Frequently Asked Questions about being a Mentor in the IETF Mentoring Program

  1. What is the IETF Mentoring Program?

    The goal of the IETF Mentoring Program is to match experienced IETF participants with newcomers (people who have participated in three or fewer face-to-face meetings or anyone registering as a student) in order to aid their integration into the IETF community through advice, help, and collected wisdom. The guidance provided by the mentors should speed up the time it takes for newcomers to become active, contributing members of the IETF.

  2. What is an IETF mentor?

    A mentor plays the role of advisor, coach, teacher, and guide. The combinations of roles allows a mentor to provide the guidance needed to assist the mentoring participant in developing the skills needed to participate effectively within the IETF standards process.
  3. What skills are needed to be a mentor?

    The biggest skill needed is a willingness to share your knowledge of the IETF with a mentoring participant. This can include explaining: 1) the IETF standards development process, 2) the IETF management structure, 3) other IETF participants' skill sets, 4) the working group creation process, and 5) technical knowledge.

  4. How much time will being a mentor take?

    The amount of time is variable based on an agreement between the mentor and the mentoring participant. It is hoped that the mentoring relationship will extend beyond the interactions during the face-to-face meetings, but the meetings are used to kick-start the relationship.

  5. How does one become an IETF mentor?

    Anyone who feels comfortable they can answer (or find someone who can answer) questions about the IETF can volunteer to be a mentor. If interested, send your answers to the questions found here to

  6. Is the mentoring program restricted to certain kinds of people?

    Initially, the program is focused on mentoring participants who are newcomers to the IETF. If the program progresses in a positive direction, we will explore opening up the program to all participants. Anyone currently involved in the IETF (and NomCom eligible) is eligible to be a mentor.

  7. How are matches made between mentors and participants?

    A small group of IETF participants have volunteered to act as coordinators. The coordinators have areas of expertise and will work with the characteristics identified by the mentoring participants to match them with mentors who have similar interests and areas of work.

  8. What makes a good mentor?

    A successful mentor will be flexible, responsive, and willing to take the initiative to provide guidance. A mentor should have the confidence that they have useful knowledge that will aid a mentoring participant. Experience in the IETF culture will allow the mentor to recognize areas where newcomers will struggle within the IETF and allow the mentor to pass along constructive information. This is especially key in the areas of cultural norms and the IETF environment.

  9. What happens after a mentor and mentoring participant are matched?

    Once a match has been made, the mentor should initiate contact with the mentoring participant. After that, the interactions are up to them. Useful interactions will vary based on the needs of the mentoring participant and the skills of the mentor. In the event that a mentor or mentoring participant is unresponsive or the pair decide that the match is not constructive, the coordinators can be contacted to request a new pairing.

  10. What if my mentoring participant has a question that I cannot answer?

    When someone volunteers to be a mentor, they will be added to a mentors mailing list. One of the goals of this list is to provide a discussion forum for the mentors to brainstorm over problems raised by a participant that couldn't be immediately answered. It is also expected that mentors will not know all the answers, but should be in a good position to point the mentoring participant in the right direction. This includes assisting in searching out the answer to the question.

  11. How does the mentoring program work?

    During IETF meeting registration, newcomers will be identified and given the opportunity to request a mentor. After the request is made, the mentor coordinators will assess the areas of interest of the newcomer and select a mentor from a pool of volunteers. The mentor will be selected based on areas of common interest between the mentor and mentoring participant. After the match is made, an introductory e-mail will be sent to the mentor and mentoring participant in order to provide contact information. After that, it is up to the mentor and mentoring participant to determine how the relationship will progress. After the face-to-face IETF meeting, the mentor program will send out a brief questionnaire to determine how well the program is functioning.