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Why WordPress Mentorship Should Extend Beyond WordCamps

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Why WordPress Mentorship Should Extend Beyond WordCamps
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Episode Transcript:


As the WordPress community grows and evolves, it’s important that new people with new ideas join in on the fun. What WordPress lacks outside of its formal events is a system for mentorship. Allie Nimmons and prolific mentor Nyasha Green talk about mentorship in WordPress, what it looks like now, and where it could go.

Allie Nimmons:
Hey, Nyasha, how are you doing today?

Nyasha Green:
I’m doing well. How are you doing, Allie?

Allie Nimmons:
I’m great. I am so excited to be talking to you. Anytime I get to get on a call and chat with you I think is a good time. So, on today’s episode of the podcast, we are going to be chatting about an article that you wrote that’s up on our site right now called 5 for the Now: Why WordPress Mentorship Contribution Should Extend Beyond WordCamps, and I think this is such an interesting topic and it’s such an important community topic specifically and something that you’re really well-slated to talk about, being the prolific mentor that you are, so yeah, I had a couple of questions for you to get some more information about what you think about mentorship.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah, let’s do it. I love that title, “prolific mentor.” I’m going to put that on my Twitter.

Allie Nimmons:
You are. You’re extremely prolific. You have, what, 50-plus mentees right now? That’s what I’d call “prolific.”

Nyasha Green:
Yes.

Allie Nimmons:
Cool. So, my first thing that I wanted to talk about, in this article you talk about we don’t really have a lot of mentors or mentorship within the width of the community. Why do you think that is? Do you think that this community in particular struggles with this particular topic?

Nyasha Green:
I think it’s a few reasons why. I think the major reason is people don’t really know how to mentor. What I mean by that is people think mentoring is, I guess, driving to a person’s house, or signing up for a specific program, or spending a bunch of money to set up a fancy meeting place to talk to people, and a lot of people don’t know that a mentor is simply someone that can speak into this person, guide them, and help them, and there’s really not a financial aspect to that, or it doesn’t have to be. You can be that mentor that’s spending this money or doing these fancy things. But what I’ve discovered mostly about people trying to get into tech in general, and then in our community specifically, they just need knowledge, and they need resources. If we can give that to them, that’s way more valuable than just giving them money, or anything fancy, because those resources are going to elevate them professionally.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah. That makes so much sense to me. I definitely feel that. I struggled finding mentors at the beginning, and I’ve only just started turning around and trying to mentor other people, and I feel like there’s a lot of misconceptions about, yeah, what a mentor is and what that means as well as just how to find one, how to connect with somebody, so I feel like there might be a misconception as well out there that maybe somebody thinks, “Oh, I could be a good mentor. I could talk to people. I could help somebody, but maybe there’s not people out there who need that. Maybe there’s there isn’t anyone who needs me.”

Allie Nimmons:
How can you imagine that? I mean, based off of your personal experience and other things you’ve seen, what are good methods and ways for mentees and mentors to be able to find each other? Is it really just asking people, is it better to have a formalized structure or organization or form or something like that? What do you feel is the way to actually encourage people to connect with each other?

Nyasha Green:
So, it depends on what type of person you are. Both actually work. I do both. Mostly most of mine is loose space mentoring where I meet people online, so social media is especially in the age of COVID the best way to meet people online that have this need, and with the technology we have like Zoom and Skype and things like that, we have so many ways of connecting where you really don’t have to meet in person, so that takes a lot of accessibility challenges out of it, too. You might be a great mentor to someone who needs you, you might be in you’re in Texas, and they might be in Boston or Massachusetts, but can still connect because we have all of these tools.

Nyasha Green:
But also, if you are just one of those people that it’s hard to connect online, and that’s perfectly okay, I meet people like that all the time, there are formalized programs to go through like we talked about. I’m doing one for a coding program in South Carolina, and they give me mentor new mentees every six months, and they are actually working with a program called Persevere Now. Persevere Now actually helps women in prison that have recently been released learn how to code, and then they get computers, things like that, and they get on-the-work help, and that’s who I’m actually helping to mentor as well. Both sides of that, loose mentoring and going to talk to people and this formalized signing up for a program, both have been exceptional. I would recommend both just depending on what you’re more comfortable with.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I feel like people get really intimidated by the idea of having to operate outside of a system, right?

Nyasha Green:
Yes.

Allie Nimmons:
Having to informally “mentor” somebody as opposed to having mentors for the mentors, having some kind of guidance for those people to be able to provide them with resources and motivation because there’s also, I feel like the thing of mentors go through imposter syndrome, I would imagine.

Nyasha Green:
Oh, yeah.

