Find a mentor, Be a mentor!


At Sourcegraph, we want to promote a culture where everyone feels empowered to continously grow by asking for and receiving help, and one of the clearest ways to foster this is with a formal mentorship program. We believe that mentorship is a key part of our culture, and through this program, we are committed to providing resources to make it easy to Find a mentor, Be a mentor.

The purpose of this document is to inform prospective mentors and mentees how they can get involved in the program.

Quick resources

For mentors

A mentorship program is nothing without its mentor volunteers, and all sorts of experiences can create new value when shared with mentees. Have you mentored before, are you mentoring now, or would you consider mentoring in the future? Fill out a mentor profile for yourself to appear on our mentors bulletin board. Posting a profile will let prospective mentees know what you’re able to mentor in and whether or not your available to connect with them.

There are no minimum requirements necessary to become a mentor, and there is also no “deadline” to sign up – partnerships will form on a rolling basis as initiated by the prospective mentee. Furthermore, becoming a mentor does not bar you from also participating in the program as a mentee.

Still not sure about signing up?

  • One of the best ways to learn is by teaching others. In what’s dubbed “The Protégé Effect”, studies show that those who teach others understand the material they are teaching better than those who only learn for themselves.
  • Challenge yourself with new perspectives. Get a fresh take on something you’ve spent a lot of time with and see how it looks through the eyes of someone just learning it.
  • Pay it forward. Think of the teachers, coaches, or mentors in your life who said or did something that has stuck with you or changed your path for the better. This is an opportunity to do that for someone else!
  • Retain full control of your hours. Creating a profile doesn’t commit you to anything: there’s no minimum time commitment to becoming a mentor, and you can mark yourself as “unavailable” at any time if you don’t have sufficient bandwidth to take on a new mentee.
  • BYOMS (Bring Your Own Mentoring Style!) With our loose, non-prescriptive framework for mentorship, you and your mentee(s) have full agency over your partnership, but we also maintain more concrete suggestions and advice throughout the rest of this document for you to take inspiration from.

I submitted my profile; what happens next?

That’s it for now! Unlike many traditional mentorship programs at sync-first companies, there’s no single timeline or match-making system for mentors and mentees at Sourcegraph. Instead, an interested mentee can reach out to you directly over Slack if they’d be interested in working with you, at which point you can both arrange an initial session and set your own timelines.

If your availability changes or you want to update your areas of experience for mentoring, “update” your profile by editing your survey response at any time.

Did you already strike something up informally with someone you’re already working with? That’s great, too! The resources that follow are intended to support you along every other stage of the mentorship process.

What if I have questions or run into a problem not addressed here?

You can reach the mentorship program champions by tagging @mentorship-champions or posting in #mentorship with questions, concerns, feedback, or anything else mentoring-related.

We understand that sometimes the nature of these issues can be more sensitive. While we hope that anyone here feels empowered to speak directly about issues they are facing with those involved, we know that this isn’t always possible, and both the mentorship program champions and People Ops are here to support you in those cases. To privately contact the members of the committee to help you while keeping matters in confidence, you can fill out this form.

For mentees

If you are seeking sponsorship, such as to transition teams or roles within Sourcegraph, it’s important to bear in mind that while every mentor can offer guidance and encouragement, not every mentor can offer advocacy or opportunity. We recommend that you start a conversation with your manager, first, and talk with a potential mentor about your goals before committing to anything long-term.

Mentorship is a two-way street, and it’s important that any mentoring relationship starts with commitment from both sides. Unlike many traditional mentorship programs at sync-first companies, there’s no single timeline or match-making system for mentors and mentees at Sourcegraph. Instead, we ask mentees to take the first step of contacting a mentor by looking at profiles and availability on the mentors bulletin board, and if it seems like a good match, setting your own, independent timeline.

Using the mentors bulletin board to find a mentor

1. Determine your objective

  • Reflect on what areas you are interested in mentorship for, and what sort of support or engagement would help you grow in those areas.
  • Write these down – it’ll help for your future mentor to know!
  • It’s okay if you don’t fully know, or if you’re flexible! Understanding where to explore or what to try next can also be something a mentor can help you with.

