Outreachy – FOSS beyond coding !

I have been selected for Outreachy Round Dec-March 2017 and will be working with Mozilla on a Diversity and Inclusion related project. The project consists of identifying and documenting examples of successful inclusive teams and communities within Mozilla and learn from them. I had never contributed to Mozilla before but have been a Firefox user since I can remember and this project is a wonderful opportunity to not only to contribute to a FOSS project I love but also to a cause I deeply care about – of improving diversity and inclusion in FOSS communities. I also hope to apply my learnings from the project to other FOSS communities and groups I am involved with.

You don’t need to know coding to contribute to Open Source !

I would also like to repeat again here – that not you do not need to know code to contribute to FOSS projects. There are many non-technical tasks like Translation, Writing, Marketing, Outreach, Design, Diversity and Community Operations in FOSS projects which thrive on support of volunteers. Also, you can contribute to FOSS according to your free time and gain a lot of knowledge and valuable experience while doing it.

You can also contribute to FOSS through programs like Outreachy .

Outreachy (formerly known as Outreachy Program for Women) connects and helps people from underrepresented groups (women, trans male, minority groups in U.S. like Hispanic etc) with equal opportunities to participate and get involved in various free and open source software projects. It’s organized by GNOME and many Open Source Projects offer three month internships(technical and non-technical) through Outreachy twice a year.

If interested, you can also look into other similar programs like Mozilla Winter of Security, Google Summer of Code , Tor summer of privacy , Rails Summer of Code . Tapasweni Pathak, a former GSoC-er, has compiled a list of these programs here.

Different ways to screw up Outreachy and/or GSoC applications..

I have wondered countless number of times since the past two years* about the moment when I see my name on the Outreachy selected participants page. I might have also given a thought or two (more like two hundred, if you want me to be honest) about writing this post. Would I start the post describing the happiness I felt when I saw my name on the Outreachy selections page?  Would I act all cool instead and say I casually checked the results and was surprised to find my name?  Would I give advice to other newcomers to the program ? Now, when the moment is finally here – I have decided to be completely honest !

*For those who don’t know, this was my fourth time applying for Outreachy/GSoC. I have screwed up my selections in GSoC and Outreachy in all possible ways like being accepted by the organization and being deemed ineligible for Outreachy due to my course commitments and  being accepted by the organization and being deemed ineligible for GSoC due to not uploading my student ID. During the time I had forgot to upload my student ID, I had completed the application and had stared at it for one whole hour to find any faults with it – I didnt want any fiascos to happen again. The portal showed application complete and yet, I somehow missed the box on left side asking to upload my student ID. In retrospective, it was all for good but at that time – it hurt the most. I cried the whole night and wasted the whole day even though I had finals on the day after. (More info on how to not screw up in GSoC/Outreachy in another post coming soon..)

Selecting a project to work on for Outreachy

Needless to say, I was very anxious about the Outreachy results this time. I was counting the days one week before the results and by the time just one day was left, I was a nervous wreck. I had narrowed down a few projects for Outreachy – on diversity and inclusion project and another one on data science by Mozilla and a few UI – UX projects (I have always been interested in UI/UX) by other orgs. I ended up only applying to Mozilla. While I am still interested in contributing to UI/UX, I didn’t know much about it – or even HTML/CSS – when I started working on the patches and being involved with a full-time internship left me with little time to learn. I also fell sick during the Outreachy application period and it prompted my decision to concentrate and apply to only one or two projects which I would really really want to work on over the internship. The ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ project with Mozilla was my first choice given various factors like the large number of things to be learnt during the project, non-technical project (my life has been full of code contributions and I wanted to explore..), my growing interest in making FOSS communities more diverse and inclusive, opportunity to apply my learnings in Fedora community post the internship, awesome team, being a part of Mozilla community and the fact that I had worked on most of my initial contribution before falling sick.

My initial contribution for Outreachy for Mozilla’s Diversity and Inclusion related project

The main project involved research, surveys and talking to volunteers in different Mozilla communities to know more about diversity and inclusion related activities.As a result, I decided to conduct a short diversity and inclusion related survey as my initial contribution. You can find the work sample with my learnings from the survey here.

When you are not selected.. but then you are..

I had been glued to the screen refreshing the results since one hour before the results. When  the results were announced, my name wasn’t in the list of selected participants. I was very sad but decided not to cry even though I couldn’t figure out where I went wrong during my application. I was eligible, had done the initial contribution to my best and even interacted with the mentor regularly. I began second guessing my abilities. I didnt have the guts to tell my boyfriend that I hadn’t been selected . He had been through my side during the past three application fiascos for GSoC and Outreachy. When he called to know about the results, I said I had been selected (I know I have a cruel sense of humor, but I didnt want any sympathy again! ). However seeing his happiness and excitement, I couldn’t keep up the pretense any longer so I broke down. He was so sure that I would be selected this time that he checked and rechecked the results page multiple times and it was looking like I would have to end up consoling him 😛 However, sometime during that, the page was updated to announce a final list of participants and lo and behold, I had been selected ! I was finally going to be a Mozillian working on diversity and inclusion ! Yaay..

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Other Outreachy Interns in this round

46 awesome women will be doing their internships with 14 different FOSS organizations as a part of Outreachy ! I am looking forward to getting to know them more and also their projects. You can check out their blogs about their work here. I am especially excited to know more about Zareen Farooqui and her Outreachy project with Wikimedia involving user-oriented data analytics (cause it’s community-oriented analytics, duh!) and Suzzane Hillman and her work with UX of Fedora Hubs (Fedora Hubs is a project I have seen grow since I first joined Fedora more than a year ago and I am really interested in learning how UX makes it better.)

My first week of Outreachy

Since I will be wrapping up my internship in Berlin till Dec 23, Outreachy organizers have kindly agreed to help postpone my evaluations by three weeks so that I can give my best to both the projects. During the first week, the mentors are way on a Mozilla all-hands onsite week but I will be getting familiar with the tools and resources neccesary, setting up my Mozilla account and getting to know more about Mozilla, it’s mission and the community. I will also be finalizing the kinks of the project I will be working on and I can’t wait to get started with my Outreachy internship soon 🙂

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