Frequently asked questions

What is the SharpestMinds Income Share Agreement (ISA)?

The SharpestMinds Income Share Agreement (ISA) is an agreement between you and a mentor. The mentor invests in you by guiding you through a project aimed at developing your industry-critical skills. In return for mentorship, you agree to pay your mentor a small percentage of your first-year salary after you land a job.
Why is an Income Share Agreement (ISA) model better?

Mentorship is an investment that a mentor makes in you. Our ISA makes that explicit by giving your mentor a stake in your future success. It also gives you the chance to get expert technical and career help from industry professionals, even if you can't afford to pay for that help up-front.

Because you only pay if the mentorship works, our incentives and the mentor's are aligned with yours. We all want the same thing: for you to succeed and get a high-paying job. That alignment is what results in a true, productive partnership.
What are the requirements to apply to the mentorship?

We don't require a degree or experience, but we do expect you to have a fairly solid base of knowledge in data science. The mentorship is aimed at refining those skills for an easier transition into industry.

If you aren't sure what your chances are, ask us! You can message our team on chat, or reach out by email at
Will SharpestMinds help with my job search?

Yes! At the beginning of your mentorship, we will:

- Give you a handbook of tactics to optimize your progress through each stage of the job hunt, from applications to salary negotiation.
- Connect you to mentees with similar technical skills and/or career goals for weekly office hours.

During your mentorship, we will:

- Help you set and track weekly goals.
- Closely monitor the number of applications, interviews, and offers your get, and reach out if we notice you're not getting the traction we expect.
- Host frequent webinars and office hours that you can drop in on to chat with a member of the SharpestMinds team and other mentees.
Is the mentorship remote?

Yes. All of our mentorships are remote by default. If you and your mentor happen to be in the same city, we'd normally encourage you to connect in person - unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we have to recommend against that at the moment.
How much will I pay?

If you're hired in a position that pays over $50 000 per year within 24 months of your mentorship, you'll repay a percentage of your first-year salary that you'll agree on with your mentor in advance.

Anywhere from 5% to 10% is typical, depending on the mentor's time commitment and other factors. SharpestMinds adds a 3% fee to this.

If you aren't hired in a qualifying position within 24 months, you never pay anything.
How will I be matched with a mentor?

After you create your account, you can request to chat with any mentor, and they'll accept if they're interested in you. If you and a mentor are interested in each other, we'll set up an online chat from which you can book an interview.

If the mentor thinks you're promising after the interview, they can make you a formal offer, which will include the mentor's time commitment and fee.
Who are the mentors?

Our mentors are data science and machine learning professionals who have established themselves in their industry. They're employees and alumni from AI groups at Apple, Uber, Tesla, Amazon, and other similar companies.

We screen all our mentors carefully to ensure quality. You'll also get the chance to interview your mentor yourself before you commit.
What technical skills will I learn?

The skills you'll work on will vary depending on your current skillset and interests.

Normally you'll focus on industry best practices in deploying ML models to production, devops, writing clean code, and doing proper data engineering and data cleaning.
What happens if I don't get hired?

If you don't land a qualifying job within 24 months of completing the mentorship, you won't owe the mentor or SharpestMinds anything.
What's the structure of the mentorship?

Your mentor will guide you through a full-stack machine learning, data science or analytics project over a period of time that you'll decide on together. This is usually anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks, depending on the project and your experience level.

The mentor will provide support via office hours, code review, and general advice/guidance. SharpestMinds will also be there to ensure things are running smoothly. You'll have access to our Slack workspace with other mentors, mentees, and SharpestMinds admins, ensuring 24/7 support.
What type of project will I work on?

Projects like these.

In most cases, your project will involve building a full-stack machine learning pipeline: that means data collection and cleaning; building and training a model; and deployment with a working front-end. However, if you prefer to use your time differently, for example by focusing 100% on interview prep, that may be fine too - ask your mentor when you interview them.
I applied to a job before starting my mentorship. What happens if they hire me?

You'll owe the mentorship fee for any jobs you land after you accept your mentorship offer, including roles that you applied to prior to joining the program. We want to ensure that our mentors are incentivized to see you hired as soon as you start, regardless of context.

However, you can request to defer repayment once you've started a job if your mentor agrees. Many mentees who land internships or contract roles find it useful to defer repayment until they're hired in a full time position.
What if I already have a job?

If you already have a job but you want to go through a mentorship anyway, you may want to consider our pay-as-you-go option.

Keep in mind that when it comes to the income share option, any qualifying job you hold at the end of the mentorship will meet the criteria for repayment by default.
What will be my repayment schedule if I get hired?

An offer of mentorship always includes the percentage of your first year's salary that you'll repay to your mentor. That percentage will get paid out by credit card in monthly instalments over the course of your first 12 months of employment.
Do I owe SharpestMinds anything when I create an account?

