I mentioned a few months ago that I was participating as a mentor for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) for the second year in a row. This is now over for another year, and I wanted to follow up on that original post.
For those who don’t know, GSoC is “an international annual program in which Google awards stipends to students who successfully complete a free and open-source software coding project during the summer. The program is open to university students aged 18 or over.” (Wikipedia)
A Mentor for Catrobat
I mentored on behalf of Catrobat, the organisation behind Pocket Code and other open-source mobile coding apps for teens. As a mentor I supported a single student/mentee who was developing a game based on Metroid to showcase the possibilities of Pocket Code. It’s the first time I’ve acted as a mentor on a one-to-one basis (outside of my 9 to 5 jobs) – last year I was part of a group of mentors working with a group of students. At the start of the project I made sure that I was mindful of the fact that acting as a mentor is different to acting as a line-manager. The way I see it, I was there to support the mentee on the project they had scoped for Catrobat. I was there to give guidance, offer suggestions, provide advice, show them options to achieve the result that was needed, and act as a point of contact with others in the mentoring organisations (Catrobat and Google). That doesn’t mean I would wait until I was asked for help before raising my head above the parapet. We set up a regular weekly meeting right at the start of the programme in May. During the meetings we could talk about the progress of the project; the student’s plans for the coming weeks; where they were up to with their overall plan; discussions around new ideas, how to develop the project, and the best way to resolve issues; and any other support they needed. It wasn’t a conversation just around the game itself. I wanted to highlight broader aspects of open source game development and the game and open source development communities. For example, making a game is only half the work (maybe less than half the work) in making it a success, so I pointed them to a list of over 1,000 game developers to follow on Twitter, ranging from hobby game makers, to those working on AAA games; as well as talking about the value of game jams; small and local game communites; and initiatives such as Pitch Ya Game. I also made regular contact with my mentee between meetings, just to make sure things were okay with their progress on the project. And they were very proactive staying in contact with me, and discussing ideas and issues between the regular meetings. And after a few months of working with them, it’s great to see the fantastic game they’ve created in Pocket Code, as part of the GSoC initiative.
A Positive Experience
I enjoyed last year’s GSoC, and this year I found the mentoring experience just as enjoyable. I think it was also as much a useful learning and development experience for me as much as it was for my mentee.
Mentoring one-to-one with a student who was responsible for driving a complete project forward, from the initial proposal to developing the idea, and producing the coding, art and music for the game, was such a positive experience.
If anyone is considering mentoring, I would say go for it. I found it a rewarding experience, and I’m looking forward to getting involved again next year.