18F is experimenting with providing support for mentorship! This is formally a part of 18F Learn but it is supported across multiple chapters and business units.

Getting started

If you’d like to participate in mentorship, it’s as simple as reaching out to folks in #mentorship! Someone will be in touch to review the general information found below and identify what you’d like to focus on and whether you would like to mentor someone, be mentored, or both.

Please note that regardless of how you’d like to participate in mentorship, it is subject to the availability of other folks also interested in participating and focused on your area/skill of interest. As a part of this process, we would love to help you establish a closer bond with someone you normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to do so with otherwise, but we’ll also certainly take into consideration any strong preferences you may have for or against other individuals. Above all, we want to make sure we have a good match between folks and that you both feel energized, supported, and respected by one another.

Lastly, the #mentorship channel is also a great place to go to chat with other folks who are currently participating in mentorship or have mentorship experience. You can learn more about what’s currently happening, ask questions, etc.

Administrative information

We ask that folks commit to a minimum of 6 weeks to start with once we’re able to find a match. The reason is that it allows for enough time to give the mentorship pair a chance to gel and develop a cadence and relationship with one another. It’s usually a little slow going in the beginning especially if you haven’t collaborated with one another before; this is okay! We want to make sure folks give things a chance and make a concerted effort, and have enough time to achieve their goals.

However, we also don’t want folks feeling like they’re being forced to do something that isn’t working for them or that they are stuck with someone that isn’t a great fit. Whether or not you choose to continue as a pair after the 6 week time period is over is entirely up to both you and your partner.

Prior to starting, we also recommend that folks considering pairing together or being matched up have an intro meeting with each other to review the following things:

  • Details pertaining to the interests that you share
  • Scheduling and meeting length preferences
  • What drew you to the person, either to mentor them or to be a mentee of them

If both folks feel comfortable moving forward, great! If not, absolutely no hard feelings and hopefully we can find another match.

Areas of focus

What you and your partner focus on for mentorship is largely up to you, though it must be related to our work and our mission at 18F. If you are able to tie it directly to your project work, there is the added benefit that the mentoring time is also project work. While this is preferred as it helps us with cost recoverability, it is not required. More importantly, you should focus in an area that you are both passionate about!

How you and your partner structure your mentorship time is also almost entirely up to the both of you. We recommend that folks devote between a half hour to an hour a week to mentorship, but you’re free to make other arrangements so long as you have supervisor and project approval.

Tocking time

The time spent in mentorship can be Tocked one of two ways. If you and your partner are focusing on something neither of you is working on directly related to project work, please Tock the time to 71 Training / Prof Dev - Non Billable.

If you are focusing on something related to either person’s project work, you and your partner should speak with the project Engagement Manager to confirm the time can be covered by the budget. You are likely a resource already accounted for in the project budget, but your mentoring partner may not be. If there is support, then you should be able to Tock your time to the project line item you normally use for regular billable work (but defer to the project Engagement Manager in case there is a different line item to use).

If there is not support in the budget but you are still cleared to spend time with mentorship, then you should also use the 71 Training / Prof Dev - Non Billable line item.

Helpful tips

If you are new to mentorship you may find some of this information useful in helping you and your partner get started.

Mentor Guide

Check out this guide created by the Department of Homeland Security for in-depth mentoring tips.

Goal setting

“SMART” goals are a valuable framework for setting and successfully achieving effective goals. The idea is that goals should be:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Actionable,
  • Realistic, and
  • Time-bound

By using this framework, you can transform goals from vague, unrealistic or difficult to achieve to precise and effective.

When setting a goal, check whether it’s:

  • Specific: The goal should be clear and well-defined.
  • Measurable: It should be possible to know when you’ve achieved your goal.
  • Actionable: It should be something you can take action on now.
  • Realistic: It should be possible within the bounds of your available time and resources.
  • Time-bound: There should be a deadline. (See ‘realistic’ again. :) )

So instead of: My goal is to get better at Python.

You might try: My goal is to read one Python-related book every month., or My goal is to give a technical talk on an unfamiliar subject at a local Python meetup by the end of next quarter., or My goal is to submit or review one pull request per week on an open-source Python project.

Additional factors to consider when setting overall goals for your mentoring experience include:

  • Creating space for a strong relationship to form and hopefully extend beyond the pilot and possibly even 18F
  • Alignment with project work for any actual task-oriented activities
  • Opportunities to connect with someone outside of your area of discipline/expertise
  • Not over-committing or under-committing
  • Perhaps stating/sharing goals publicly to help commit to them

Tips for mentees

  • Help your mentor help you! If there is something specific that you’d like to explore or an area you’re struggling with, let them know so they know to tailor the time around these things.

Tips for mentors

  • Try and let the mentee set the pace and direction, but pick up on cues where they might be getting stuck or struggling with something.
  • If it feels like you’ve reached a good point with one thread of mentoring, feel free to offer suggestions of new areas to explore together.

Additional resources

OPM (the Office of Personnel Management) has some wonderful resources on professional development, including mentorship. They have a more complete mentorship guide available, as well.