My Pathway to Outreachy with Mozilla

by Kanika Saini

On April 23, the selected interns for the May-August 2018 were announced and voila, my palpitations of anxiety finally mitigated! At once, I was overwhelmed with utter joy. I had been selected for Outreachy program to work as a Mozilla intern over the period of 3 months. It was probably one of the happiest moments of my life!

In case this the first time you’re hearing about Outreachy, let me introduce it to you briefly.

Outreachy — What is it after all?

Outreachy is a remote and paid internship for people from under-represented groups in tech. Interns get to work closely with mentors from Free and Open Source Software communities like Mozilla, Wikimedia, Linux Kernel and many more on projects that allow folks from diverse skillset to contribute to them.

Outreachy was started as an initiative to increase participation of underrepresented in Open Source when it was noticed that percentage of women (cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people continued to be scant in programs like Google Summer of Code (GSoC).

Outreachy runs the 3-month-long internship twice a year to suit different calendars over the globe, once from May to August and another from December to March, and is open for non-students as well, unlike GSoC.

To know more about the program, please check here.

How did I get involved?

I first heard about Outreachy from my coach last year when I was applying for Rails Girls Summer of Code (RGSoC). Although we didn’t make through RGSoC at that time, I learned a lot about how Open Source works; whether it was about learning intricacies of Git, building patience to figure out a bug among thousands of lines of code, or becoming a programmer with better problem-solving and communication skills.

It was late to apply for Outreachy then but I had already planned that I’d definitely apply for it next year. I couldn’t apply for December-March round as I didn’t have 7 continuous weeks free from University during that time which is a crucial eligibility criterion.

While it’s not necessary, I believe one can work to build their profile throughout the year before the application period opens. I didn’t know that I’d be interested in working with Mozilla or on a particular technology but my little contributions to Open Source and self-motivated assignments without Outreachy in mind finally helped me in getting selected.

One can also get involved with their choice of organisation before the application opens and volunteer to work on small tasks. It’ll never go to waste even if you apply for a different organisation later. You may even end up suggesting a project idea for the internship!

On the other side, I started working only after the applications opened. If you want to read more about my contribution during the application, please go ahead and check these two blogs out — How I started contributing to Mozilla and Diving Deep into Mozilla Firefox. By a twist of fate, I bagged a third project which isn’t mentioned in these blogs but involves Firefox development and requires the same skills. I couldn’t be happier!

I will be working on the project — “Extend Firefox support for Enterprise Policies” over the summer with my mentor Felipe Gomes.

How can you too make it through?

While there’s no algorithm to ensure your selection, I believe some of my experiences can help you enhance your chances. There are a few things that I suggest one to follow.

  • START EARLY!
     I couldn’t stress that anymore. It’s great if you have been involved with the organisation of your choice before the announcement of organisations participating in the upcoming round; it’s okay if you’re not (I wasn’t).
     You should try to start as soon as possible after the names of organisations are out. There would be various organisations offering multiple projects. They usually mention the number of interns they may take up. Honestly, applying to an organisation that may take up more interns doesn’t increase your chances as much as applying to a project that suits your interest and skills would do. So take some time to go through the projects and shortlist 2–3 that work best for you.
     You should always interact with the mentors because they must be aware of your involvement and interest in the project. Most of Open Source communities make use of IRC as their communication platform. I found IRCCloud to be the simplest and most convenient client. Beginners may like to go through this tutorial briefly.
     I understand it can be intimidating at first but things get better. Never hesitate to ask for help, given you tried your best to figure it out on your own.
  • Respect and be honest with mentors
     As I just said, mentors and volunteers are always willing to help you but it’s necessary you show your own effort and respect their time. Using polite words like “thank you” and “sorry” when required never do anybody a harm. 🙂
     Also, be honest about your experience, intentions, and progress on tasks assigned to you. You’ll be working on a project for 3 months and lies cannot take you far.
  • Choose your project wisely
     
    I know I’m repeating this but you really need to be interested in the project you choose because you’ll have to work on it for 3 months. Also, ensure you have some prior experience with the skills mentioned in the “required skills” section. Saying you’re really interested and will work hard to learn it in a short time doesn’t cut any ice.
     It is usually suggested that you take up one or two projects and focus on them until the end which works the best most of the time. However, sometimes it’s good to plan according to the competition for your selected projects. There may be an uneven distribution of strong applicants among projects requiring similar knowledge or even working on the same product. That’s how I ended up applying for 3 projects, two of which involved Firefox development.
     So trust your intentions and be wise in choosing your project!
  • Remember you win even if you don’t get selected
     
    A lot of people don’t get selected the first time they apply. You know what’s best to do? Apply again!
     There’s really a lot to learn even in that short application period and you can even continue contributing to Open Source until the application to next round of Outreachy opens. You would have your chances doubled!
     The aim of Outreachy is increasing the inclusion in tech by allowing everyone to learn and you get those perks irrespective of your selection. 😀
  • Learn to blog
     
    The last but not the least, it’s always a good idea to blog about your experiences and share your little achievements that can help someone out there learn from you.

Why should you apply for it?

  • Amazing learning opportunity
     
    If you’re someone who hasn’t contributed to Open Source full-time and is really passionate about it, there couldn’t be any better opportunity to make that happen.
     Every project has at least one mentor who will guide you throughout your internship to help you achieve your best and enhance your learning curve. This allows you to work with the smartest people around the globe and grow as a better developer every day. You learn to manage work with people from different time-zones. It really powers your job profile and skills.
     No matter what background you come from, there’s usually something for everyone. You could apply to a project that seeks help with documentation, or something that involves programming or UI/UX or even data science.
  • Stipend
     Every intern gets $5500 to work full-time for a period of 3 months and that’s a good incentive for most people out there. One also gets additional $500 as a travel stipend to attend any conference of their choice within one year of their selection.
  • Mozilla specific perks
     Mozilla offers some additional benefits to its interns.
     Every intern gets access to Mozilla LDAP account and almost every other IT service exclusive to Mozilla employees.
     Interns also get a laptop to keep; it may vary every year.
     Some teams invite their interns to attend All Hands, the Mozilla work week, which is hosted twice every year. It’s happening in San Francisco this summer and I cannot wait to attend it! 😀

Phew, I have talked a lot!

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank my mentor, all the volunteers and the organisers of Outreachy, and everyone else who too worked hard to make all this happen for this golden opportunity! ❤

If you have any more questions or are in need of help with your application, please feel free to tweet me on Twitter.

See you soon again with more stories about my journey with Outreachy! 😀


This blogpost was originally published on Kanika’s personal blog. Do check out more stuff from her.


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