Time Commitment

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 agrement and their intern will need to accept an intern agreement. (See mentor and intern agreement examples from December 2017). 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.

Co-mentoring Is Encouraged

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.


Pre-application Process

Define a Project

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.

You 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, you can submit an intern project proposal proposal on that community's CFP page.

The project should consist of manageable and relevant tasks that can be incorporated into the project throughout the internship period. Stand-alone projects proposed by an applicant are not suitable at all for people who are not established contributors. Please try to avoid situations when participants work on features that are not yet designed or agreed-upon, have too many moving parts, and would only land in the main code-base after the internship is over as a best-case scenario. This rarely works out. Instead, look for agreed-upon manageable bugs and small features that have a shared theme and would allow the participant to feel the satisfaction of landing their changes throughout the internship.

It is best if interns work with your FOSS community or team, starting with smaller tasks (i.e. bugs) and progressing over time to more complex tasks (i.e. features), with each task being suggested by you based on the current priorities of the team. As part of the application process, applicants are asked to build a tentative timeline for their project, so make sure you have a rough idea of the series of tasks for your projects.

It's fine to define more projects than you think your community has 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.

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.

Define Starter Tasks

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 small tasks for applicants. Make sure you have multiple tasks, since all Outreachy projects have multiple applicants. On average, most Outreachy projects get 5-10 applicants, with more popular projects having around 20 applicants. Our stats are based on the number of applicants that fill out an application form, so there are likely to be more applicants that ask questions but don't start an application.

Watch for Project Applicants on Outreachy.org

After the Outreachy application period opens, applicants will start filling out their eligibility information and marking projects as interesting (by favoriting the project description). 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 when 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.


Application Process

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.

Applicant Eligibility

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:

  • Familiarize themselves with the eligibility requirements.
  • Make sure to check your project applicant page periodically to ensure you're working with eligible applications. If you're working with an applicant that hasn't filled out eligibility information, encourage them to make an account on the Outreachy website and record a contribution.
  • Select your interns promptly after the deadline. Only select the intern you are willing to mentor. Do not select backup interns. Outreachy organizers will do a final check of all applicant eligibility, and they may require mentors to make a different intern selection if their first choice isn't eligible. Outreachy organizers also may need to work with mentors when two projects select the same intern.

Too Many Applicants?

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:

  • You already have one or two strong applicants working with you, whom you are likely to want to accept, reaching the number of people you are willing to mentor in one round. Please post [No longer taking applicants] next to the description of your project and, if you have strong runner-up applicants, beyond the ones you think you would be willing to mentor, suggest that they find a different project with your organization or a different organization.
  • You already have as many applicants as you can possibly work with during the application process, though you are not yet clear if any one of them will be a strong enough candidate to want to accept. Please ask new people who don't seem highly promising who contact you to look for a different project. Post [No longer taking applicants] next to the description of your project if that seems most effective, at least until you figure out if there is a strong candidate among the applicants you are working with.
  • The applicant clearly lacks the basic skills needed for succeeding in your project. Please point them to the relevant resources that can help them learn more first.

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.

Too Few Applicants?

Some of the common causes for too few applicants are:

  • The project description does not define what the project is in layman terms. Like a patent application, assume that an Outreachy applicant is "versed in the art" of basic to intermediate programming, but lacks specific knowledge of your field.
  • No clearly defined starter tasks. Outreachy applicants get discouraged when they are told to "just look at the bug tracker." Make sure you have a list of Outreachy tasks or a "newcomer-friendly" tag in your tracking system.
  • Unresponsive mentor. 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. The most successful projects have highly responsive mentors.
  • The project uses older programming languages. Projects that use newer languages like Python, Scala, Rust, or even Java are more popular than projects that use older languages like Perl or C. Some projects that use older languages that are perceived to have more prestige or lead to jobs (like the Linux kernel) still have many applicants. Talking about the career path for your project may help. It may also help to have a mentor who is employed to work on your project participate in the Outreachy Twitter Chat.
  • Not enough project advertisement. The Outreachy organizers work tirelessly on Twitter and reaching out to applicants through universities and contacts we make at technical conferences. However, we need your project's help, by making sure your landing page is ready when the round opens. A week after the round opens, we hold the Outreachy Twitter Chat, which is a good way to introduce project mentors and community coordinators to potential applicants. For projects with hard-to-find skillsets, the Outreachy organizers may also do resume matching. Thus it's important to have your project information (including any required programming languages and skills) completed when the round starts.

Applicant Selection

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".


During the Internship

Payments

All Outreachy interns will be contacted for financial information by the Software Freedom Conservancy after the second week of their internship. Payment timelines will be sent to interns as part of their acceptance email.

Tips for Working with Interns

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.

Dealing With Impostor Syndrome

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 review the Ada Initiative's training on overcoming impostor syndrome with their mentee if they notice their mentee exhibiting signs of imposter syndrome.

Internship Delays

Outreachy internships can be extended for up to five weeks, with written approval from both the intern and mentor. Internship extensions will cause the intern's mid-point and/or final payments to be delayed.

In general, internships are extended at either the mid-point feedback time, or at the end of the internship. Internships are typically extended in the case of exceptional situations, like if an intern had to miss more than two weeks of internship time or did not put in consistent 40 hours a week effort through a part of an internship. Please contact Outreachy organizers and your community coordinator(s) as soon as possible if you think an extension might be necessary.

In rare cases, an Outreachy internship may start late. If an Outreachy intern needs to have a delayed start, both mentor and intern should contact the Outreachy organizers. Outreachy does not have the capacity at this time to handle internships starting sooner. Interns are welcome to get a head start on their internship, but Outreachy cannot shift payment dates sooner.

All mentors are encouraged to send Outreachy organizers an email if interns have not started their internship within a week of their agreed-upon start date.

Midterm and Final Review

Outreachy mentors will be asked to review intern's progress on their internship in the 6th week of the internship, and after the last day of the internship. Interns payments will be delayed if mentors do not send in feedback within a week. If an internship is extended, the mentor will review the intern's progress when the extension is over.

When reviewing intern progress, mentors should be aware that Outreachy internships are viewed as a fellowship. Mentors should not expect a certain project to be completed by the intern, but rather expect that the intern's work will be adjusted to the level of their ability, their interests, and the project's priorities throughout the internship. Outreachy organizers prefer not to fail people in the program as long as they are working full-time on the project.

If a intern is not putting in a full-time effort, there are several steps mentors can take to help the situation:

  1. Agree on a specific plan of office hours and weekly status reports. Email status reports should include questions about blocking issues. Make sure you both stick to the plan by rescheduling any missed meetings and sending a request for update the day after a missed report.

  2. If the intern is still not back on track after two weeks, it's time to have a video or phone conversation about the intern's progress. Communicate your concerns and remind about the 40 hours a week time requirement. Try to find out if there are any blockers that you can remove, and make recommendations about how the intern can improve. Make a record of this conversation, including what your plan of action was.  Please feel free to consult with your community's coordinator or Outreachy organizers if you are not sure how to best approach the topic.

  3. If at any point after that you feel that the situation has not improved, please let your community's coordinator and the Outreachy organizers know about it.

Need help?

If at any point you have a question, feel free to contact the Outreachy organizers