Allie Nimmons:
I mean, I do with the one person I’m mentoring right now, I’m always like, “Am I giving her what she needs? Am I checking in with her enough? Am I checking in with her too much? Am I actually being helpful? Am I being distracting?” It’s this huge learning process and I would love to be able to do that within a formalized structure, but like you talked about in your post, we don’t really have that right now. If you could just snap your fingers and create something within WordPress specifically that gives support to people like you and me who would like to mentor people, what would that look like? All other things being equal, money is no object, what would that ideal kind of system or program look like?

Nyasha Green:
Well, my ideal program would be first and foremost, people who are part of the program, it could be like a subsection of people, or it could be, sorry, the mentors themselves going out and actually getting these people. That’s the hardest part, so anybody comfortable with it actually going to find these people because I’ve written about it a couple of times. In teacher/student relationships, which this is kind of one, a teacher/student, the onus is always on the student to find the person to guide them, to figure out what they want to have the resources, and just be ready to ask questions and to do all of this work, but we never ask, “Are we giving the students enough information and resources to even do that, to come to us, to find us to have the questions?”

Nyasha Green:
Sometimes they don’t even know who to turn to or where to turn to, so I think just going out ourselves, knowing that we were in their shoes one day, we were these people who didn’t know what we were going to do professionally. We didn’t know what questions to ask. We didn’t know what track to take. I think going out and actually finding them, whether it be through programs that are training people to do code, or training people to do WordPress, or media relations, marketing, documentation, things like that, going out and finding these people and saying, “Hey, do you need help?”, because the worst thing that can happen in that situation is they say no, and that’s not a bad thing, we would just move on.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That is so much of, I feel like what Contributor Day is about at WordCamps. For those listening who might not know, Contributor Day is a session or workshop that a lot of WordCamps will have usually on the last day that’s, yeah, it’s just about bringing experienced contributors into a room and adding unexperienced contributors to that room and allowing people to learn how to contribute and what that means and all of those things. I mean, I’ve attended a few Contributor Days. I don’t know how many you’ve attended. In my experience, they’ve always been very unorganized, and I’ve always been very confused and intimidated, and I’ve learned a lot, but it’s usually a very, “Let’s all just kind of figure it out,” sort of a thing. Have you been to Contributor Days before?

Nyasha Green:
I have not, not in WordPress. I’ve been to, it’s not been called Contributor Day, but I’ve been to some similar things at other tech conferences, and I think they have also been pretty unorganized, so I think organization would also be a major thing we would have to focus on. I am not very organized. That’s why I am so thankful for my former program that I go through because I do steal ideas from them, and they said it’s okay, but I do steal ideas from them to use with my mentees. My mentors who actually got me into WordPress, if they had not found me, I cannot see any way that I would’ve been into the WordPress community, so I always take what I learn, and I pass it along, and I use it to help others, so definitely, definitely, definitely more organization would be perfect for having something like this in the WordPress community.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, I think that I would love to see something like that. I think we struggle sometimes with having things organized because we have this admirable, to a degree, thought process of, “Well, if it’s too organized, or if people are being forced to do things in a very particular way, that might be unattractive to some people, or that might be complicated for some people, if they’re going to give up, or we don’t want to make it feel like work, or we don’t want to make it feel like school.” There’s a reason why work feels work and school feels like school, right?

Nyasha Green:
Yeah.

Allie Nimmons:
That’s how people are productive and that’s how people learn, so yeah, I’m a big fan of more organization in the WordPress community space overall, and I think that Contributor Days are a perfect place for that to come to light, and using that maybe as a template, right, of okay, if we can nail how we do Contributor Days, who’s to say we can’t have a larger structure of Community Days that exists throughout the year, that acts as a sort mentorship system or program for people? Maybe with the focus on how to contribute to WordPress, but contributing to WordPress gives you so many other skills that you can use so many other places as well,

Monet Davenport:
Thank you for listening up to this point. Press the Issue by Master WP is sponsored by LearnDash. Your expertise makes you money doing what you do now. Now, let it make you money. Teaching what you do to create a course with LearnDash, visit learndash.com. Press the Issue is also sponsored by WP Wallet. WP Wallet is a new way to organize client plug-in license keys and invoices with one simple and intelligent tool. Never miss a license renewal, never lose a license key, and never struggle with invoicing again with WP Wallet. Visit us at wpwallet.com. Now, back to the podcast.

Allie Nimmons:
So, I’m curious. I mean, the title of the article is about mentoring extending beyond WordCamps, right? We’ve been talking about Contributor Day, but if we’re looking beyond that, who do you see that falling on, right? We just talked about a lot of times the impetus for these things falls on the mentee, but who really should it fall on? Should it fall on just us as the mentors? Should it fall on community leaders? Should it fall on businesses and business owners who make their money off of WordPress? Who should be leading that charge? Should it be a community thing? Should it be from the WordPress foundation? Should it be automatic? Who should be at the head of that hierarchy, do you think?

