How I got into Outreach

undef1nd · May 11, 2020

So I got accepted into Outreachy program as an intern for Mozilla. I’ll be writing a structured header parser in Rust under mentorship of Valentin Gosu. Outreachy is a paid remote internship program for folks under-represented in open source communities. It provides an equal opportunity to learn in a collaborative environment while experienced open source contributors keep an eye on you :)

It goes without saying that I was very enthusiastic about participating in an open source project. That’s why I decided to apply for Outreachy internship. But there are other reasons why I wanted to take part, some of which are so to say therapeutic in nature. First of all, I struggle with major impostor syndrome and it’s been with me for years now. I am fully aware this is quite common in tech and in many other different professions, but there is this thing I can tell for sure: it’s exactly as bad as you’ve heard it to be. My hope is I’ll be able to get rid of this little scolding voice once I team up with a more experienced person, who I could learn from and who can guide me through things I wouldn’t have dared to attempt otherwise. The second reason is I don’t actually have any learning environment right now, so I am looking to learn alongside other people and socialise while being involved in doing meaningful work.

The program runs twice a year. I found out about Outreachy a year ago, when the autumn/winter cohort application process had already started, so it was too late to apply. Besides, I was not sure that I was eligible to participate. It turned out I was: it was clearly stated that cis women are welcome.

I didn’t have a job at the time when a new round started, so I decided it was a perfect chance to participate in the program. The initial application took me a while to write: I had to give essay questions a great deal of thought so that they reflect my personal experience and attitude to the topics.

The next step was to choose a project. It’s especially tricky because the details of the projects are not disclosed until the initial applications are accepted. Organisation name, project name, and tech stack is pretty much everything visible at this stage. So I was about to choose a few projects based on technologies I’m more or less familiar with. And then I changed my mind: an internship is a truly great opportunity not only to build up confidence but also to get absolutely new experience. Thus I decided that I’d better look for a project very different from what I worked on before. Shortly after this rapid change of heart, I bumped into a tweet that there will be a project in Rust from Mozilla. I hesitated no more. 

The contribution period itself was kinda intense as I needed to combine it with a full-time job, working long hours. But I assume it might be the case for other contributors as well, so shoutout to everyone who was in the same boat with me! Thanks to our mentors, there were clear instructions on how to get started, set up Firefox dev environment (it was itself quite an accomplishment!), and a list of issues of different complexity level to choose from. My peers and I started the contribution period early enough. We bombarded our mentors with tons of questions, and they were always responsive and extremely patient with us! I also can’t help but say that I admire my peers: they did an amazing job and solved many issues in different parts of Firefox codebase. This lasted a month, which just flew by. I learned a lot during this period, so no matter what was going to happen next, I was still happy with the results.

The day when we all expected the final list of interns to be announced, I couldn’t get on Outreachy site: it was overloaded with the participants seeking to see the results all at the same time :-D I was finishing my workday, so gave up on the idea to see the list of selected participants any earlier than the next day. But within 20 minutes I got an email that I was accepted! I had to read it twice before I was finally able to comprehend that I would actually spend my summer being Mozilla’s intern. This is so huge that I can’t wait to get started!

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