[Outreachy] Why I took up a non-technical internship after getting Math and CS (STEM) degree

I have talked about Outreachy in the past  and how the Outreachy program is helping grow diversity in Open Source community. However, some people have been asking me why I opted for a non-technical internship even though I know programming and have studied Math and CS.  Isn’t this directly in opposition to the cause I am championing – bring more women into STEM and tech?

I don’t agree. At all. I have always been interested in understanding people. How they process information, make decisions, behave in a certain way, engage with others etc. My STEM degree hasn’t inhibited my primary interest in understanding humans – rather, it has helped me develop my rational thinking abilities and grow my passion towards it. Data Science has empowered me to try to find patterns in behavior and use them to not only learn and grow but help others. I feel that my internship at Mozilla is a natural follow up to my previous decisions in my quest to develop my understanding of people. Plus, how can I pass up an opportunity to bring more women and other minorities in tech ?!

At Mozilla, I haven’t given up my work related to data analytics. Instead, I am using data to derive insights into Diversity and Inclusion in Mozilla Community and drive strategic decision making. Having the satisfaction of working on something so impactful for the future generations is what drives me everyday and learning things ranging from succesful interviewing and communication to management – things I would not get the opportunity to learn in a technical role – are just a few of the additional perks along the way 🙂

mozilla_berlin_01

So what do I do all day then ?

Mozilla’s mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent [1].

At the heart of Mozilla is people — Mozilla is committed to a community that invites in and empowers people to participate fully, introduce new ideas and inspire others, regardless of background, family status, gender, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, native language, age, ability, race and ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, religion, geographic location or any other dimension of diversity [2]. In lines with this, Mozilla is currently working towards creating a Diversity and Inclusion strategy for Participation.

Focus Groups and Interviewing for Mozilla

In the first phase, Mozilla is  asking Mozillians to self-nominate, or nominate others for a series of focus groups with D&I topics relevant to regional leadership, events, project design and participation in projects and beyond. These insights will generate initiatives and experiments that lead to a first version of the strategy. I have been working with Emma Irwin who has been leading this project on Participation side for Mozilla on understanding Focus Groups, their importance and how to conduct them. In short, surveys assume that people know how they feel. But sometimes they really don’t. Sometimes it takes listening to the opinions of others in a small and safe group setting before they form thoughts and opinions. Focus groups are well suited for those situations. You can read more about Focus Groups here.

We also had a mock Focus Group Sessions, reviewed the script for Focus Groups and learnt about the best practises for Interviewing. Apart from English, we are also trying to conduct Focus Groups in first language in some regions so that language doesn’t lead to exclusion. It is highly important for the interviewees/ focus group candidates to feel connected and comfortable with the interviewer and this has been my prime focus in my research and contributions related to Focus Groups till date. I am also working on conducting Focus Groups in/around India – especially, in person at Bangalore, if possible.

Research on succesful Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in India

At Mozilla D&I team, we are working towards building a library of curated best resources for Diversity and Inclusion from different parts of the world. To have a world wide impact related to Diversity and Inclusion, we need to understand the community’s cultural, historical, national and language contexts and tailor the initiative accordingly. We need to learn from programs beyond FOSS an Open Source and bring the learnings from those into FOSS constructs. India being such a vast and diverse country offers immense opportunity to learn from different programs and ongoing initiatives – to understand their succeses and failures. Currently, I have divided my research into two main focus areas :

  1. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives started in India.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives started outside India, adopted in Indian context.

Programs like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ by Government of India which encourages girl child education, Loreal India Young Women in Science program which offer scholarships for women pursuing STEM degrees are some of the programs which fall in the first category.

Other programs like Grace Hopper Conference India, Girls in Tech , Women Who Code and so on which are mainly programs started in the US and have succesful chapters or initiatives in India fall in the second category. I am also especially interested in understanding the huge success of Outreachy in India.

If you know of any other active/inactive tech/non-tech Diversity and Inclusion programs in India, do let me know and I would be happy to include them in my research. To know more about my findings, keep tuned – I plan to release a blog post every week.

I have also been working on Diversity and Inclusion oriented community metrics. However, I plan to write a more in-depth post on it and hence I have decided to cover this topic in my next post.

Till then, Sayonara !

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