Please note that in order to eliminate bias in picking interns, Outreachy has some rules for mentors:
See the intern selection section below for more details.
Mentors should be able to commit at least 5 hours a week on most weeks from the beginning of the six-week application period through the end of the three-month internship. The application period is often more time-intensive than the internship period, because applicants will need help getting started and identifying a good first contribution they can make to the FOSS project. Having a co-mentor or a project team who can review contributions and point people in the right direction can help spread the load during the application period and internship.
Each mentor will also need to accept a mentor agreement and their intern will need to accept an intern agreement. (See mentor and intern agreement examples). These agreements allow the Outreachy parent organization, Software Freedom Conservancy (Conservancy), to run the program while ensuring that your participation in the program is legally appropriate and that Conservancy holds no responsibility for any inappropriate or grossly negligent behavior of the participants. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about the agreements.
If you're thinking about being a mentor, you should carefully look at the mentorship timeline and determine your availability. If you're going on vacation for more than a week during the internship or you will have a heavy work load, you should consider adding a co-mentor. Co-mentors can help review intern contributions and answer questions.
Each Outreachy mentor works directly with one Outreachy intern. It is very rare for mentors to work with more than one Outreachy intern. In fact, it's encouraged that mentors find a co-mentor who can help review contributions and answer questions for their interns. Co-mentors are especially helpful during the application period, when there are many applicants who need help getting started.
You can decide with your co-mentor if one person is considered a primary mentor and the other person is considered a secondary mentor or if you both share the mentorship responsibilities about equally. Multiple mentors can accept a mentor agreement for the same intern and be listed as official mentors. It's the official mentor(s) responsibility to guide the intern and connect the intern with other people who can help with, review, and merge intern's contributions throughout the internship. Upon consultation with other official mentors, if any, one of the official mentors provides feedback during the internship mid-point and final review, which will determine whether an Outreachy intern is paid the mid-point and final payments.
Each Outreachy mentor works to define a suitable project for the three month internship. Each internship project must be associated with a FOSS community that has funding for at least one intern and a coordinator.
Mentors can see the list of participating communities and their calls for project proposals. The participating communities will change as we approach the round's deadline to sign up new communities, so make sure to sign up for an email notification for the communities you are interested in mentoring for. Once your FOSS community is participating, mentors can submit an intern project proposal proposal on that community's CFP page.
It's fine to for communities to have more projects than your community has intern funding for. That give applicants a choice of projects. Please note that if you propose a project, you should be committed to mentor that project. Communities that intend to accept 1-2 interns often list 3-5 projects.
Only Outreachy mentors should propose internship projects. Outreachy does not accept projects proposed by an applicant. We do not allow mentors to submit a project with a particular applicant in mind. All project mentors should be willing to work with any applicant during the contribution phase. This allows all Outreachy applicants a fair chance at obtaining an internship based on their skills, rather than existing connections to a free software community.
As part of the final application, applicants are asked to build a tentative timeline for their project. Mentors should have a rough idea of the series of tasks for their project. Project timelines are often adjusted during the internship. Sometimes that's because a task took longer than a mentor expected. Mentors and interns may also adjust project goals based on what the intern is interested in, or if the intern needs more time to learn a skill or tool. Mentors should be open to adjusting project timelines.
At the beginning of the project timeline, we recommend including time for Outreachy interns to ramp up. They will need to learn new skills, tools, and integrate themselves into the community. Mentors will need to spend time introducing interns to key stakeholders and collaborators. Mentors may need to spend time connecting their intern to community experts on the project's topic.
The project timeline should also include time for interns to propose contributions to your free software community. It should include time to modify the contributions to integrate feedback. It is best if interns interact with a free software community or team, rather than just interacting with their mentor. This gives interns the chance to learn how to interact with the free software community.
Look for manageable tasks where there is community consensus on the solution. Please try to avoid situations when participants work on features that are not yet designed or agreed-upon, or have too many moving parts.
Project timelines should start with smaller tasks and progress over time to more complex tasks. Mentors should plan on needing to suggest new tasks. Some interns may propose new tasks themselves, but it is not required for them to do so.
