Outreachy – The Journey Begins

Yesterday was my first day as an intern in Mozilla through Outreachy program. I am working in project “Improve usefulness and usability of Mozilla’s data warehouse front-end” with mentor Andrew Halberstadt.

What is Outreachy?

Outreachy provides a three-month paid internship for women (both cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people or anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry. Intern will work in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) with programming, user experience, documentation, illustration and graphical design, or data science.

You can find more detailed information in their website: https://www.outreachy.org/

How did I know about Outreachy and why is this internship so valuable to me?

I started coding when I was at high school, then kept studying and working in software industry, but changed to another field about 5 years ago. At the beginning of this year (2018), we moved as a family into Canada – which can be considered as the biggest change in my life until now. Having opportunity to re-think about future career in the new land, I finally made a decision to come back to software engineering. It was kind of hard at first, because I had to prove that I could come back to code, and some companies also wanted me to have “Canadian experience”. I tried many ways: did some freelance works, took part in job fairs, and also thought about taking some coding courses.

While trying to send an email to Systers – a mail group for women in IT – to ask about programming course, I randomly read some mails and saw someone mentioned Outreachy (I subscribed that mail group nearly ten years ago, but to be honest, didn’t read the mail frequently because of changing working area). After reading Outreachy website, I said to myself that this internship was so fantastic, it would open many doors for me.

To apply or not to apply?

The internship is so fantastic, but how can I get that? Considering my age and my busy schedule with freelance projects, at first I thought it is impossible. There were many other students who were young and active and could arrange time for it. Moreover, I had no experience with FOSS. I didn’t know what would happen if I submitted “stupid” code.

However, after reading blogs of many Outreachy interns from previous rounds, I felt more confident because most of them said that: 1) contributing to FOSS is not too scary; 2) even if I am not selected for the internship, I still can learn many things and gain my skill. That really changed my mind. “The application process is only about 2 months, shorter than a course and I also will be guided by great mentors from FOSS” – I thought,¬† and finally I decided to give it a try.

What did I find from previous alums’ blogs?

Outreachy interns’ blogs are very informative and inspiring, and these are the most valuable advises in my opinion (some of them are also stated clearly in Outreachy website https://www.outreachy.org/apply/):

  • Focus: many projects sound interesting and we may want to join them all, but we will not have enough time. Give yourself some criteria for choosing projects, then pick 1 – 2 most potential projects. In my case, I started with 2 projects but after 2 weeks I decided to focus on only 1 project.
  • Make your own deadlines: you should set your own deadlines and expected results, don’t think about other applicants. Keep thinking that you are learning and contributing, whatever the result is, you still win. This tip really worked for me! Sometimes I wanted to give up because of my busy schedule and I saw many other strong applicants. However, I remembered my goal was submitting a contribution weekly, so I just tried to keep my goal, no matter what happened.
  • Make progress, not perfection: we don’t have to give the perfect solution, just try to ask and to solve issues, from the “first good bug” to more complicated issues. I am not type of “speed person”, I often need time to dig in the problem and absorb the new things, so through the application process, I kept reminding me that “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask your mentors: you can’t go through everything by yourself, so don’t hesitate to ask. My first question was not quite clear, but my mentors and other people in the team were so open and give detailed guide. So I felt more confident and continued asking and discussing. In my case, I often got answers quickly whatever I used: Github, IRC or email. But other people said that if you don’t hear from your mentors, you may try different ways, or ask on IRC channel of the team so other people can help you.

There will be 3 months ahead and I am so excited about this. Maybe the next blog I will tell you more about “intern life”!