I didn’t get to where I am in my life and career on my own. I have a ton of respect and admiration for the folks who’ve helped and mentored me along the way. Molly Holzschlag took me under her wing and taught me so much about public speaking and selflessly working for a better Web. Jeffrey Zeldman made a place for me at A List Apart, heavily influenced my writing, invited me onto his team at Happy Cog, and has both supported and promoted my work for well over a decade now. Jeremy Keith collaborated with me early on and has provided invaluable guidance to me over the years. And these are but a few of the dozens upon dozens of folks I owe my career to and, if I’m being honest, helped me discover my passion.
Recognizing all of this, I’ve made a concerted effort to “pay it forward” by finding opportunities for others to hone their craft and improve as professionals. In some cases it’s been recommending them as conference speakers, introducing them to publishers, recommending them for jobs, asking them to collaborate on projects, or simply providing advice and guidance for their careers or their companies. To date, most of these efforts have been one-offs. For a while now I’ve been wanting to work more intensely with one person, but I needed to get settled into my relatively new role at Microsoft (as well as my new role as a father) first.
I’m ready now.
I am looking for someone to mentor in 2017. If you’re interested in working with me throughout the year, I’m accepting “applications” for the slot through the end of January. As of right now, I’m only comfortable committing to one mentee for 2017, but once I see how it’s going, I may opt to take on additional mentees in the future.
What are you looking for in a mentee?
To me, it doesn’t matter to me where you are in your career… no matter how long we’ve been doing something, there’s always room for improvement. When I think about my ideal mentee, I’m looking for someone who’s passionate about the Web and who I think I can do some good for. I don’t care how young or old you are or how long you’ve worked on the Web. I firmly believe we can always benefit from a mentorship.
Similarly, it doesn’t matter to me where you live nor does it matter to me how good your English is (though it’s probably better than you give yourself credit for). If you happen to be local to the Southeastern U.S. or somewhere I’m traveling over the next year, we’ll definitely spend some time getting together in person, but that is by no means a requirement. Email… Skype… Hangouts… I’m happy to work with you no matter where you are.
How do I apply?
In order to apply, all I ask is that you write a public post somewhere on the Web that discusses why you love the Web, where you’re at in your career, and what your goals are for the coming year. I’m not looking for a particular length or anything, just trying to get a sense of you, your passions, and your interests.
Once you’ve done that, use this site’s contact form to send me the link, along with a brief write-up as to why you’d like me to mentor you. In particular I’m interested to hear where our passions overlap and how you think I can help you. I want to make sure we are a good fit. And be honest… if you want me as a mentor because of the connections I have, say that; I appreciate honesty.
Anyway, that’s it. No big hoops to jump through. I’ll keep the lines open through Tuesday, January 31st in whatever your local timezone is. I look forward to getting to know you and taking one of you under my wing this year.
Yes, I’m struggling.
This man knows his onions. Take him up on the offer!
Wow, my grammar sucked this morning.
That’s awesome :D
A fantastic web design mentorship opportunity, you should apply. Yes, you! twitter.com/AaronGustafson…
Web devs, you’ll want to read this:
What a great initiative!
If you’re looking for some professional improvement, you should seriously consider this! Aaron is a great guy! :-)
Hi @AaronGustafson! This is why I followed you.
I have a lot to learn, @AaronGustafson.
So great you’re doing this. Been thinking of this kind of thing a lot myself, too—just need to find the right avenue & time
Thanks! I’m really looking forward to it.
Defenders…an opportunity of a lifetime!
I want to win this badly
this is amazing. I’m not surprised because it’s who you are but I wanted to say I think it’s great
A few weeks back, I put out the call for a mentee for 2017. As part of the application process, I asked folks to publicly discuss why they love the Web. The applicants shared some amazing stories, anecdotes, and experiences in those posts and I wanted to take a moment to share them with you.1I present them here, in order of submission.
I still remember the first time a friend with a different provider gave me their email address. I was used to the cozy confines of AOL, where emailing another user required only their “screen name”–what we think of today as the part that goes before the @ sign. (Mine was Maxinator1.)