Look for several smaller features that have a shared theme. A shared theme leads to greater intern satisfaction as they landing their changes throughout the internship.
The project should consist of manageable tasks. We encourage picking tasks that can be incorporated into the project throughout the internship period.
The project must have flexible deadlines. Do not propose projects which are time-sensitive. Avoid projects that require all work to be submitted to the project at the end of the internship.
Outreachy will not extend an internship in order to meet a project goal. We only extend the internship if the intern has not been putting in a full-time effort. Interns may volunteer their time to continue working after the internship ends, but they are not required to do so. Mentors should plan the project timeline while knowing that tasks towards the end may not be completed.
Once you have an internship project in mind, you'll need to submit an project proposal. When your project proposal is approved by your FOSS community coordinator, and your community is approved to participate in this Outreachy internship round, you'll receive an email notification. Meanwhile, follow the next steps.
Applicants will also need to make small contributions to your project during the six-week application period. In order to be accepted as an intern, applicants need to get one contribution successfully completed (and hopefully merged into the project). The strongest applicants are ones that consistently produce multiple, small contributions during the application process. Applicants that produce a large contribution at the last minute often have inconsistent internship results.
In order to ensure you can successfully evaluate applicants, you'll need to create a set of contributions for applicants to complete. You should have around 10-20 small newcomer tasks and 5-10 medium-sized tasks.
You should have smaller tasks that are newcomer-friendly. They should have a good description, and contain links to relevant documentation. Some applicants may "claim" a smaller task and then not complete it. It's good to have a lot of smaller tasks. You can also have smaller starter tasks that can be completed by multiple applicants (like a user experience survey or a graphic design proposal).
Once an applicant has completed a few smaller tasks, they'll want to have a medium-sized task. This task is a chance for them to prove they have the skills needed for your project.
A medium-sized task should test the skills that are necessary for an intern to be successful on this internship project. This is because Outreachy does not allow mentors to select an intern on the basis of educational background. Mentors should consider all applicants, regardless of whether they have a university degree, they have completed a coding school, or they are completely self-taught. You will be selecting an intern based on the quality of their contributions alone. In order to ensure you select an applicant who can successfully complete the internship, your tasks will need to test any skills you consider relevant to the internship project.
Make sure you have a large set of small and medium-sized tasks! On average, about 5 applicants complete a contribution to an Outreachy project. Some popular projects have had as many as 23 applicants complete a contribution. You should expect that most applicants will complete 1 or 2 tasks. Applicants who are selected as interns usually complete 4 tasks on average. Some interns have completed as many as 13 contributions during the application process.
You may want to save some smaller tasks for the last few weeks of the application period. Save those tasks and don't put them in your task tracker until the last two weeks. This allows applicants who come in later in the application period to have a chance at completing a smaller starter task. It's important that mentors remain responsive to applicants who are completing tasks during this period. Mentors can be honest with the applicant if they already have an intern selection in mind (and that applicant has completed a final application). However, mentors shouldn't ignore requests for help or requests for a starter task, as this leads to a bad experience for the applicants.
After the Outreachy application period opens, applicants will start recording their project contributions on the Outreachy website. Mentors will find information about applicants from links listed in the prompt at the top of the projects listing page when they're logged in. Not all interested applicants will make a contribution, and only a few will actually submit an application. If you don't have promising applicants who have made a contribution, you might want to ping interested applicants to let them know you're looking for additional contributions.
It's important that you check the eligibility of applicants. The project applicants page will display applicant eligibility information, including their time commitments. Outreachy requires applicants to have 7 consecutive weeks (49 days) free from full-time commitments. That is the absolute bare minimum amount of free time required.
Only applicants who have been determined to be eligible for the program will show up on the project applicants page. If you are working with a promising Outreachy applicant, but you don't see them on your project applicant page, remind them to record a contribution.
Note that mentors will not be able to accept ineligible applicants as interns. Applicants with borderline time commitment eligibility and few contributions may be turned down by coordinators or Outreachy organizers, especially if you are applying for Outreachy general funding.
During the application process, mentors will need to be responsive to applicants via email and on any community forums. We find that some applicants are shy about collaborating on public channels, and need to be able to make contact with mentors privately first. Please make sure to list your email address on your project description. Once applicants contact you privately, you can encourage them to speak up in public channels. Do not try to "force" applicants to use public channels by not listing your private email.
