Becoming a Coach

Our coaches are the first line of support, working closely with student teams. As experienced developers, you help students learn and accomplish project tasks, supporting them, and deal with issues and questions that arise in their day-to-day work.

This can take a lot of time and effort, so coaches must be committed to being available to help their team. Coaches often team up and work in a roster to provide students with the best possible support.

Coaches can simultaneously be mentors. Their employer may also wish to be a coaching company.

Considering becoming a Rails Girls Summer of Code coach? The following guide will help you to get involved.

Coach Guide

What it takes to be a coach

Essential characteristics of a coach are:

  • Patience and an open mind
  • Experience in coaching
  • Time for coaching during office hours

First of all, coaches are patient, tolerant and open people. Levels of coding experience among our students varies from novice to medium. They have diverse backgrounds, mentalities, mindsets, and goals. We expect all this to be considered and respected by everyone involved.

Ideally, potential coaches already have coaching experience — either from a coding event (like a local workshop) or from guiding junior developers at work.

For your students, getting to know the process of coding work will be more important than learning the tools. Regardless of what your personal preferences might be, the perfect tools for RGSoC students are whatever gets them started and keeps them curious, engaged, and eager to learn. Give your students the chance to discover their own path. Our goal is to get and keep students excited about coding!

Ideally, students and their coach share the same office space. Some companies allow employees to spend a predetermined amount of time coaching during business hours. However, where this isn’t possible, remote coaching can work — it all depends on the team and the project.

Should a coach not be available to help with a specific issue, students can also reach out to our team of remote coaches via a dedicated Slack channel.

Why should I be a coach?

Coaching is extremely rewarding. There are a lot of good reasons to become a coach. For example, we firmly believe that it will help you:

  • give back to the community by empowering women and non-binary people to contribute to open source
  • share your knowledge
  • reflect on concepts you tend to take for granted
  • help you grow as a developer, improve the way you write code and benefit your work as a programmer

Above all, it will be incredibly satisfying for you to see the happy faces of your students when they succeed and reach their goals.

Can I coach remotely?

The short answer is: Yes — if it’s the right choice for everyone involved.

We highly recommend that students and coaches spend their Summer of Code in the same location, ideally sharing one workspace. We believe that sitting together in front of a screen with your team to help them solve problems or explain concepts is often more beneficial (and easier), both for students and their coaches.

However, where this just isn’t possible remote coaching becomes a good alternative solution and we’ll try our best to make this possible for our teams.

What will I be doing as a coach?

  • Going over the technical basics if needed
  • Guiding students through coding steps
  • Showing them how to debug and troubleshoot
  • Showing students ways to find solutions

It is important for coaches to teach the process of programming — showing students the way to a solution rather than just telling them the answer. This may sometimes require going over the basics, teaching them how to debug and troubleshoot, or discussing concepts on paper.

Coaches should spend time with their students, guiding them through the relevant coding steps (e.g. by asking mindful questions). Every project is different and requires its own methods. Without being too dry, make sure your students really understand what you are trying to teach them.

Please be aware that being an RGSoC coach is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. This role comes with a lot of responsibility you need to be certain you can handle it. Your support is essential for teams to succeed!

Should I have in-depth knowledge of the project(s) chosen by my team?

Coaches do not have to be experts on the Open Source project, so in-depth knowledge is not required.

However, we do expect you to have some expertise in the technologies used and understand the project to be able to support students’ learning process and follow the mentor’s directions.

We also recommend getting acquainted with the project’s technical design and codebase once your team is accepted into the program.

How much time does coaching take?

The actual time required for each team varies but as a general rule you will need to invest:

  • 1-2 hours a day during office hours for face-to-face support
  • time ad hoc via chat or email for questions and important/urgent matters

Where it makes sense, in-person coaching can also be “blocked” during a whole day or afternoon a week, making it easier for you to integrate it with your day-to-day work.

Coaches are not expected to work together with their students full-time. But from a student’s perspective, it is best for them and their progress if they have a coach at hand most of the time, as they will constantly run into issues they need help with. This is why we recommend sharing the responsibilities among a minimum of 2 coaches.

Could you ask your company to become a Coaching Company?

How to register as a coach

To register as a coach on our Teams app:

  • Log in with GitHub
  • Under “My Account” choose “Edit”
  • Select what you’re interested in: helping as a coach or as a remote coach/providing helpdesk support
  • Important: make sure you have added an email address to your profile

When you have found a team, ask one of the student applicants to add you as a coach. To do this, they must:

  • Click "Add a Member" on their team page in the Teams App
  • Add your GitHub handle and choose "coach" for the role
  • Save

Ways to find a team

If you don’t yet know anyone who would make a suitable student, these ideas could help:

  • Reach out to local Rails Girls, PyLadies, WomenWhoCode, BlackGirlsCode, PHPwomen, etc. chapters
  • Get in touch with local developer user groups, initiatives, and study groups to let them know you’re willing to host a team
  • Spread the word by mentioning @RailsGirlsSoC on Twitter stating that you are offering your space and coaches (remember to introducing yourself, specifying your areas of expertise and location); we’ll retweet and help you connect with prospective students
  • Write a blog post to get the word out about you wanting to become a coaching company: talk about your dev team, the work environment, and your motivations for wanting to host a team
  • Students looking for a coaching company can also find you in the Teams app

Still got questions?

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