Nyasha Green:
Everyone. Everyone? I know it seems like an in general answer, but this is why I say everyone. I’ve been asked that before, and the first thought that comes to everyone’s mind is these businesses, the big ones, the major ones. Sometimes people say automatic, “They should be doing this because they have the money.” Totally understand money does make things easier. A lot of people, a rough thing about this is sometimes people don’t see the value in this. They’re like, “Okay, if I take time out of my day to do this for someone, how will I benefit?” Getting people to see the value in that, it’s hard. Businesses, they see money, and if they see money to be made, hey, that’s getting more people in, that’s workers for us in the future. They have a bigger incentive to do it. Understandable. Very understandable to an extent to me.

Nyasha Green:
The reason I say that is because I am not a hundred percent sure that if we put it in the hands of businesses, it will stay community-focused. I’m one of those people, most importantly, we should be serving these people who want to be in this community, we shouldn’t be trying to just only do this because we know they’re going to make a profit for us later, we should be doing this because they’re going to improve our community. They’re going to make things better for all of us because I’m on a Bernie Sanders WordPress kick, I guess.

Allie Nimmons:
Socializing WordPress.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah, yeah, so it’s just businesses get a bad rap, but there are already so many businesses doing so great things as well, so they definitely shouldn’t be left out. GoDaddy is paying for our food for one of our meetings for our WordPress meetup that we’re starting in South Carolina. We didn’t go and ask them, they volunteered. Things like that, I think if we could work with businesses to maybe help out a little financially, they’ll still get the benefits that they’re looking for if they’re looking for that, I don’t want to say that’s what GoDaddy is looking for, or any of the other businesses, but if we all come together, we will all benefit, and then we all won’t have to do as much hard work because it’s definitely harder for me to mentor versus a major company. It’s a one of me.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah. For sure. I mean, it sounds like what you’re talking about is balance, right?

Nyasha Green:
Mm-hmm, yeah.

Allie Nimmons:
If a company comes in and they say, “Okay, we’re going to sponsor X amount,” yeah, that is going to benefit them. It benefits their brand awareness, I would say, in largest part, at least the most immediate payoff is we could put our name on this, people see that we’ve done this, it builds a positive impression, people who are in it see that we’ve sponsored this thing that they like, that makes them happy. I mean, yeah, GoDaddy is a great example of a company that really turned their whole ship around based off of saying, “What’s a worthwhile group or project or person to invest in? Let’s invest our money in them thoughtfully,” and now, GoDaddy is viewed very differently than they were viewed five, 10 years ago, and so I think that I’m never going to look at a company and be like, “No, I don’t want your buddy for this thing. I’m trying to do.” I love when companies do that.

Allie Nimmons:
I understand as a company, you do have to be looking at, “Well, what’s in it for us? We can’t just throw money at things blindly, we have to be smart about it,” but I definitely, definitely, definitely, anybody who knows me will agree, have your back in terms of too much company involvement is super scary to me because then you become beholden to that company and you feel like, well, we have to do what’s in your interest because you gave us money, right? It’s this kind of unofficial contract all of a sudden that you have with them.

Allie Nimmons:
I think as a whole community personally, I think we’re a little bit too afraid of that. We’re a little bit too afraid to move more into that balance of letting companies and corporations and stuff be involved in things. I think we have this idea that everything has to be very grassroots, has to be very individual.

Nyasha Green:
I’m with you. I agree.

Allie Nimmons:
That’s not my favorite thing in whole world sometimes, right?

Nyasha Green:
Yeah.

Allie Nimmons:
I think it limits us in a lot of ways because we’re afraid that somebody’s going to feel a type of way, right?

Nyasha Green:
Mm-hmm.

Allie Nimmons:
It’s like, “Oh, well I don’t like GoDaddy, so then I don’t want to be part of this project GoDaddy’s associated with.” I don’t know. I think that whole argument is a little silly and I think that when it comes to things like building a mentorship program or beefing up the organization of Contributor Day, I think we get a little bit too afraid to lean on people to do that. Do you know what I mean?

Nyasha Green:
Yeah, and I definitely agree with you. Even though I’m scared of companies, I agree that we still don’t let them do enough in the WordPress space. It’s like you said, we want to be grassroots, we want to be transparent. You can still do that. We’re not the only community that wants that. Other communities, they have that, and they still get that money, and they still get that help from those companies, so we definitely could take a page out of someone else’s books by looking at how they did it and how they stayed true to themselves. Valid concerns, but I’m with you, it’s like it’s time for us to open up. One of the people, I quoted Kim. I think her name is Licari.

