The Story of our WordPress Mentorship Programme

Learn about our WordPress developer mentorship programme, from how it started to where we are today.

Both myself and Keith have been involved and working with WordPress for over a decade now. You could say that WordPress has changed both our lives for the better. I was able to change careers and move to a job using WordPress full time. With all this in mind, we wanted to do something that would give a little back to the WordPress community in the UK that has helped us so much over the years.

In 2017 we set up our WordPress Developer Mentorship programme and we are now on our second intake of mentees. In this article, we’ll look at why we set up the programme, our aims for the programme, how we have recruited mentees to take part, and what the benefits have been, for both the mentees and ourselves.

The idea

Both Keith and I have been a part of the UK WordPress community over the course of the last 8 years or so. Keith was the founder of the very popular WordPress London meet-up, which takes place in the capitol every last Thursday of the month. This is grown to over 2000 members with meet-ups regularly getting over 75 attendees.

I have also been involved with WordPress events, being a co-organiser of WordCamp Lancaster back in 2013, a volunteer and both WordCamp Bristol and WordCamp London in 2017 as well as helping run the WordPress Cumbria meet-up.

In early 2017, we first had the idea that we wanted to give something back to the WordPress developer community. What would have benefitted us when we were just starting out? We came up with the idea of mentoring developers who were looking to improve their skills and who could benefit from our experience in the industry.

Keith had been part of similar groups before as a mentee, and so we decided to use a similar format – video calls and Slack channel – for the new programme.

Mark Wilkinson Speaking at WordCamp Bristol.

Aims

We wanted to do something to help developers, people perhaps starting out in the position we both found ourselves in back in the early 2010’s. We wanted to help them with business issues and provide guidance on the business choices that they will be making based on our experience. Also, we wanted to help developers get started with WordPress and offer guidance on learning development best practices, again based on our experience over the course of the last decade.

Another key part of the programme for us was meeting other WordPress users and chatting about things that you never normally get the chance to talk about at a WordCamp or meet-up. We also benefit, by learning how we might do things differently and the sessions provide new thoughts and opinions on the different topics and issues surrounding WordPress today. We’ve found that this has inspired us to go and try new and different ways of doing things.

The programme

The next thing to decide was what was the mentorship programme going to be. Early on we made the decision that the programme should not be us relaying information over to others. That sounded too much like a course to us, where we would be the teachers and the mentees the students. We felt that was not mentorship and therefore we decided that the programme would be quite open, and came up with the following ideas.

  • Each mentee would be part of a closed Slack group just for the mentees on the course. This would be a safe space to ask and discuss things with us and other mentees on the programme.
  • A weekly Google hangout video call
  • Each mentee would get their own time on the hangout call to offer subjects for discussion or outline issues they were having and wanted to get help in solving

“I found the mentorship extremely informative, not only because I was able to share my thoughts and ask any questions but also because I was exposed to queries from the other attendees.”
Eugene Molari, Mentee

Recruiting our mentees

Some of the first round of mentees on the programme at WordCamp Manchester 2017

Once we have decided that we would go ahead we went about the process of recruiting and then selecting our mentees. We wanted to keep this UK based and it was the UK WordPress community we wanted to help out the most. It also meant that we may well be able to catch-up in person with people on the programme at the many WordPress events in the UK.

We didn’t really have a strategy in terms of recruitment and we simply tweeted out from our Twitter account about the programme. We created a basic landing page for potential participants to register on and people, to our amazement, started signing up and the idea got some momentum.

After a few weeks we had our list of mentees we thought would get the most out of the course, and from their feedback it seemed as though we were correct!

Our first call was on the 26th April and went really well. We continued our weekly calls with each member getting a chance to have their say and raise issues and discussion points. We got some great messages indicating that our participants were enjoying it.

What we got out of it

This is the question most people ask me when I mention about the programme. The simple answer for me is fun. The calls in the first round, and I am sure it will the same in the next round, were the highlight of the week. I looked forward to chatting with fellow WordPress developers and discussing all things WordPress and helping people out – what is not to like about that!

I suppose the other main thing we got out of it as a business was meeting other potential developers to work with in the future and also getting some new ideas for different people about development, business and so much more.

The future

We have just started round two of the mentorship programme and we have a new group of mentees taking part. We have had our first call and everyone seems really keen to make this another great mentorship programme to be involved in.

We really enjoy running the programme and we hope to do it for the foreseeable future. If you are interested in taking part in the next round of mentorship, starting later this year, then please let us know below!.

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About the author

Mark is the lead WordPress developer at Highrise Digital. He has been working with WordPress for over 13 years, way back to 2005. He focuses on back-end development, integrating the website build with WordPress so it can be editable.