abilities and strengths and yet would stretch them a bit. We also aimed for tasks that could be completed within the timeframe of the fall term.
Dave selected Anukriti Jain as the mentee for his Working Group. Anukriti is a Computer Science Engineering student in the last year of her undergraduate program. She is based in India.
Los chose Han Gao as mentee. Han Gao is pursuing his doctorate in the Netherlands. His goals are:
* Become an effective contributor to the Open Horizon project with a deep understanding at the code level around its architecture and key policy-based management flow.
* Contribute by translating Open Horizon technical documentation into Chinese, as well as creating new hands-on guidance for getting started with an end-to-end example.
* Broaden his view and build insight across other LF Edge projects.
Troy went with Clement Ng for the Examples Working Group. Clement, like Troy, is based on the US west coast.
Joe tapped Edidiong Etuk to assist with the Documentation Working Group. Eddie is from Nigeria and is pursuing a degree in Computer Science. He has natural leadership qualities and is an eager self-starter with a gift for intuition.
Lessons learned from the mentorship program
Now that we’re about 2/3 of the way through the fall term, we have gained some perspective through the benefit of hindsight. It turns out that four mentees is just about the right number for our small project to handle.
The tasks have been adjusted to ensure that each mentee can complete the work in the allotted time without too much stress. And several of them have already gained such a sense of belonging and ownership that they plan to continue working with the project after their mentorship term is complete. We highly recommend that other projects take advantage of this opportunity.