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GSoC Mentoring

Managing Your Mentors

As an org admin, your primary responsibilities are managing the GSoC program administrative requirements and helping your mentors effectively mentor.  Below are some guidelines to help you accomplish both objectives.

Establish a Private Communication Channel 

It is important for mentors and org admins to have a communication channel that does not involve students, so org admins can speak candidly with mentors. This usually takes the form of a private mailing list or IRC channel, but any agreed-upon medium will work.

Managing across Timezones 

Org admins should have a list of mentors and students along with their timezones and preferred contact information and availability. This is essential for umbrella organizations, which sometimes have so many people spread across so many countries and time zones that it is impossible for an org admin to keep track.

GSoC is often the first time people ever have to collaboratively work with others across many timezones, so it is worth taking time in the beginning of the summer to figure out these details. The fact that Daylight Savings Time is different depending on where people are complicates things even more. Usually it is best to set times in UTC so that DST will not complicate things. The World Clock website (http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/) is also a good resource for determining the time in a certain location. 

Setting Expectations

As an org admin, you need to rely on your mentors to manage the day-to-day activities related to student projects. This means you should have a discussion before students are accepted—if possible before you even apply for GSoC—about how your are going to handle some basic logistical items that are essential for a smoothly running and effective program.  

Set up-front guidelines on how students, projects and mentors are selected

Occasionally, you'll find yourself with mentors for projects with no students and good project ideas with no mentors. Figure out up front how you plan to evaluate and accept students, projects and mentors. Make sure that your open source community concurs and the guidelines are clearly posted in your community GSoC documentation. See the chapter on Selecting Students and Mentors for details.

Determine a schedule and format for regular student project updates

Regular student progress reports to the open source project community are a great tool for keeping your development community engaged and helpful to the students. It also helps provide documentation if there is any doubt about a student's progress, and can help your community identify problem areas for newcomers. Weekly reports via a blog or mailing list post are best; at the very least ask for bi-weekly student reports to your community. Discuss report format and submission timelines before the student application period opens and make sure your potential students understand their reporting responsibilities.

Make sure the mentors understand they are primarily responsible for encouraging their students to submit regular reports.

Establish up-front guidelines for mentor time involvement

How often should mentors meet with their students? What happens if a mentor needs to be unavailable for several weeks during GSoC? Make sure the mentors understand expected time commitments before they are assigned to a student, and how to arrange for backup if they need to go missing for a bit.

Clearly communicate mentor GSoC administrative responsibilities

Mentors at the very minimum are responsible for submitting timely student evaluations at midterms and finals. Make sure your mentor team is clear about when they need to submit evaluations and what to do if they are not available to submit the evaluations.  

Create a decision process for determining if a student should pass or fail

Unfortunately, at some point your organization is probably going to encounter a situation where you need to determine if you should fail a student at midterms or finals. Talk to your mentors before the GSoC program begins about criteria for passing and failing a student. Communicate clearly who makes the final decision about whether a student pass or fails.

Sorting Out Conflicts

At some point in your org admin career you are going to need to step in to help resolve conflicts. Sometimes these are mentor-student conflicts, cross-project conflicts or mentor-mentor conflicts; they may be something completely unexpected.  Here are a few guidelines to help you find the best-approach for resolution:

  • Get involved early, before things spiral out of control.
  • Discuss the conflict privately and separately with those involved.
  • Whenever possible don't take sides, but rather attempt to function as a mediator. 
  • Remember that you are a senior representative of your open source community within the larger GSoC program community.  
  • Ask for advice from the GSoC program staff.

If you've done a good job of setting expectations with your mentors, conflict resolution should be fairly straight-forward.

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