Mentor Handbook#

The Astropy Mentoring Programme#

The mentoring programme is designed to upskill potential candidates to take on maintainer and other formal roles, as well as offering support and guidance longer term. It is also designed to help improve and grow the Astropy community – both in terms of technical skills and inclusivity.

This guidance is designed to help you build and maintain an effective mentoring relationship and support you through the mentoring process.

What is mentoring?#

Mentoring is a professional partnership in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentee) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the mentee’s professional and personal growth and help develop their skills.

The mentoring relationship#

The purpose of the mentoring relationship is to:

  • Offer the mentee support and guidance, and help them to feel part of the Astropy community

  • Upskill the mentee to take on the desired role

  • Identify skill / knowledge / behavioural gaps

  • Establish goals and action plans to meet these gaps

  • Assess progress and evaluate whether mentees are ready to take on the role

What is my role?#

Your role as a mentor is to offer guidance, advice, and support to your mentee; to encourage and motivate them and to ensure your mentee has the experience and confidence to take on more responsibility in the Astropy project.

Effective mentors:

  • Help the mentee think through their options and provide advice and guidance

  • Encourage and motivate

  • Role model behaviours

  • Nurture – be open and candid, enabling the mentee to confide in and trust you

  • Maximise learning opportunities - and be patient!

  • Create an environment of mutual respect

  • Listen, challenge and provide feedback

  • Communicate regularly

Key points to remember:

  • Remember to ask - what do they want to develop & focus on? You are not there to fix problems for them, tell them what to do or discount their thoughts and opinions.

  • Patience is key – push them out of their comfort zone gradually by offering challenge, but do not expect overnight changes. Avoid pushing too far, too soon.

  • Ensure you keep appointments – ensure there is mutual respect for each other’s time.

  • It’s a two-way relationship. You are there to guide the mentee, but also be open to new ideas or ways of thinking – your mentee may have an idea you’ve not considered before. Accept challenge and feedback from your mentee as well as offering it to them.

What should I expect from my mentee?#

Effective mentees:

  • Are willing to discuss failures and successes

  • Have a desire to learn & develop - identify and share their development goals

  • Give and receive honest feedback

  • Are accountable and reliable

  • Are respectful of your time

  • Communicate regularly

  • Take advantage of opportunities

The mentoring process#

Process Flowchart

Successful applicants to the mentoring program will be paired with a suitable mentor (when possible) by the mentoring coordinator. Current members of the Astropy team may also identify potential mentees they would like to train in their role and encourage them to apply. Mentees will apply for the program by opening an issue on the astropy-mentoring repo, and the chosen mentor will be assigned to that issue.

Once paired, the mentor and mentee will both be sent guidance and recommendations - including this documentation - by the mentoring coordinator. The mentor will then be responsible for holding regular meetings with the mentee, and for guiding and supporting them appropriately throughout the mentoring process. This is all described in more detail on the main page.

During meetings the mentor should discuss with the mentee what they want to achieve from the program and where their current skills or behaviours fall short of that aim. For instance, the mentee might wish to become a sub-package maintainer but lack experience with that particular sub-package (skill/knowledge gap), or have a poor record of reviewing PRs (behavioural gap). Once identified, the mentor and mentee should agree an action plan to address these gaps (see “Build an action plan” below). In each meeting the mentee’s progress should be assessed, any new aims and gaps should be discussed and a new action plan should be agreed if necessary.

Both the mentor and mentee will be prompted to check in with the mentoring coordinator monthly, to ensure that there are no issues requiring their attention. Additionally, every three months the mentor will be asked to decide whether the mentee has progressed enough to graduate to their chosen role or if they should continue with the mentoring program. These check-ins will use the mentee’s application issue. If the mentee is ready to graduate, the mentor should nominate them for the role following the usual process.

The first meeting#

Conversation guide

To build a strong foundation for a mentoring relationship, it is critical to build trust and clearly establish expectations at the beginning. Use the following questions to guide your first mentoring conversation, which will help you get to know one another and establish mutual expectations and goals.

Consider where they are now, and where they are trying to get to – the specific skills, knowledge and behaviours they will need to take on their aspired role.


  • What is your background?

  • What are your greatest strengths and development areas?

  • What are your short-term goals? Long-term goals?


  • What topics would you like to cover to help you feel confident in this role?

  • What specific skills or knowledge would you like to cover in our meetings?

  • How do you prefer to communicate between meetings?

  • What role do you expect your mentor to play?

  • Are there any ground rules you would like to set?

Establish the relationship timeline#

To build an effective mentoring relationship and help them take on the role, you should establish clear goals, build trust, define an action plan, and then meet on a consistent basis. Use the check list below to help.

Check list#

First Meeting - Establish Goals and Expectations

  • Identify your expectations for the mentoring relationship.

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities.

  • Discuss action items to be completed before the next meeting.

Create an Action Plan

  • Discuss mentee’s strengths and identify short- and long-term development needs.

  • Establish the mentee’s goals.

  • Complete an action plan

  • Discuss action items to be completed before the next meeting.

Act on and Revise the Action Plan

  • Review progress on actions items determined at the end of the last meeting.

  • Discuss items of interest, current challenges, recent successes, etc.

  • Review the mentee’s goals and their progress, and amend as needed.

  • Discuss action items to be completed before the next meeting.

Build an action plan#

Together, mentor and mentee should create an action plan to achieve the objectives that the mentee established at the beginning of the relationship. The mentor should help the mentee determine where to focus and how best to accomplish their goals. Suggestion is to complete the form below during your second meeting, and continuously update it, as needed.


Mentee’s Action Steps

Mentor’s Action Steps

Support Network’s Action Steps (Role of manager, peers, etc.)

Potential Barriers (Risk mitigation steps)

Success Measures (Must be measurable and results-focused)

Target Completion Date(s)




In case of problems#

Occasionally the mentee may need to exit the mentoring scheme without ‘graduating’, or the mentor may no longer be able to continue working with the mentee. Either might happen for a variety of reasons - time constraints, breakdown of the mentor/mentee relationship, etc. If this is the case, the mentor should contact the mentoring coordinator and explain the situation. The mentoring coordinator will then take the appropriate action depending on the circumstances.

Further support#

If you need any more detail on any of the information in this handbook, come across a situation that isn’t covered and need assistance or have questions relating to the running of the program itself, you should contact the mentoring coordinator. The current mentoring coordinator is Aperio Software Ltd., which is also administering the program. Stuart, Tom and Drew at Aperio can be reached through the Astropy Slack, or you can send an email to