“What’s this funny stuff at the end, after your screen name?” I asked.
“That’s the domain. Mine’s compuserve dot com. Yours must be AOL dot com.”
“What? You can’t not be on AOL.”
“How do you look at keywords?”
Believe it or not, the invention of the web was not to give me something to do when I grew up.
I see power in the web for the very real capacity it has for good — communication and connection, access to communication, and on and on. And just like magic, it can be wielded in the interest of the light or the darkness (and those lines aren’t always the clearest). I want to do what I can to use it for good.
I will never stop learning, and I will never stop putting myself out of my financial and intellectual comfort zone. I think that, ultimately, this attitude will lead me to be very successful, even if it means being dirt poor for the next few years :}
Web design and web development are not (just) about writing the most flexible, reactive and dynamic app, impressing colleagues and clients, and earning awards. First and foremost it’s about people using our products. I believe that from time to time we all need to be reminded of that fact.
I can still remember what it was like to build my first website. I had absolutely no clue how to do stuff, it was all trial and error. But going back and forth between blogs, tutorials and stack overflow, watching other people work, shamelessly copying bits and pieces—I improved.
The fact that I can just hit
view sourceon any website and see how it’s made still amazes me.
Altough I have a degree in web development now, I can honestly say that I learnt most of what I do by soaking up information available on the open web.
This is only made possible by lots of talented people who not only produce great work, but dedicate their time and energy to show others how to do it, too. I don’t know any other profession with such an open exchange of knowledge.
People from around the world actually work together on open-source projects, just to build something that others can use. Top developers in the field will share their latest findings publicly in carefully crafted tutorials and code examples on Github.
Think about how amazing that is—an entire industry where you can learn every last secret of the trade for free—all you need is dedication and an internet connection.
“Inter-Connectivity.” It’s a word I learned from an administrator at work. He challenged his team to reach out and reach through to other organizations. Organizations that are probably striving for the same goal that we are, but are too focused to look left or right to see others that are trying to do the same thing.
It’s why I love the web. The Internet seems to have a knack for inter-connectivity (hyperlinking, search results, purchase recommendations, @mentions, etc). It doesn’t come as naturally for humans at times. It takes risking assumptions and being intentional. Sometimes we need more of that spiderweb mentality and reach out, not just up or down. My administrator was telling us that, yes, we do a great work, but don’t be blinded to think we’re the only ones. Just imagine what good we could do together with more partners that don’t exactly look or function just like us.
I started making websites in the mid-90s when I was still in high school. I was fascinated that I could put something up on the web and people anywhere in the world could see it if they knew where to look. That feeling still inspires me, even after 20 years.
Every time you are revising your knowledge and things you used to accept as ‘it is so simply because it is so’. And very often can happen that during a process of your professional evolution (in fact does not matter what kind of profession you belong to), you were missing some obvious details which could make your present life as the established professional much easier. The most trivial question can open your eyes on some hidden secrets which were escaping from your attention just because there were dozens and dozens of the different and the more interesting things that seemed more important at that time.
What I love about being a developer is that I’m always learning something new and meeting other more senior devs that are so willing to lend a helping hand to newbies.
I love what I do now because my experience in development has been diametrically opposed to that previous job. Solutions to problems are almost never a 1:1 ratio, collaboration is embraced, the pursuit of continual learning is highly encouraged, and the communities I’ve been a part of have been thoroughly supportive.
I thought this was going to be difficult to answer, but it’s actually quite simple - albeit long-winded. I love the immense potential it represents; allowing people to help themselves, allowing people to help others directly, fostering connections in lieu of constant personal contact, delivering new experiences, helping people do good things for free - I could go on. There are just so, so, so many reasons why the web is important. The web extends beyond just websites for me: I used it as a crutch to overcome social anxieties and excessive shyness. I taught myself how to code using resources my parents would not afford on paper. I expressed myself. I entertained myself. I made friends when it was difficult for me to maintain friendships at school - and some of these individuals are close friends of mine seven years later. Heck, the web even introduced to me to my soulmate who is with me in Australia. I loved being on the web and I always wanted to be a creator on it.
