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How the WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program Helped Me Build Confidence and Community

I’ve worked with WordPress for a long time. I know how to build a website, customize it with top-quality themes and plugins, and how to maintain it and keep it safe. What I didn’t know was how things work behind the scenes. How is WordPress built? How do WordPress updates work? What can we do to make WordPress better?

When I saw an announcement for the WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program, I jumped at the chance to get answers to these questions and make connections with other WordPress users.

WordPress Contributor.

Now, at the end of this six week program, I want to share my experience with you.

I hope you’ll enjoy coming on this journey with me, and maybe even get inspired to join the next round of mentees!

How I became part of the program

I’ve always known WordPress was open source, but I didn’t consider becoming a contributor until recently. I assumed you needed to be a developer.

Then I saw an announcement for the LGBTQ+Press Empowerment Program. This is a new program offering grants for WordPress Mentorship Program participants.

I hadn’t even heard of the mentorship program yet, so I did some research. The first thing I learned was that you don’t need to be a developer to contribute. In fact, there were a few ways for me to do that with my existing skill set: by creating or editing Training materials, assisting with Marketing, and organizing Community events.

There’s a lot going on in WordPress, though. My initial exploration of the Make WordPress Slack was overwhelming – so I applied for the mentorship program and the LGBTQ+Press Empowerment Grant to help me get started. A couple of weeks later, I received word that I had been accepted for both of them!

My experience in the program

Welcome to the WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program slide

What is the WordPress Mentorship Program?

There are really two questions here. First, what is a WordPress Contributor?

A WordPress Contributor is a volunteer who contributes to the growth and improvement of the open-source WordPress software. The most obvious way to contribute is as a developer working on the software itself, but there are many ways for those of us with less coding expertise to share:

  • Offering solutions on the support forums
  • Building training materials for non-developers who want to improve their WordPress skills
  • Assisting with the polyglot translation of a WordPress localization
  • Organizing and volunteering at community events like WordCamp
  • Marketing the WordPress platform

Feeling overwhelmed by all of these options? You’re not alone. In fact, that’s a big part of why the WordPress Mentorship Program exists – to help people understand where and how they can best utilize their skills to improve WordPress.

The WordPress Mentorship Program is a six-week program connecting new (or existing) WordPress Contributors with one-on-one mentorship from more experienced contributors.

Here’s what the program leader, Hari Shankar, had to say about the goals of this mentorship program:

“Our goal is to empower new and existing contributors in oiur community to do their bet work, through cohort-based and 1:1 mentorship. While the program aims to support the WordPress open source project with contributions, its key goal is to help cultivate actove open source citizens who learn vital professional skills and help create the open source web by means of contributions!”

How the program helped me build confidence and community

The first step in the mentorship program was to choose a contributor team to become part of. This was a tough decision for me. I only had time to join one, but I was drawn to two: Training and Community.

Both had distinct advantages. On the one hand, I’m a professional WordPress writer and contributing to the Training team would be great professional experience. On the other hand, working from home as a writer can be isolating and I wanted to connect with people.

With guidance from my mentor and other members of the mentorship cohort, I decided to join the Community team. Once I had made the decision, my mentor helped me find the website for my local WordPress community and fill out a form to become a volunteer. We also brainstormed possible events for me to host on my own, with an emphasis on social gatherings since most of my local events are workshops.

Outside of my one-on-one mentorship, I got to attend a variety of trainings for the mentorship cohort. These included open Q&A sessions where mentees could ask about anything they wanted to know and more structured trainings on things like how the WordPress release cycle works.

One of the most interesting trainings was a workshop explaining how WordPress uses GitHub. This is a tool for collaborative software development, with many excellent features for managing group projects.

WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program slide displaying GitHub to-do list

This might seem like an odd thing for a non-developer to be excited about, but WordPress uses GitHub for more than improving the software. In fact, when I attended a Training team orientation during my decision-making process (separate from the mentorship), I saw that they also use GitHub for project management.

The in-depth GitHub training for mentees helped me better understand the full capabilities of this program, so if I do switch to the Training team in the future, I’ll know what I’m working with.

WordPress Contributor sponsorships

One thing I learned that deserves its own section is WordPress Contributor sponsorships. Companies (and sometimes individuals) offer these sponsorships to help people who don’t have the resources to volunteer contribute to WordPress.

I was deeply excited to learn about these sponsorship opportunities. I love volunteering, but I’m also the primary income earner in my household. This means volunteering isn’t always possible. So while I will be volunteering, I’ll also be seeking these sponsorship opportunities – and I’m grateful to have received my first one in the form of the LGBTQ+Press grant.

What others learned from the WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program

Other mentees had a similarly empowering experience. Here’s a quote from fellow mentee, Krupa Nanda, about how the program helped her:

Krupa quote about how the WordPress Mentorship Cohort gave her insights into testing and opportunities to work with the testing team

Another mentee, Mujuonly, shared how the mentorship program helped him understand the WordPress release process:

Mujuonly quote about being able to contribute in a variety of ways & better understand the WordPress release process

A third mentee, Patrick Lumumba, talked about how the mentorship program created a safe space for learning:

Patrick Lumumba quote about the mentorship program providing a safe environment for learning

How to get mentorship to become a WordPress Contributor

If you want to become a WordPress Contributor, but you’re overwhelmed by all of the options (or the sheer number of people in the Make WordPress Slack), mentorship can help you get started.

There are two ways to get mentorship:

  • Join the next WordPress Mentorship Program cohort
  • Seek informal one-on-one mentorship

The official WordPress Mentorship Program will be offered in the lead-up to the next WordPress release in September-October 2024. You can sign up for email updates from Make WordPress to see the call for mentee applications when it goes out.

If you don’t get into the official cohort, you might still be able to get one-on-one mentorship by commenting on a WordPress release volunteer call.

Final thoughts

The WordPress Mentorship Program helped me develop a deeper understanding of WordPress, connect with other WordPress users, and create a plan to become more active in my local WordPress community over the next three months.

Are you interested in the WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program? Are you a mentor or mentee looking to share your experience? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

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Dianna Gunn

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