Diversity Initiative Update: Mentoring and conference organization
As part of the diversity initiative we in the beginning focused on putting systems into place to ensure that everyone can feel safe within our community. A major step was the adoption of the CoC and establishing of the CARE team, and maybe even more so by discussions within our community. We have made huge strides forward in this area with channels like #thankyou and #victory on the Symfony devs Slack. With these channels, where we celebrate all contributions and achievements no matter how small or large, we strife to create a more positive atmosphere. This has spilled over to other channels leading to open discussions about how to improve diversity and inclusion. We of course acknowledge that diversity and inclusion is a topic which requires a continuous learning process.
However, the obvious next step is to actively invite new developers to join our community and empower existing members to take the next step in making their voices heard. For this reason we published two new sections in our documentation: one for general mentoring and one for speaker mentoring.
The general #mentoring Slack channel is intended as a place where both newcomers and people seeking to take the next steps in their learning can find assistance. They can either ask questions as they come up or seek a more one-on-one approach with a mentor. A mentor can help you through anxieties during your first steps, as it is possible to discuss things outside of the public eye, building a trust relationship with an experienced community member. Aside from this, there is also the #contribs Slack channel for people that specifically seek help in contributing to the Symfony core.
As this entire concept is still quite informal, we do ask for feedback on how we can improve: Does it need more formal processes? Do we need regular “mentor meets mentee” events?
Another aspect we want to focus on is getting more people comfortable with sharing their knowledge in the community. For this purpose we have created a #speaker-mentoring Slack channel. Similar to the #mentoring Slack channel, the goal is to provide a place where beginners can ask questions and perhaps find a mentor. A mentor can help finding topics to submit to for call-for-papers and review proposals and slide decks. They can even do trial runs of your presentation with you. Remember: your first talk doesn’t have to be at a SymfonyCon, it can also be at a local user group or at your place of employment.
Once again, we are very much looking for feedback: Should we do regular virtual conferences for first time speakers? Are finances and logistics holding you back more than lack of help with getting your talk prepared?
As a final note, I wanted to mention Joni’s work as part of the Dutch PHP Conference. She contacted me recently about what we have done to document some advice for conference organizers in terms of diversity and inclusion in the Symfony community. Unfortunately, all I had to offer was a ticket with a lot of links. A week or two passed, and Joni came back with this amazing document that is now on Github. It contains a very comprehensive list of topics organizers should consider, with useful advice on how to implement these and links for further reading.
I would like to invite everyone who organizes events in the Symfony community to have a look. Even if you just implement a few of these items, it is already a step forward! Of course the reason this document was put on Github was to make it easy for people to collaborate on it and continuously improve and expand it. Semi-related, it would be cool if maybe some people from the Symfony community could help to add support for a blind review process to the opencfp platform.