Make sure you're responsive to questions during the application process. You may need to work with other Outreachy mentors or community members in shifts to ensure you respond to applicants in different timezones. Common applicant timezones are Europe (UTC+3), India (UTC+5), and the U.S. west coast (UTC-7) and east coast (UTC-4).
Most Outreachy applicants hope to get an answer to questions asked on a community chat channel within 4 hours. If Outreachy interns don't hear back from an email to a mentor in 2-3 days, they often get worried and self-doubt will kick in. If Outreachy interns don't hear back, they'll often start applying to another project.
Start hanging out in #outreachy and #outreachy-admin on GIMPNet (irc.gnome.org). You are welcome to pitch in answering any questions from prospective applicants on the mailing list and the IRC channel.
If your organization is participating in Google Summer of Code, ask applicants who are students applying to work on coding tasks to consider applying for both programs. However, before encouraging applicants to apply to GSoC, tell them there will probably be a difference between how much GSoC and Outreachy pays.
It's important that Outreachy mentors don't waste their time working with applicants who aren't eligible for the program. We often find applicants "push the boundaries" of our eligibility requirements, especially when it comes to the eligibility requirements for students. We suggest that all mentors:
Because we ask the applicants to collaborate with mentors during the application process, mentors often find themselves overwhelmed with potential applicants. Please do not hesitate to redirect applicants to other projects or to learn more on their own if one of the following applies:
Your organization's coordinator and Outreachy coordinators will often be able to help you redirect strong runner-up applicants and new applicants to projects with few applicants.
Please let Outreachy coordinators know when you are no longer available to work with new applicants, so that we can update the listing for your idea on the main page for the round appropriately.
Some of the common causes for too few applicants are:
You will be emailed instructions for how to select an intern. Only select the intern you want to work with. Do not mark "backup" or "alternate choices".
Outreachy mentors should not have a particular applicant in mind when they submit their project description. Mentors should work with all applicants and pick the applicant that has the strongest contribution during the contribution period. To eliminate bias in picking interns, Outreachy has some rules for mentors:
Going into the Outreachy internship with applicant in mind to pick is strongly discouraged, as it means applicants will work with you but not have a chance of being picked as an intern.
Outreachy mentors need to be flexible on where interns are located. Mentors should not expect that they will have in-person meetings with their interns. Outreachy is designed to give opportunities to applicants around the world. Mentors are more likely to be located in larger cities in developed countries. If a mentor has a preference toward accepting an applicant who lives in their area or country, it is not fair to Outreachy applicants who live in rural areas or developing countries.
Mentors sometimes worry about which timezones applicants are in. However, many applicants are able to shift their work schedule to have at least 2-3 hours of overlap with their mentor's work period. Mentors should discuss the possibility of shifting work hours with strong applicants if it is a concern.
Mentors are sometimes looking for applicants who have particularly strong technical backgrounds. Traditionally, companies would require a particular level of education for applicants. However, requiring applicants to have a college degree excludes a large number of people who cannot afford college. Additionally, many colleges do not teach the same skills. Even if colleges teach the skills mentors are looking for, a degree is no guarantee that students have mastered those skills.
Outreachy mentors should not require applicants to have a specific degree to be accepted as an intern. We encourage mentors to think about what skills they want interns to have. Then create medium-sized contribution tasks that test those skills. Applicants will be able to show they have the skills for your project during the contribution period. If you are concerned about skill level, only pick an applicant who has completed a medium-sized contribution task.
Some Outreachy communities implement double-blind review of contributions. They have turned on GitHub features to hide applicant names on issues and pull requests. Teams review the contributions, and decide which applicant to accept without knowing the applicant's name. The Outreachy contribution recording process and final applicant does show the applicant's name. If mentors want anonymized final applications, they should ask their coordinator or a third party to anonymize the final application.
Communicate with your mentee frequently, point them to the relevant resources and people, and get their questions answered.
Establish office hours on community public forums twice a week, or at least once a week, when it is convenient for both of you to be around, discuss progress, and solve any issues together. Have the conversations in the community public forums, so that other people can learn from them or offer help. Interns often also benefit from private sessions where they can ask questions, such as a once-a-week video chat.