2. Browse the mentors bulletin board

  • Start by trying to identify someone whose areas of experience overlap with your areas of interest, and whose availability would be conducive to the type of support you are looking for.
    • For example, someone who is interested in a lot of 1:1 pair programming time would want to look for a mentor in a similar time zone to them with at least a couple of hours of availability per week, whereas someone who is looking for occasional asynchronous feedback while preparing a talk for a conference could choose someone from a very different timezone with more limited availability.
  • Bear in mind that the areas of overlap do not need to be exact, and matching areas or timezones is only one component of determining if a mentor/mentee relationship is a good fit.

3. Reach out and introduce yourself

  • If you haven’t met them before or don’t know them well, start by introducing who you are, what your role is, and why you’re contacting them (“I saw your profile on the mentors bulletin board, and I’m seeking mentorship in one of the areas you listed having experience with.”). If you already know them pretty well, you can probably skip this sub-step!
  • Double-check their availability.
  • Share the areas and type of mentorship support you are looking for that you came up with for step 1. If you have a specific goal in mind already, share that, too! At this stage, the more context, the better!

4. Schedule an initial session

  • If you and the mentor agree that it seems like a good fit, determine a time to meet with them over Zoom.
  • You don’t need to establish a full schedule at this stage.
  • Both you and your mentor are allowed to say no. If your mentor says no, don’t take it personally! They may have their hands full or feel like they can’t commit to the level or type of mentorship you want, or they may not have the sort of experience that aligns with what they think you’re looking for. The quality of mentorship you receive depends largely on the quality of the fit, so it’s important that your mentor has a say in that, too, as not to waste anyone’s time.

What if I didn’t find a good fit for my mentor, they’re not responsive, or I’m having another problem?

If there isn’t a good mentor available for the areas you are interested in, or if you are just having a hard time getting something to work out, the mentorship program champions are here to help!

For these and any other issues you may run into with the mentorship program, you can always reach the mentorship program champions by tagging @mentorship-champions or posting in #mentorship.

We understand that sometimes the nature of these issues can be more sensitive. While we hope that anyone here feels empowered to speak directly about issues they are facing with those involved, we know that this isn’t always possible, and both the mentorship program champions and People Ops are here to support you in those cases. To privately contact the members of the committee to help you while keeping matters in confidence, you can fill out this form.

Forging a productive partnership

Setting a tentative schedule

Before or during your initial session, one major consideration to have is the cadence and timeframe of your mentoring relationship. Though not required, it can be helpful to lean into our value of high agency and work out an initial schedule of a finite duration upfront, which you can both adjust as needed. For example: “Let’s sync for 30 minutes once a week for 6 weeks.” One obvious benefit of doing this is that you will have your next meeting set! Additionally, it’s natural for both partners to experience diminishing value from the relationship over time; by having an initial end date in mind, things won’t just fizzle out, and the onus isn’t on either individual to “call things off,” which can feel uncomfortable or even hurtful at times.

In the 6 weeks example, the pair could plan to touch base at the 6-week mark and reassess goals, availability, interest, and so on. If it feels like a natural stopping point, or on the converse if there’s momentum around continuing, the mentor and mentee can decide where to go from there.

Regardless of the extent to which you choose to make an initial plan, the most important thing is communicating expectations with your mentor/mentee. If you are concerned or feeling stuck around how to have any of these conversations, your manager is a great resource for advice.

The initial session

For both mentor and mentee, the first session is important to talk about goals and methods and generally establish the base for a working relationship. As a mentor, talk about your experience in the areas that interest them and what sort of approach you and your mentee would like to take. As a mentee, talk about what you want to get out of the mentorship and roughly how long you envision the relationship going. Scheduling and logistics are also important to discuss, though that can happen asynchronously if preferred.

Virtually any question you might have is fair game for this initial session – this is the time to make sure that you’re both on the same page about expectations and start things off with confidence that the arrangement will suit both parties!