Allie Nimmons:
Licari.

Nyasha Green:
Licari? Yes, I got it.

Allie Nimmons:
‘Kay, great.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah, she is awesome, and I really loved her. I really loved her article on how WordPress isn’t a small community anymore. We’re bigger, but people don’t want to grow with the community, and that’s why so many things are not changing, but we have to. It’s like we can either work with it. We can grow and we can change and we can do it on our own terms, or we can just be stagnant, and what will happen to the community then? That’s such a major thing for me, so I definitely agree. We could definitely use more help. It works. It works. We can make it work. If we keep our checks and balances and we stay true to our mission, I definitely think it will work.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah, I agree with that completely. I’m going to have to read what Kim wrote because I very much feel like WordPress is, we’re like a teenager right now. We’re in this very teenagery phase where we’re becoming something different and we don’t really know exactly what that is and we want to hold onto the childhood portion of our history. I think that that’s hurting us in a lot of ways. But yeah, I think people like you who sit around and think about the specific ways that we can grow in terms of, wouldn’t it be great if we had more mentorship and more systems for mentorship, those kinds of things can have all of these great ripple effects I think into helping us mature as a community, so I’m going to keep bothering you about when are you going to build out a mentorship program, Nyasha? When are you going to work on this? When are you going to make this happen? Because I think if there’s anyone in this community right now who can do something like that, it is you. No pressure.

Nyasha Green:
No pressure, I guess, as my voice goes higher. No, thank you, I really appreciate that. I definitely want to do it. Even before I got into tech, I was all about giving back, and not even that. I guess people call it “paying it forward,” but it’s like you look at your community, it could be the WordPress community, it could be the tech community, it can be your neighborhood that you live in, and you look around, and if you see something you don’t like, what are you going to do to change it? Are you going to just talk about it? Are you going to ignore it? Or are you going to start change? But that’s broad. How do you start change when you’re thinking about things in your community? You have to sometimes be that person. You have to take that first step.

Nyasha Green:
Then when you think about why you want to do it, what I like to think is if I see something I know it works and I want to see it in my community, that’s enough for me to go out there and do it. I know it will work. The value I find in it, that thing that certain people struggle with is knowing that I’m going to make this community as great as things I’ve seen before. The stuff I see right in front of me, it’s going to be community-wide. That’s the value I see in things and a lot of people never really think about that and that’s why I’m here to help them think about that as well. What do you want your community to look like? Do you know? You can have a direct hand in that? “But nah, I’m just one person.” So am I. Let’s do it.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah, the ocean is made up of many drops of water. It all matters. What I’d love for people to walk away with, too, as well from what you just said is a lot of people I think believe that when you love something, you don’t want it to change, right? You want it to stay the same. I completely disagree with that, right? We’re not meant to just stay the same always. We’re human beings and human beings are always pushed toward change and growth and evolution and the desire to constantly be better. You don’t want something to be better if you don’t care about it, right? I’m not out here pushing for a sport team to be better ’cause I don’t care about sports. I’m not going to spend my time on that, right? This is the community I care about and this is the community that I would like to change for the better. I feel like recently I’ve been hearing a lot of thoughts around if you want to change this community so much, it means you don’t care about it, or you don’t love it, and I think that’s a little nonsense.

Nyasha Green:
I agree. Imagine if it changed and you loved it even more.

Allie Nimmons:
Right?

Nyasha Green:
You could sit back and think, “Wow, if I never took that chance, I would never know this love.” Who wants to think like that?

Allie Nimmons:
Imagine if it changed for the better and somebody else found out how much they loved it, right?

Nyasha Green:
Yeah.

Allie Nimmons:
And more people joined us and it grew and became bigger and better, I do love this community very much, and I do want to change it very much.

Nyasha Green:
Same.

Allie Nimmons:
Yeah, cool. Well, thank you so much for talking to me, Nyasha. This is super fun as always. I highly recommend if you’re listening to head on over to our website, find Nyasha’s article, give it a read. We will link it in the show notes as well so you can find it. Yeah, please go ahead and keep this conversation going, tag us on social media about how something we said today made you mad, and we’ll talk to you about it.

Nyasha Green:
We sure will.

Allie Nimmons:
We sure will. All right, we’ll see you next time, everyone.

Monet Davenport:
Thank you for listening to this episode. Press the Issue is a production of Master WP, produced by Allie Nimmons, hosted, edited, and musically supervised by Monet Davenport, and mixed and mastered by Teron Bullock. Please visit masterwp.com/presstheissue to find more episodes. Subscribe to our newsletter for more WordPress news at masterwp.com.