No. You don't owe SharpestMinds, or any mentors anything until after you accept an official mentorship offer. You can browse mentors and message them free of charge. Income share mentorships also include a mandatory 2-week free trial.
What if I get hired partway through the mentorship?

We want our mentors (and ourselves) to be incentivized at all times to get you hired, even if that means getting you hired more quickly than you expect.

If you get hired part of the way through your mentorship, the ISA will still apply - which means you'll still need to reimburse your mentor. Your mentor still owes you the mentorship hours they promised you at the beginning of the mentorship, and you can use that time to either finish your project or get ramped up faster at your new job. As usual, SharpestMinds will also help you with salary negotiation, whether you get a job offer during your mentorship or afterwards.
I'm not from the USA or Canada. Can I get matched with a mentor?

Unfortunately not. Right now, SharpestMinds only operates only in Canada and the United States.

We classify your location based on where you live at the time you're applying for the mentorship, rather than based on your citizenship or where you intend to apply for jobs. That means that if you're located in the USA when you apply, you might be eligible even if you're a citizen of another country.

If you're in the USA or Canada on a visa, you might be eligible for the program depending on the specifics of your situation. Feel free to reach out to us over email at, and we'll help you figure out whether you're eligible.

If you'd like us to let you know when we launch in your region, email us at
Under what circumstances would I be expected to repay my ISA?

You'll repay your ISA only when your annualized pre-tax income exceeds our minimum income threshold of $50,000 per year. Contract roles can qualify for repayment as well, if they meet this threshold.

If you have a job already or are think you might be an edge case, let us know by emailing before starting your mentorship and we will review your case manually.
What time commitment will be expected from me?

We recommend anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a week over a 6 to 14 week period, but this is completely up to you and your mentee.

You'll be able to negotiate a time commitment and mentorship period duration that work for you both during your interview with each candidate.
Can I mentor multiple people?

Yes. You can mentor as many people as you want, though we recommend a maximum of 2-3 for most mentors who are doing this part-time.
How much will I make?

Mentors typically take home between 3% and 8% of their mentees' first-year salary. At the moment the median salary of all placed mentees (USA and Canada) is $75,000.

However you're free to set your percentage rate as you see fit. Some factors to consider when doing this are: your weekly time commitment, the duration of the mentorship, and what works best for you and any particular mentee.
I'm not from the USA or Canada. Can I still be a mentor?

Unfortunately SharpestMinds is operating exclusively in the United States and Canada at the moment.

If you're interested in joining out international mentor waitlist, send us an email and we'll be happy to get in touch when we launch in your region.
What is a the technical background of a typical mentee?

Mentees' technical backgrounds can vary quite a bit, depending on whether they're recent graduates, or experienced software engineers looking for a career change.

However, there are a few baseline skills that you should expect any mentee to have (with rare exceptions): they should be comfortable with Python, as well as basic data manipulation and model building libraries like Pandas and scikit-learn.

Exceptions could be made if, for example, you have a candidate who is very experienced in R, or one who is targeting certain kinds of data analytics positions that aren't as Python-heavy. But in general, we strongly recommend not taking on a mentee whose core coding skills aren't solid.
What will I be working on with my mentee(s)?

Your goal should not be to teach your mentee a new programming language, or skills they can pick up by doing a MOOC.

Rather, your time will be most effectively spent teaching them skills that are valued in industry, but that aren't taught in universities or online courses: collaborative version control, model deployment on cloud platforms, model integration, full-stack data science and best practices for writing production code are good examples.

You'll be helping your mentee to develop these skills by helping them to work through a project that they'll ultimately use to impress future employers. We've written up a couple of examples of projects like this here.
What will my mentee(s) expect from me?

Mentees generally get three things out of the mentorship: technical skills (which they build through the project you'll guide them through), interview preparation and job hunting advice (we'll provide support by setting them up for practice interviews), and networking support.

Your time commitment can vary, and you'll have the opportunity to specify a number of hours per week that you're willing to commit when you make your mentees an offer of mentorship. Typical weekly commitments can vary, but usually fall in the 1 to 4 hour per week range.
What if a mentee applies to me, but already has a job?

Mentees who have jobs are allowed to request a week-to-week version of the mentorship in which they pay you up front, since an income share agreement isn't a good fit for someone who has a job already. If you have any questions about this, please contact us.
How can I hire from you?

Shoot us a message here with your name and company and we'll get in touch within 48 hours.
Can you custom-train candidates for my open role?

Yes. Companies can request that a candidate be trained for a specific open role by a senior machine learning engineer or data scientist.

If you're interested in learning more about this, send us a message and we'll follow up with more info.
How much do you charge?

SharpestMinds is 100% free for companies looking to hire.