Dial M For Mentor

This talk was accepted and given at: PyCaribbean 2017, DjangoCon Europe 2017, PyCon Italy 2017, and PyCon US 2017.

It was also accepted at two another regional Python conferences, but I declined the invitation.

One was because they didn’t provide any financial aid, and I didn’t have any support from my employer.

The other I declined because I was already going to another conference just one week before, and it was getting difficult for my family that I was away all the time.


Special thanks to Ned Batchelder who helped me refine this proposal.


The following was the proposal I submitted to PyCon US 2017. If you’ve seen my talk, you will realize that the proposal was not quite the same as the talk I gave. I had a life-changing event after this proposal was accepted, so I made slight modification.


Dial M for Mentor


30 minutes slot

Who and Why

Members of Python and open source community who are looking for a mentor, and needing clues as to how to find a good mentor. Those who are hesitant to ask for help may get the encouragement to reach out. Current mentors will gain insight about what their mentees are going through.


One of the nicest things about Python community is the availability of mentors willing to help you. Various mentors have helped me navigate the open source community and help advanced my skills. I realized finding a mentor is not as easy as it seems, and it takes a lot of courage to reach out in the first place. And then, there is impostor syndrome, where one may feel like they don’t deserve the help. In this talk, I will provide advice about working with a mentor. Asking for help is not a failure.


  1. Myths to debunk: (5-10 minutes)

    • “I don’t deserve their help/I’m not worthy”

      • Impostor Syndrome. Men and women alike can experience this.
      • First, admit that this is a problem, then help yourself.
      • Provide links to other talks/resources which discuss Impostor Syndrome
    • “I’m wasting their time”

      • Mentors learn from you too. Your work may expose them to areas they haven’t been before.
      • Mentors gain skills: leadership, communication, and time management.
      • Sometimes it’s nice to have solvable problems to work on. “Experts” have challenging days of their own full of uncertainty and confusion. Being able to help and having answers to your questions can be a rewarding experience.
    • “I’m a failure for needing help”

    • “I know so little, I don’t even know what questions to ask”

      • It’s part of learning. You will reach the point where you don’t need help anymore.
      • Why work with a mentor (5 minutes)
      • Maybe you’ve been stuck for a long time
      • Maybe you tried it on your own, and not successful.
      • Maybe you’re experienced in one domain, but want to learn new skills

      Eg: You’re experienced in Python, and want to start picking up Javascript/Go/C

      Mentors have gone through your problems. They can help and provide guidance But it’s up to you to reach out in the first place. Don’t believe in myths.

      Personal experience: Making more progress when working with mentor, compared to when trying to achieve things on my own.

  2. Where to find mentors (3 minutes)

    • Face to face / in person
    • Someone within your own organization/company/school
    • Someone in your local python community/meetup
    • Online mentorship:
      • Pyladies, Python Core Mentorship
      • IRC or Slack channels
      • Conference speaker mentors
  3. Working with your mentor (5 minutes)

    • It’s two-way, requires commitment from both sides
    • Respect each other. Your mentor has other commitments and personal life
    • If it doesn’t work out for any reason, find a different mentor.
    • Want to thank your mentor? Pay it forward. Mentor others.
  4. Truth about mentorship (3 minutes)

    • Mentor plays a supporting role. They provide resources and advice needed to succeed. But they won’t be doing your homework.
    • You are the real star of the show, you learn and do all the real work.
    • Don’t forget to take credit for your own work and effort.