For mentors

At the end of your initial session, please add yourself and your mentee to the mentorship tracking sheet! This piece helps the mentorship program champions monitor involvement in the program and gather feedback about your experiences later on.

Setting goals

Goals are critical for the success of a mentoring partnership. While most aspects of a mentor-mentee relationship don’t have strict rules or conditions, if we made one thing a requirement, it would be this: Set at least one clear goal that you can both work to achieve through your partnership.

Generally, the mentee should lead this discussion, since the goal should have the most meaning to them. If needed, the mentor can offer support in the form of a starting point or ideas for refinement. We recommend using SMART goals to formulate the specifics of the goal. You can set more than one goal, but since you’ll want to keep track of them, don’t set too many!

Almost as important as the goal itself is making a plan to regularly evaluate it. Depending on the scale of your goal and the nature of your partnership, we recommend doing so at least once a month.

It’s perfectly fine to change a goal if you feel pulled towards something different over the course of the mentorship, just make sure any changes are mutually agreed upon.

If both you and your mentor or mentee feel a goal has been sufficiently accomplished, the mentor-mentee relationship can come to an end. This frees you both up, potentially for more mentoring! Alternatively, you may choose to move on to focus on another area. If that’s the case, start again with new goals.

Methods for mentoring

Mentoring can take on many forms, and the most effective mentoring is that which takes into account the needs of the mentee best. To get you started, here are some techniques and resources that mentors at Sourcegraph have used before:

  • Instruction
    • A mentor may deliver a lesson or direct instruction for a mentee on how to accomplish something specific.
    • A mentor may also give a demonstration on something they’ve done before.
  • Shadowing
    • A mentee may benefit from shadowing the mentor in some aspect of their work, asking questions or interjecting when confused.
    • A mentor may likewise observe the mentee at work and provide live feedback or tips after-the-fact.
  • Q&A
    • A mentee may just benefit from having someone to talk to or explore questions with.
  • Planning
    • A mentor may advise a mentee on how to make a plan or break down work for a big project.
  • Recommendations for Practise/Experience
    • A mentor may be able to suggest tasks, toy projects, or “homework” to help a mentee learn or practise a skill.
  • Recommendations for Self-Study
    • A mentor may recommend materials for reading, watching, or reviewing on a topic.
  • Recommendations for Perspective
    • A mentor may use their network or position to connect the mentee to other teammates or even individuals outside of Sourcegraph to help the mentee explore different perspectives.
  • Collaboration
    • A mentor may work together with the mentee directly on a specific problem, such as pair programming.
    • This guide talks about different styles of pair programming, such as the driver/navigator pattern, as well as tips for effective pairing.
  • Review/Feedback
    • A mentor may review the mentee’s work, such as a written RFC, a meeting or presentation recording, or a code review.

Of course, this is only an incomplete list! Do you have tips or strategies for successful mentoring? Did you come across a blog post, article, video, or some other resource that was particularly insightful or influential for your personal mentoring style? Consider adding it here!

Measuring success

A good partnership should maintain a consistent pace and have a clear direction; both mentee and mentor should feel like they are building towards something. Goals are the most direct method for evaluating this, but don’t neglect how both parties are feeling. The committee of mentorship program champions will periodically send surveys to check in with both parties. These are a good opportunity to pause and sit with how you’re feeling. However, the most important thing is to be proactive, honest, and kind in how you communicate with your mentor or mentee. Regularly setting aside time to assess the state of the partnership and realign on direction can make the difference between having a good experience and a great one.

Other things to remember

  • A mentor-mentee relationship is not a binding contract: Neither party is forced to continue the sessions if they no longer see enough value out of continuing the sessions: If the mentor is unable to continue due to resource constraints or any other reason, they may choose to help find someone else available on the mentors bulletin board (if the mentee agrees). If the mentee is not deriving enough value from the outcomes of the sessions, they should let the mentor know.
  • Sometimes mentoring is part of someone’s role (this is often true for managers and senior ICs), but don’t let mentoring become a box-ticking exercise. Both parties must be willing to invest into a mentoring partnership in order for it to succeed.