Encourage your intern to blog. A link to your intern's blog will be listed on the alums page. If your intern hasn't created a blog before the internship starts, encourage them to do so within the first week. Interns often feel pressure to get blog posts "perfect". Encourage your intern to write down things that they struggled with, or have questions on, since the simple act of writing things down can help them solve problems. Intern blog posts are often details about what the interns are working on, but can also include things that they find surprising about working in open source, techniques for working efficiently, their feelings about the internship, or even talking about what the interns find confusing. We find the best blog posts are honest and open.
Teach interns about open source collaboration. Many Outreachy interns haven't worked on a long-term project that involves working with a community. As such, they may not realize how much time it will take to submit work to the community, get feedback, and revise the contributions. Work on a plan for when tasks can be submitted to the community, and encourage your intern to engage in community design discussions and submit contributions early for review.
Teach interns about task and time management. It's good for mentors to have a rough timeline in mind for the internship, but be willing to adjust it as necessary. Feel free to discuss and adjust the tasks for the intern to make sure the tasks stay manageable and relevant. The tasks should correspond to the intern's shown abilities, evolving interests, and current priorities of your project.
Outreachy interns often experience impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is characterized by feelings of self-doubt: feeling that your accomplishments are only due to luck when you've actually put a lot of effort into looking for opportunities and networking, feeling that your work is sub-par when it is actually quite good, and feeling that everyone knows more or works faster than you.
Impostor syndrome caused by a combination of unrelenting personal standards and an inability to accept and internalize praise. People who suffer from impostor syndrome often harshly criticize themselves, have perfectionist tendencies, and downplay their accomplishments. They often feel like everyone knows more than they do, or that they are only successful because of luck. They often have trouble asking questions in a public setting, for fear they will be exposed or ridiculed for lacking knowledge.
People who are from groups underrepresented in tech are more likely to experience impostor syndrome. They face discrimination that means they have to work harder or be more careful in order to obtain the same success as people who aren't a minority in tech. This leads to a skewed view of what it takes to be successful, and a persistent need to downplay accomplishments, lest they be criticized or have opportunities taken away.
Outreachy is designed to help interns overcome impostor syndrome. Working with a mentor allows them to ask questions without feeling judged for what they don't know. While mentors should encourage interns to collaborate publicly, mentors should also be available for answering questions privately. In order to get Outreachy interns used to talking about their accomplishments, Outreachy requires interns to blog every two weeks. Outreachy also provides a travel stipend in order to encourage interns to speak at conferences about their accomplishments, or network with community members.
Mentors are encouraged to watch this FOSDEM conference talk on how to counter impostor syndrome. Mentors are encouraged to review the Ada Initiative's training on overcoming impostor syndrome with their mentee if they notice their mentee exhibiting signs of imposter syndrome.
Outreachy organizers view this internship as a fellowship. Our goal is to attract and retain people from marginalized groups in free software. Providing the intern a positive free software experience is more important than finishing their project.
Outreachy mentors will be asked to review intern's progress at three times during the internship. Interns payments will be delayed if mentors do not send in feedback before the deadlines outlined on their dashboard.
Please consult the Internship Guide for feedback deadlines. Here is our general feedback schedule:
On successful mentor feedback, the intern is paid the stipend associated with that feedback check point (e.g. initial stipend, midpoint stipend, or final stipend).
Outreachy interns are paid according to the intern payment schedule. Their payment schedule may change if their internship is extended. In that case, the modified feedback and payment schedule will be visible on both the intern and mentor's dashboards.
Outreachy interns are paid by the Software Freedom Conservancy. Conservancy is Outreachy's fiscal sponsor and non-profit 501c3 parent organization.
Per the intern agreement, Outreachy interns are independent contractors for the Software Freedom Conservancy. They are not employees of either Outreachy, Software Freedom Conservancy, or any of Outreachy's sponsors.
Interns are expected to work full-time on their internship project. If an intern is not working full-time, mentors may want to ask for an internship extension.
Please see the intern time commitment policy for a definition of "full-time". The Internship Guide has details on how many hours per week interns are required to work.
