Outreachy Interns Talk About the Application Process

The latest Outreachy intern cohort kicked off their internships at the beginning of the December 2018—woohoo! One of their first assignments outside of their projects was to set up a blog and write about their experience applying to Outreachy.

The next round of applications opens on February 18, 2019 for the May to August 2019 internships. Applications will open in September 2019 for the December 2019 to March 2020 internships. We encourage interested folks to get more acquainted with the program and application process by reading through tips from our fabulous interns.

What is Outreachy

Outreachy provides three-month internships to work in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Interns are paid a stipend of $5,500 and have a $500 travel stipend available to them. Outreachy internship projects may include programming, user experience, documentation, illustration and graphic design, or data science. Interns often find employment after their internship with Outreachy sponsors or in jobs that use the skills they learned during their internship.

There’s a lot of resources you can take advantage of to learn more about Outreachy! You can join the announcement mailing list for an email when the application period opens. You can also follow Outreachy on Twitter (@Outreachy) for updates.

Who Can Apply

Outreachy internships are open to applicants around the world.

Outreachy expressly invites women (both cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people to apply. We also expressly invite applications from residents and nationals of the United States of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. Anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry of their country is invited to apply.

Outreachy has a wide range of projects that fit people with different educational backgrounds. Laura Lazzati (an Outreachy intern with GNU Guix) mentions you don’t need have to have a degree in tech to apply to Outreachy. Lenka Pelechova (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) shares that you don’t even need to be enrolled in school to apply to Outreachy.

Outreachy has projects that include programming, and many projects that don’t involve programming. This means we accept interns from all different backgrounds. Marty Hernandez Avedon (an Outreachy intern with Wikimedia) encourages applicants from non-technical backgrounds to apply: “Your past experiences on other projects and in other careers are powerful and useful… Don’t be afraid to point to what you know and who you are, outside of tech.”

Geo D (an Outreachy intern with JupyterHub) says that “you’re not too young or too old or too inexperienced to apply.” Many Outreachy applicants are older adults, trying to switch careers or get back into tech after taking time off. Kris Thayer (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) wondered, “How do you return to technology after a decade away?” Kris found that Outreachy “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”.

Outreachy’s remote internships can be especially helpful for applicants who need to schedule around caretaking duties. Johanna Herman (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) says, “as the mother of 2 young children I am unable to commute on top of full-time hours… Working remotely means that I save on travel time and am able to do the required hours a week in a way that fits in with the school and nursery run.”

Outreachy helps interns from non-traditional backgrounds and people from groups underrepresented in tech take the next step in their career. Outreachy is for you!

Initial Application

To apply to Outreachy, the first thing you'll do is to fill out an initial application. The initial application involves answering questions about your time eligibility and answering a few essay questions.

Kris Thayer (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) says that the essay questions, “were not hard, they did require some reflection.” Take some time to reflect on your experiences and respond as openly as you feel comfortable. Applicants are not evaluated on word count or how good their English language skills are. Instead, Outreachy organizers want to get to know you. You are the expert of your own experience!

After an Outreachy applicant fills out the initial application, they may have to wait a few days to have it approved. During this time, Outreachy organizers may reach out to confirm applicants’ time commitments or ask them to clarify their essay. Make sure you check your email daily for updates.

If you’re waiting on your initial application to be approved, you can take some time to learn from previous Outreachy interns. Giselle J (an Outreachy intern with Wikimedia) says they were helped by “reading [Outreachy] alum’s blog posts about the application process.” Giselle hopes their blog posts help you too! You can read all the interns’ blogs linked on the alums page.

Project Selection

Once your initial application is approved, the next step is to pick a project that one of the Outreachy mentors has provided. You’ll work on this project during the application process, and (if you’re selected as an intern) you will work on the same project during your three month internship. Choose your project wisely!

Selecting a project can be difficult. Trang T.H Nguyen (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) shares how to narrow down your project choices: “Give yourself some criteria for choosing projects, then pick 1-2 most potential projects. In my case, I started with 2 projects but after 2 weeks I decided to focus on only 1 project.”

Keep checking the site for a project that works best for you. Maya Nakamura (an Outreachy intern with the Linux kernel) didn’t see an ideal project immediately after their initial application was approved. However, they checked again and were able to find a project that fit their interests when a batch of new projects were added a few weeks after the application period opens. New Outreachy projects will be added from February 18, 2019 to March 12, 2019.

Making Contributions

After you have selected a project, you’ll need to make at least one project contribution before the project's application deadline. A contribution can be something small, like a bug fix, improving documentation, creating a draft piece of artwork, studying a data set, or surveying a friend about their user experience with a piece of software. Making a contribution to the project lets you interact with the mentors and decide if you’re interested in the project.

The contribution process “gives you a chance to ‘test drive’ the project and see if it’s a good fit,” says BarbV (an Outreachy intern with Wikimedia). BarbV found the process of contributing to a project very rewarding. “It’s surprising how much you can learn just by exploring one of these projects for a few weeks – whether or not you go on to complete the full internship.”

Cess Wairimu (an Outreachy intern with Public Lab) agrees that contributing to an Outreachy project is beneficial: “The worst that can happen is you will contribute to the open source project during the application process and learn a lot in the process…” This is period is an opportunity for you to learn more about contributing to free and open source software. It’s also a chance for you to learn how to work with a remote team of contributors. You can take these experiences with you, regardless of whether you’re selected as an Outreachy intern.

It’s important to give yourself plenty of time to make project contributions. Your first contributions may take a week or more to complete. That includes time spent installing software, reading documentation, and getting up to speed.

Contributions also take time because mentors often ask for contributions to be revised or changed. “Ask questions, be prepared to receive corrections and rejections,” says Shayenne Moura (an Outreachy Linux kernel intern). Shivangi Kakkar (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) said that her contribution process took over a month and a half. Everyone’s experience will be different, but give yourself plenty of time!

Sometimes it can help to keep a list of feedback on your contributions. Deepashree Deshmukh (an Outreachy intern with the Open Bioinformatics Foundation) encourages applicants to keep notes on contributions and mentor feedback.

Final Application

After you’ve made a contribution and had it accepted, the last step is to fill out a final application. The final application has some questions to help you reflect on your experiences with free and open source software. It also asks you to work with a mentor to fill out a timeline of your work on the project during the three month internship. The final application can be saved and revised until the application deadline.

Deepashree Deshmukh (an Outreachy intern with the Open Bioinformatics Foundation) worked on her final application for some time. “I had made a text file for keeping a record myself. It included my answers for the questions that are asked in the final application, so I wouldn’t be rushing at the last moment.” Great minds think alike, because Shivangi Kakkar (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) did the same thing.

That Sounds Intimidating...

Applicants often feel nervous during the application period. This is normal! New things can be scary and challenging. Imposter syndrome affects many people from groups underrepresented in tech. Syeda Aimen Batool (an Outreachy intern with Mozilla) insists that you throw your anxieties and fears out the window: “Once you throw it out you will do well. You will win it. Fear is going to take you nowhere!” T.Crespy (an Outreachy intern with Wikimedia) was encouraged to apply despite her fear when she took inspiration from an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.”

You’ve Got This!

Applications for the next round open on February 18. We can’t wait to hear from you!

You can join the Outreachy announcement mailing list for an email when the application period opens. You can also follow Outreachy on Twitter (@Outreachy) for updates.

Perhaps do as Kristin Taylor did to make sure she started the application as early as possible: “I added the date to my calendar in bold caps and with an exclamation mark—OUTREACHY APPLICATIONS OPEN!