Starting out your journey in the field of tech can be extremely daunting, especially if you belong to a community which does not have adequate representation in this field. If you resonate with this issue and are looking for an opportunity to kickstart your career in the technology industry, here’s an article you might find helpful.
Before we delve further into the topic, let me introduce myself. I’m Rachita, a sophomore pursuing CSE in Delhi, India. This summer, I've been selected as an Outreachy intern to work with UNICEF Office of Innovation. This opportunity is somewhat of a dream come true for me, and believe me, no matter how little experience you have in tech, with enough grit and determination, you too can grab an opportunity like this.
I’d first like to highlight a few principles I live by which played a crucial role in helping me secure this internship and made the learning experience extremely fulfilling and enjoyable.
The first and foremost principle is to take up work that I find meaningful and understand the purpose of. The definition of meaningful work can vary from person to person. I am more inspired and motivated to work on projects which are about building solutions to problems faced by the masses. Since my goals align with those of UNICEF, I became deeply passionate about contributing to this community. The next core value is determination, which I believe is vital for success in any field. Every profession comes with its own challenges, but if you are determined enough, you will be able to power through them. The final virtue is growth, and I manifest it in my life by trying to learn something new everyday. I try to be consistent in working towards my goals and make an effort, no matter how small, to improve myself everyday.
Outreachy is a paid, remote internship program for people from groups underrepresented in tech. Anyone from around the world can apply to it and get the opportunity to secure internships with free software and open source communities. Interns are paid a stipend of $6,000 USD for the three month internship.
Most Outreachy internship projects require some basic programming knowledge but they also include user experience, documentation, illustration, graphical design, or data science.
Outreachy provides a great way to get real-world software development experience. It is especially helpful for beginners as the open source community is extremely welcoming and encouraging. You will get the opportunity to gain exposure, test your skills, gain knowledge, and bond with the community in order to produce quality code that helps people around the world. Getting your code reviewed by experienced programmers will help you improve your skills tremendously.
It is an amazing opportunity to kickstart your career as interns often find employment after their internship with Outreachy sponsors or in jobs that use the skills they learned during their internship.
My journey as a contributor in open source began in 2020 with Hacktoberfest, a month-long celebration of open source software run by DigitalOcean in partnership with GitHub. During the entire month of October, you have to make at least five contributions to any open source projects. I was a complete beginner but I was determined to complete the challenge. Contributing to open source gave me an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, get experience of working in the real world, make mistakes and learn from the community.
A few months later, when I found out about Outreachy, I jumped at the opportunity to contribute more to open source. I started out by reading the experiences of past Outreachy interns and talking to my seniors who had participated in the program. I will break down the application process and my tips for applying in the next section.
Here is a simple description of the application procedure and my tips to make the best out of this opportunity.
The initial application majorly requires your to answer a few essay questions about how you are underrepresented and what kind of systematic bias or discrimination have you faced in the field of technology. Be sure to be absolutely authentic and list down as many personal experiences and anecdotes as possible. I will not delve too deep into this since the essay tips are very well documented on the Outreachy website. If you stick to these tips, you’re sure to qualify this stage.
This is the most important part of the application process. I spent a considerable amount of time picking out projects that I wished to contribute to before the contribution period even started. My strategy was to first pick out the projects which required skills that I had, and then narrow down to the projects which interested me most. Once that was done, I joined the communication channels and introduced myself to the community.
The next challenge is to make your first contribution to the project, and the sooner you start, the better. Different organisations will have different guidelines on how to make contributions, be sure to read them carefully and find a suitable issue. The thrill I experienced when my first pull request was merged into the project was just as exciting as when I received the acceptance letter into the internship. The excitement of seeing small changes coded by me reflected in the projects of renowned organisations was what kept me going throughout the contribution period. Be consistent and communicate with the mentors whenever you face any difficulty. The mentors and community members are extremely supportive and will guide you well through the problems, no matter how big or small.
This is the final stage of the application procedure. In my opinion, the one thing to keep in mind while writing the application is to clearly express your enthusiasm for the project. You can do so by mentioning how you plan on executing the project and making sample prototypes if possible.
For more information related to Outreachy, please visit the official Outreachy website.
Completing the application process for Outreachy was in itself a very fulfilling experience for me and I could truly feel how much I had learnt and improved through it. I am now much more confident in taking up new challenges and learning new skills.
I hope this blog helped you in some way. Please feel free to comment below if you have any further questions. You can also reach me at email@example.com.
Best of luck and happy coding! 😄