mozilla

[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 🙂

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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 !

Diversity in FOSS : Outreachy

 

tldr ; As a part of my work with Mozilla, I try to analyse different programs working towards diversity and inclusion in FOSS and their successes and failures. I wanted to collect some statistics for Outreachy and understand how it has helped increase the diversity in FOSS projects.

From Outreach Program for Women(OPW) to Outreachy..

Like the rest of the tech industry, the number of women participating in FOSS projects too is generally low. Outreach Program for Women were started to bridge this gap in FOSS projects and bring more women onboard. Women contact the FOSS organizations in the program they want to work with and write up a project proposal for the summer. If accepted, they are mentored by organization members over the duration of the program on their project.

The GNOME Foundation first started the internships program with one round in 2006, and then resumed the effort in 2010 with rounds organized twice a year and is currently in it’s thirteenth round. For the May 2015 round, the program was renamed to Outreachy with the goal of expanding to engage people from various underrepresented groups and was moved to Software Freedom Conservancy as its organizational home. In the December 2015 round, the program opened to people of color from groups underrepresented in technology in the United States, in addition to being open to women (cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people internationally.

How Outreachy has helped women

By having a program targeted specifically towards women, the Outreachy organizers have found that they reached talented and passionate participants, who were uncertain about how to start otherwise.

According to the organizers, the program is a welcoming link that will connect you with people working on individual projects in various FOSS organizations and guide you through your first contribution.

Personally, I couldn’t agree more with these two points. Outreachy has surely helped reduce the apprehension women face while first contributing to a FOSS project and feel more included. Additionally, I also feel that the program provides you with a nurturing community and network which remains with you beyond the program.

Impact of Outreachy in numbers and graphs

I wanted to collect some statistics for Outreachy and how it has helped increase the diversity in FOSS projects.

Till now, there have been 13 rounds of Outreachy (including Outreach Program for Women) and 368 women have taken part in the program and worked with FOSS organizations.

To understand the growth of the program and its impact in introducing women to FOSS projects, I created a graph showing the number of organizations participating in each round and number of selected participants.

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Some numbers for Outreachy Round 13..

45 participants were selected to work on 41 different projects offered by 14 different organizations in this round like Linux Kernel, Fedora, Mozilla, OpenStack, Wikimedia, Zulip etc.

The following map shows the distribution of Outreachy participants in Round 13 according to their location.

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India topped the list with 16 women being selected in the program(40% of total selections) and North America followed behind with 9. I was particularly astonished to see Brazil being 4th in the list with 3 participants ! The selected participants truly form a diverse community with participants from all parts of the globe like Australia, Africa(Cameroon), Russia and even smaller countries like Albania and Philippines. Together there were 9 selections from European continent !

Here is a table showing the number of selected participants with their country :

1 INDIA 16
2 NORTH AMERICA 9
3 CANADA 4
4 BRAZIL 3
5 GERMANY 2
6 CAMEROON 1
7 POLAND 1
8 CHINA 1
9 SRI LANKA 1
10 PHILLIPINES 1
11 TURKEY 1
12 UK 1
13 FINLAND 1
14 RUSSIA 1
15 AUSTRALIA 1
16 ALBANIA 1
17 ROMANIA 1
18 SPAIN 1

 

Diversity in projects

From what I could understand, projects were mainly offered in these four categories : software development, research, UI – UX/ design, documentation and data analytics. UI – UX and data analytics projects involved some coding but didn’t seem to be completely development based and hence I have mentioned them separately.

Development 32
UI – UX 5
Research 4
Documentation 2
Data Analytics 2

 

Does this diversity extend to mentors and program co-ordinators ?

Two-thirds of the program co-ordinators (12 out of 18) from each organization were women. Overall, 12 mentors for different projects were women. Just to note, while the numbers are same – while there are some intersections, not all women mentors are co-ordinators and vica versa 🙂

Conclusion

In a short span of six years, the program has been successful increased the participation of women in FOSS projects and I feel has played a major role in not just working towards bridging the gender gap in FOSS community.

 

 

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 🙂