There are so many lines being crossed for the sake of monetisation, for the sake of control, and I want this to change. Ultimately, I really want to give back in honour of the faceless strangers that made a lot of my life happen the way it did. The web should be better for everyone.
As a kid, I rarely played with a toy the same way twice. When I got older I spent my waking hours flipping, spinning, and grinding at the skatepark. In school, I pursued graphic design. A few months into my first nine-to-five, I discovered the web.
Every decision along the way was made with that question top-of-mind, “What else can I do with this?”
I want to keep learning until my children send me into a home, or even when I finally take that dirt nap I hear about.
I truly wish I could mentor all of these folks this year, but I’m only one guy with a day job and a family I’d like to see on occasion. This is going to be one heck of a tough choice. I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of these folks (and all of the other applicants) for sharing their stories and their goals with me, with us.
I urge you to read their posts and maybe write one of your own.
In other words, there were so many great applications that this will buy me some more time to make my decision :-) ↩
Early this year, I put out the call to anyone who might be interested in a mentorship with me. The response was overwhelming and the decision of who to work with this year was really tough. After a great deal of consideration, however, I chose not one, but two folks I really wanted to work with this year: Amberley Romo and Manuel Matuzović.
I’ve been working with the two of them for a few months now and wanted to highlight a bit about who they are and what we are working on.
Amberley’s story really resonated with me. She is heavily invested in the Web as a tool for good. A force capable of bringing more equity to this world.
Growing up with a nonverbal sibling with intellectual and developmental disabilities was one of the single most formative experiences of my life. I find myself very lucky to have been born when I was, to enjoy growing up without being oversaturated with technology, but witnessing and participating in the periods of growth that I have. One of the ways I personally benchmark that progress is in the evolution of the technology my sister used to communicate.
Over the last few years, Amberley has performed in a number of different roles in and around the Web, but in the last year she’s been getting more serious about her career as a web developer. She is incredibly motivated and enrolled herself in a 3-month, full-time development accelerator to deepen her understanding of software development. And in my discussion with her, it’s clear the force is strong with this one.
Much of my work with Amberley has, thus far, been centered around career development. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing what it’s like to work for smaller companies and large corporations and the benefits and frustrations inherent in each.
Outside of her day job, we’ve discussed opportunities for her to channel her talent into worthwhile open source projects. It was kismet that just as we started discussing this, I received an email from Shay Cojocaru, a front-end dev at The Center for Educational Technology (CET) in Israel. He introduced me to a project he was working on: CBoard. CBoard is an open source tool aimed at making communication easier for non-verbal people… like Amberley’s sister, who she had mentioned in her application. The stars had aligned. After all, Amberley has had a lot of experience with these tools, both in analog and digital form.
It’s an understatement to say I’m very excited to see where this partnership goes. I’m also keen to discover new opportunities and learn more about Amberley in the months ahead. She’s an amazing lady.
Follow Amberley and check out her work
- Twitter: @amberleyjohanna
- Blog: amberley.me
- Portfolio: amberleyromo.com
- LinkedIn: @amberleyromo
- Github: @amberleyromo
To be honest, Manuel was on my radar well before he applied for my mentorship. I was already following and sharing his writings on Medium and was impressed with his interest in generating practical introductions to accessibility for front-end developers. He has a knack for turning something that seems huge and daunting into something that is manageable and—dare I say—easy to understand and implement.
In his application, Manuel talked about his interest in continuing to grow as a developer, but also to do more to share what he knows, both in prose and at conferences. Seeing how much he has to offer, I leapt at the chance to help him do that. I want his work to get more exposure. I can easily see him contributing to Smashing Magazine and A List Apart and advocating for a more equitable Web on stage at Beyond Tellerrand and Generate.
In our work together over the past few months, we’ve worked on
- developing the talk he gave at Wordcamp Vienna,
- developing a talk and negotiating his participation in PiterCSS in Saint Petersburg, Russia; and
- a substantial overhaul of the Adaptive Web Newsletter.
I know for a fact that Manuel would find success in his endeavors without me; he has the talent and he has the drive—no question. I’m just thankful I get to play a small part in his journey.
Follow Manuel and check out his work