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Why We Need Open Source Mentorship Programs

By January 25, 2023Blog, Mentorship

Written by Jason Perlow, Editorial Director at the Linux Foundation

Mentorship programs in open source are critical for the growth and development of the open source community, and the LFX Mentorship program is no exception. The program’s participants find it so valuable that a whopping 99% of the graduates felt the program to be beneficial, and 47% said it helped them get a job.

In a recent study conducted by Linux Foundation Research, Mentorship in Open Source, with a report authored by Linux Foundation Editorial Director Jason Perlow, over 100 mentees from the LFX Mentorship graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 were surveyed and interviewed about their experiences during participation and postgraduation. This includes several mentorships with the ELISA Project.

The study explores the intrinsic, economic, and career value of mentorship programs in open source, highlighting the importance of such programs for both mentees and mentors.

Benefits of mentorship programs

One of the key benefits of mentorship programs is the intrinsic value they provide. Mentors can share their knowledge and experience with mentees, helping them develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the open source community. Mentees, on the other hand, can learn from experienced professionals, gaining valuable insights and advice that they can use to advance their careers.

In addition to the intrinsic value of mentorship programs, there are also significant economic benefits. Open source projects rely on the contributions of a wide range of individuals, from developers to designers and testers. By providing mentorship opportunities, organizations can help attract and retain talented individuals, which can help ensure the project’s long-term success. This is particularly important for open source projects that rely on community contributions, as these projects need to attract and retain a steady stream of contributors to be successful.

Here are a few more examples of why mentorship programs are important for the both the participants and the open source communities: 

  • Hands-on experience: Open source mentorship programs allow individuals to work on real-world projects, which can help them gain practical skills and experience.
  • Networking opportunities: Participants in open source mentorship programs can interact and collaborate with experienced developers and other professionals in the field. This can lead to valuable networking opportunities and potential job leads.
  • Flexibility: Participating in mentorship programs can be flexible, allowing individuals to work on projects at their own pace and in their own time. This allows for a better work-life balance and allows individuals to continue working on other projects or responsibilities. An example of flexibility is having training sessions recorded so that participants can access them at more convenient times.
  • Learning from experts: Having access to open source project maintainers with deep experience in coding is one of the key benefits of mentorship programs. Participants can learn from their mentors and benefit from their knowledge and experience.
  • Building a portfolio: Participating in mentorship programs provides the opportunity to build a portfolio of work, which can demonstrate to potential employers the skills and experience that an individual has gained.
  • Building a community: Running mentorship programs helps to build a community of developers and professionals who can provide support, guidance, and mentorship to others. This can be a valuable resource for career advancement.

Challenges faced by mentorship programs

One of the challenges mentorship programs face is the lack of funding and support. Many mentorship programs are run by volunteers, who may not have the resources or support to mentor mentees effectively. This can make it difficult for mentees to get the support and guidance they need, leading to frustration and disengagement.

Another challenge faced by mentorship programs is the lack of structure and support. Many mentorship programs are informal, with mentors and mentees often left to figure out how to work together best. This can make it difficult for mentees to get the support and guidance they need, leading to frustration and disengagement.

The LFX Mentorship program, sponsored by the Linux Foundation, aims to address these challenges by providing mentees with the support and guidance they need to be successful in the open source community. The program provides mentees access to a wide range of resources and support, including training and development opportunities, mentoring and coaching, and networking opportunities. The program also provides mentors with the support and guidance they need to be effective mentors, including training and development opportunities, mentoring and coaching, and networking opportunities.

Insights from the report

Here are a few highlights of valuable insights gained from the mentorship study:

  • Improving Diversity: Mentorship creates opportunities for a healthy succession of open source project contributions and leadership.
  • Career Advancement Opportunities: 69% of mentees have seen their career advance because of mentorship, with 47% saying that the program helped them get a job.
  • Increased Income: 67% of employed mentees report increased income after program participation.
  • Improved Contributions: 85% of mentees are or are willing to contribute to the project they were involved in after mentorship.

Who should read the report?

One of the report’s primary audiences is developers interested in open source mentorship. The report provides detailed information on the types of mentorship programs available and the skills and experience typically required for mentors and mentees. Developers interested in becoming a mentor or mentees in open source can use the report to understand the process better and what is involved.

Another important audience for the report is managers and leaders within open source communities. The report provides valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of mentorship in open source and can help managers and leaders identify areas where they can improve their mentorship programs. Additionally, the report guides how to design and implement mentorship programs that are effective and sustainable.


The Linux Foundation’s report on mentorship in open source is an important resource for many individuals and organizations involved in open source software development. In partnership with CNCF, ELISA Project, Hyperledger, Open Mainframe Project and OpenSSF, the report provides valuable insights into the current state of mentorship in open source and best practices for mentorship programs. Developers, managers, community leaders, educators and trainers, and researchers can all benefit from reading the report and using the information it contains to improve their own mentorship programs and contribute to the overall success of the open source community.