The CDSW curriculum is designed around extremely high mentor to learner ratio of at least 5:1 and its usually closer to 4:1. The curriculum pushes students to become independent and gets them writing and modifying code on their very first day programming and this is only possible because we have an enormous number of generous mentors to help students walk through trouble they encounter during their first steps learning the basics of programming and data science.
Those of us that have done this a few times feel that mentoring is deeply rewarding. Watching students grow and learn and programmers as they become frustrated and overcome those frustrations is an inspiring thing to be a part of!
That said, we also understand that it is an enormous amount of time to take out of your weekends. Thank you, thank you, thank you for volunteering your time to make this possible.
- How do I help?
- Some people who are struggling will not ask for help. We encourage mentors to reach out to students and ask them how things are going by walking around to every single person to ask, “How are you doing? What are you working on? Show me what you’re doing.” Don't wait for students to ask! Simply giving them the opportunity to talk through a problem, even if you don't give them advice, can be a useful part of learning. Very often, you'll find stuck learners just staring at their screens.
- How much should I help?
- Some. But be careful not to just give away the answer, to focus too much on elegance or technical correctness. Be careful not to overwhelm the learners. Learners are usually trying to get something to work at all and it's more important to get folks to a solution than the insist that they do in the Right Way™. Our goal is to get students to write correct code that they understand. Once they have a solution, you can share alternative ways! A good clarifying question is very often all a student needs and the best thing you can provide.
- What if I miss the morning lectures?
- If you're missing the morning sessions, that's OK, but please do look over the morning lecture notes and cheatsheets to get a sense for what students have been exposed to. For example, we're intentionally not going to cover objects, classes, iterators, list comprehensions, or recursion in any of the sessions so bringing these things up while you're mentoring students might overwhelm and confuse participants. By no means are you restricted to only mentioning things we've covered in lecture. Sometimes showing a student a shortcut, a useful function, or a new trick can be instructive, appropriate, and helpful! Take 5-10 minutes to familiarize yourself with what we've covered and use your judgment as you work with the learners!
Dinners and Drinks
After every session, the organizers will take mentors out for food and drinks. You obviously don't have to come but it's a good opportunity to network with the other mentors to share notes, and to decompress. Of course, it's the least we can do to thank you!
Microsoft has a matching gifts program that extends to volunteer labor. Basically, Microsoft will donate money for every hour you spend volunteering for certain non-profit organizations. Fortunately, the UW Department of Communication, which the organizational home for the CDSW, is on that list and has been willing to accept money for us which we can then spend on things like drinks for the mentor gatherings described above! Contact Tommy Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ben Lewis (email@example.com) for information on how to set this up.
If you work for another company that has a program like this, please edit this page!