Who am I?
Once upon a time, I was a software engineer. I had jobs in a variety of industries from paper machine controls to hotel reservation systems. I started programming in proprietary languages, then moved to C, C++ and finally Java.
When I had my second child, I chose to stay home to raise my children. It was a great experience – challenging in new ways. I spent lots of time volunteering at schools and learned a whole new set of skills. As my children got older it was time for me to return to my own goals. But how do you return to technology after a decade away?
I decided to refresh my Java skills with some online classes. Through this process, I figured out that this whole new field of data science had been created. It sounded like all the things I enjoy – math, programming, and making meaning out of data. So I signed up for a series of online classes to learn data science.
Why Apply to Outreachy?
Outreachy offers three-month internships to work in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). This was a great opportunity to gain real-world experience on a project, refresh my technical skills, and have something recent to add to my resume. With any luck, it would give me some actual experience in data science!
A friend had told me about the Outreachy internships a year ago. I’d missed the window for applying for last winter. I checked the dates for the spring/summer internship but that wasn’t a good time for my schedule. I signed up for the Outreachy email notifications so I could apply for the next round this winter.
How to Apply
Although the internship starts in December, the application process begins in September. Since there are several steps and a project contribution required, I suggest starting as early as possible.
The first step was filling out an application with a couple of short answer questions. Although the questions were not hard, they did require some reflection and I wanted to answer them “perfectly” because I really wanted an internship. It was a bit scary to submit my answers, and then I had to wait for an email response to find out if I was approved. Success, I was on to the next step!
Now I had access to all the project information. You have to make a contribution to a project in order to be considered as an intern. There were a lot of projects listed so it was a bit overwhelming to pick 1 or 2 that I thought would be a good fit. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure who all of the open source communities were. There were no data science projects listed, but there were several Python projects, so I chose one of those.
The process of getting that software downloaded, installed and running was an experience. I needed to create a GitHub account, learn to chat on IRC and remember some Unix. It was often frustrating and overwhelming, but it was a huge sense of accomplishment when it finally worked.
After submitting my contribution for this project, I was feeling very satisfied. Even if I did not receive the internship I felt like I had learned a lot and it had been a very good experience.
Then, shortly before the application period closed, Mozilla created 2 data science internships. Within a matter of hours, 14 people had chosen to work on the 10 projects that were offered. I spent several days focusing on my contribution and really put my best effort into it.
After recording my contribution, there is an application with a few more short answer questions. This was another opportunity to reflect on myself and why this would be a good project for me. It was a bit intimidating because I felt like I didn’t have enough experience in Python, data science or open source, but I’d come this far so I submitted it.
I was thrilled when I got the email saying I’d been chosen as a data science intern at Mozilla. I’m very grateful to get the opportunity to get professional experience with supportive mentors.
This process has been a great experience even when it’s been scary – like writing this blog. If you have an interest in technology or open source software I suggest that you apply for an Outreachy internship. You may discover a new community, gain interesting experience and learn some things about yourself.