Getting Started with Outreachy: My Journey

My name is Jesse Amamgbu. I am a budding data scientist from Nigeria and I would say I am super excited to be selected as an Outreachy data science intern for Wikimedia Foundation. I would share how this journey came to be and lessons I learned along the way.

NB: This is based on my personal experience so feel free to take only pointers you feel apply to your situation.

This guide would take on the following key phases in my journey:

  1. Preparation phase
  2. Initial application phase
  3. Contribution phase
  4. Final application phase

Preparation phase

What is Outreachy?

Outreachy is a paid remote internship centered on making contributions to free and open-source software. Find more about your eligibility for this internship.

Things to note during this phase

  • Mark the date for initial applications and prepare for it.

    The early bird gets the worm.

Even before the internship's early applications commenced, I made due research on the program and also tried contacting past interns for do's and don'ts during the initial application.

  • Have the right mindset. The right mindset is needed in order to get selected I believe. Conquer the feeling of inadequacy and plan for success.

  • Work on personal projects and put them out there. This might be required during your final application. You need to be able to demonstrate at least an above basic understanding of the programming language you decide to use.

Initial application phase

This is one of the most crucial stages in your application. Without passing this phase, you would not be eligible to contribute to the projects. In this phase, you are required to tell your story. Outreachy is for the underrepresented in tech. What I did to scale through this phase can be outlined into three:

  • Start early. I started my initial applications early. This gave me time to review the essays required. This removed undue pressure from me since I had ample time to review my application thoroughly.

  • Review more than twice. I reviewed my application more than twice and made changes I feel were needed. I also had to articulate my essays in a more readable manner.

  • Submit a day before the final deadline. Since I started early and reviewed early as well, I was afforded the time to submit my application before the final day of the deadline. I usually would advise this so you do not go through any panic attack trying to make final changes to your application.

Contribution phase

If you are reading this section, a hearty congrats to you. Your initial application has been accepted and you are wondering what next? I felt this way as well till I sought out advice from a past intern. Here is what I would advise based on knowledge gained:

  • Take at least a day or two or even more to figure out what projects you are most comfortable in. I streamlined my options based on my interest in the organizations and project to just 2 organizations. I had an initial list of 5 organizations but weighed my pros and cons. You might want to consider organizations with a primary programming language that you are strongest at and also consider how exciting the project looks to you.

  • Once you have streamlined your options. The next thing is to get noticed. Nobody really knows what the project really entails unless you have contributed to it before, therefore making due research and asking useful questions is a sure way to let your mentor know you at least have an idea of the project at hand.

  • Also as you contribute, remember to help others out. I initially was focused on making as many contributions as possible but I noticed that no person is really an island. The more you help others out with their difficulties, the more you learn as well and get better at the project.

  • Finally, always keep in touch with mentors and send in your work periodically for reviews. One way I was able to scale through this phase was by asking my mentor for reviews. This helped me to know my shortcomings and also improve on the code I wrote. Mentors are there to help you out with difficulties so do not shy away from the help you can gain.

Final Application phase

If you are here, congrats once more for defeating the panic monster and making that contribution. Now it is time to put in that final fight. Every organization has criteria for their final applications so it would be beneficial to contact your mentor and know these criteria as you prepare for the final hurdle.

Make sure you start your final proposals on time and run it through the mentors to get their input on it. Remember, the contribution phase would get you in front of the door but the final application would get you into the building. The building being the organization you hope to do magic for.

Last but not the least, remember to network. Your network is your net worth. Make sure you make friends along your way to success. I wish you all the best.

May the Force be with you!