The Apache Software Foundation Blog

Monday September 23, 2019

Success At Apache: "Mentor Your Mentor"

By Patricia Shanahan

After retiring, I wanted to continue programming but without the pressure and constraints of a job, so I started contributing to Apache. Open software development the Apache way is a great retirement hobby, offering social contacts, intellectual challenge, continuous learning, and the pleasant feeling of making a contribution.

I just got back from having a wonderful time at ApacheCon NA 2019 in Las Vegas. While there, I met relatively young people, and older people who had been involved in Apache for up to 20 years, but joining as a retiree seemed to be unusual. 

Encouraging retirees could benefit Apache in many ways. 

Often, a retiree has a range of experience and skills that take time to accumulate. I have worked, for several years each, on applications, operating systems, compilers, system performance, and architecture of servers with dozens of processors. People like me who were programming in the 1970's have experience surmounting memory limitations, a skill that may be useful again for Internet of Things projects. I can imagine several reasons for a lack of retiree recruits. The most basic is that the computing profession was relatively small when a 2019 retiree would have started their career. That is a good reason to develop ways of helping retirees join Apache, so we will benefit from increasing numbers over the next few decades.

Some retirees already have plans that will take all their time and energy, and have zero interest in another hobby. Among those who might choose Apache as a hobby, there are several possible blocks, such as just not thinking of it, lack of confidence in returning to doing after a period of managing, outdated skills, and skills that may have atrophied through disuse.

The concept behind "Mentor your Mentor" is that someone who is active in Apache should watch for opportunities to bring the idea of open source as a retirement hobby to the attention of a retiring colleague, even if the retiree has been their mentor, and no matter how senior the retiree.

If the retiree is interested, the Apache contributor can offer various forms of help and support such as:

• Introduction to how Apache operates
• Encouragement
• Help selecting a project
• Help identifying resources for technical learning and relearning

In summary, the Apache contributor would do for the retiree the things a good mentor would do for someone new to IT. 

If you are an Apache contributor reading this blog, ask yourself: who in your network has retired from the computing profession? Reach out to them! Apache projects are a great opportunity for retirees to reconnect with innovation in computing. If you are a retiree and do not have an Apache mentor, don't let that stop you. Begin at http://community.apache.org/newcomers/.


Patricia Shanahan worked from 1970 to 2002 in various programming and computer architecture roles for NCR, Celerity Computing, FPS, Cray Research, and Sun Microsystems. She then went to UCSD as a graduate student, receiving a PhD in computer science in 2009, after which she retired.

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"Success at Apache" is a monthly blog series that focuses on the processes behind why the ASF "just works" https://blogs.apache.org/foundation/category/SuccessAtApache

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