It can be hard to determine whether an intern is working full-time on their project. They may be spending a lot of time working on their own. They may be doing research, learning about new topics, trying out new tools, or spending time understanding community norms.
With that in mind, it can be hard to determine exactly how many hours they are working. Signs of full-time work include:
It is okay for interns to ask the same questions multiple times. The mentor may need to explain the concept a different way, or point the intern to different documentation or resources. The mentor may want to have a real time, phone, or video conversation to clarify any confusion.
It is okay for interns to take time to produce contributions. The mentor may need to encourage the intern to push draft contributions to a personal repository. The mentor may need to review those draft contributions more frequently to ensure the intern is on the right path.
It is okay for interns to spend time learning. Outreachy encourages interns to learn new skills, new concepts, and new tools. Interns may show they are learning by mentioning new things in conversations with mentors. The key is for interns to communicate what they are learning or researching. Then the mentor can ensure they have found the correct resources and the intern is on the right path.
Outreachy organizers prefer not to extend internships or terminate internship contracts if interns are putting in a full-time commitment.
Therefore, we ask that mentors be flexible in the project work they accept:
If your intern is putting in a full-time effort, you should authorize payment of their initial stipend.
Do not request an internship extension only to get the project completed. Interns may choose to volunteer their time after the internship is complete, but it is not required by Outreachy.
If an intern is not working full-time, the first option Outreachy organizers recommend is extending the internship.
An internship extension causes the internship time to increase. For example, a 1 week internship extension moves the internship end date by 1 week, and the intern will work 14 weeks rather than the standard 13 weeks.
Internships can be extended at three times during the internship:
An internship extension also moves the due dates of the mentor feedback by a similar amount. For example, if the internship was extended by 2 weeks at the midpoint feedback, then the final feedback due date be 2 weeks later, and the internship would end 2 weeks later.
During feedback, mentors say how long they want the internship extended for. An internship can be extended by up to five weeks total. If an intern is not putting in a full-time effort, mentors typically extend the internship by 1 or 2 weeks. That allows the mentor to set expectations and gives the intern time to get back on track.
After the internship extension is finished, mentors will fill out the feedback form again. At that time, they can choose to pay the intern stipend, extend the internship further, or terminate the internship.
There are several things mentors can do to help get the internship back on track:
When requesting an internship extension, the mentors should provide concrete goals the intern needs to meet. When those goals are met, the internship extension is considered successful and the intern will be paid their stipend.
A concrete plan to get the internship back on track may include:
Outreachy organizers prefer not to terminate an internship contract. We typically do not terminate unless the intern has been given at least one internship extension and is still not putting in a full-time internship effort.
There are two ways to handle internship stipends when an internship contract is terminated:
For example, a mentor may give the intern an extension at the midpoint feedback. After working during the two week extension, the intern has put in enough effort to be paid the midpoint stipend. However, the intern is clearly not engaged in the work, and their communication frequency has not increased. The mentor feels it is likely the intern will not put in a full-time effort during the second half of the internship.
In this first case, the mentor may choose to terminate the internship. The mentor requests that the intern be paid the midpoint stipend. However, the intern will not be paid their final stipend.
Another example is a mentor giving an internship extension at the initial feedback. In this case, the intern has not been communicating with the mentor. They are not responsive to mentor emails. They have been skipping meetings. When asked if they have questions or need help, the intern says they are doing fine. The intern asks questions that show they have not read the documentation that the mentor pointed them to. The mentor thinks they are not working on the project at all.
In this second case, the mentor may choose to terminate the internship. The mentor requests that the intern not be paid the initial stipend. The intern will also not be paid the midpoint and final stipend.
We will discuss your request for this internship to be terminated with you before we contact your intern. We will work together to draft a response to your intern.
In some cases, interns may have unsubmitted contributions, or they may have been spending time alone doing research. In this case, they may make an appeal that they have been working full-time on the internship. Depending on the circumstances, mentors may choose to continue with the internship. In this case, we need mentors to fill out the feedback form again, in order to authorize stipend payment or to record another internship extension.
If at any point you have a question or need help, please contact the Outreachy organizers.