Published Dec 01, 2020
Hi, I am Aisha Khatun. I am a machine learning and data science enthusiast and thrilled to have been selected as an Outreachy intern for the December 2020 cohort!
This time 1,952 initial came in, 650 applicants were approved to participate in the contribution period. There were 83 internship projects to choose from! 255 applicants contributed to various projects and 54 applicants were accepted as Outreachy interns. I was one of them!
In this blog, I want to share my journey into getting accepted as an intern in Outreachy where I will be working with Wikimedia foundation on the Wikipedia abstract project. I will share more about my work in a later post, but for now, I wanted to highlight what this internship entails and how you can get it too!
Outreachy is a paid remote internship for 3 months with free and open-source software (FOSS), encouraging underrepresented communities in tech (but is open for all to apply), available twice a year. Outreachy has certain eligibility criteria, so make sure to go through the website for all details. In short, it is open for both students and non-students, and the amount is not small, so students may want to take note!
Some software’s are free and some are Open Source! It means you see the source code, you can edit the code, you can tell the maintainers - “Hey, I can fix that bug” or “I implemented a new feature, wanna add it?”. Now, these may sound intimidating at first but it’s REALLY not.
Anyone willing to spend some time on the project is a developer. That many minds can find bugs easily, grow fast, and maintaining the project becomes manageable. A whole community surrounding a project makes it much more robust than a small team.
Glad you asked!
the experienceyou were looking for. Especially for students in their junior or senior years. Working on real world projects gives exposure to what things are really like out there, and you can even learn lots of tools and techs that otherwise you wouldn’t even know about with your small single-person projects. These experiences can reduce the initial blow as you enter the workforce as well.
Outreachy gives internships on various open-source projects. You work on a few projects, communicate with the team and your mentor along the process, and hopefully get accepted to be an intern with one of those. Outreachy promotes open source contributions but it is not a prior requirement. I was new to it myself, so it doesn’t matter. What matters is - are you willing to learn?
I should admit there is quite some competition here, so getting your hands dirty well before required may be a good idea. Here is what you should be doing as some preliminary steps:
Now you are an open-source contributor! Give yourself a little pat on the back and continue your journey. You can now take on a slightly not-for-beginners task or do some more beginner tasks. If you are confused which task is suitable for you, ask someone.
Just a heads up: It’s not required for you to have done open source before getting into Outreachy but it won’t hurt to try some, right?
Some other tips:
dev.to, or spin up a website in GitHub itself (e.g tanny411.github.io).
The first step is the initial application. It is a crucial step where you write your story. Since Outreachy supports diversity in tech, they will ask if you have faced discriminatory situations, how you feel about those and what are your personal motivations to keep working in tech. Be articulate in your essays, be clear, be specific. Fill the form early and revise at least twice. Make your essays are perfect, you get selected for the contribution phase based on these. Don’t over-do it though.
Once you get selected for the contribution phase, it’s time to show your magic! Basically, you work with mentors on a project, mentors select 1-2 candidates per project for the internship. See what mentors look for in a Outreachy/GSoC intern. But remember! Your work talks the most, don’t let your past experiences and unfamiliarity with open source be a barrier. Break those barriers, try a second time if the first time doesn’t work out. You would have already broken your entry barriers by then for sure!
After you’ve made some contributions, it’s time to submit your final application. This application contains links to your contributions and your proposed timeline for the internship task, besides some other questions. Start this application early, you can edit it till the contribution phase ends. You are required to submit a final application for each project you worked for. Run your final application with your mentor and ask for reviews.
Hurray! The internship! Your hard work pays off and you get selected for one of the projects you worked on. Now what? You work with your fav community for 3 months as a paid intern. You get to keep your mentors!
At this point, you should go through the internship guide on the outreachy website and start planning your work. I found it best to create a separate calendar in google calender and create events for the biweekly blogs and community chats. I set it up so that I get email notifications 5 days before and on the day of the event itself. I will be setting up other tasks accordingly. Plus, I made a google doc to keep track of all outreachy things I need to remember or review, todo, so on.
The best part about Outreachy, I think, is that it builds experience, it’s paid - much like a full-time job. BUT, you get flexible hours, super nice mentors and there is no interview, resume screening, broken coding interviews, and whatnot. Sadly it lasts only 3 months, but the good news is it’s open-source! So if you like (and it is recommended), you can continue to keep in touch with the community and contribute to your project. Based on your performance, your mentor and others involved in the project may want you as a mentor next year! But most important of all - keep you open-source alive!
Some tips to work remote:
In case you are hell-bent on getting the internship, you may want to know some things more.
Outreachy gives us the option to choose how we want to be paid (as of 2020).
For receiving payment outside USA clearly wire-transfer is a better option. The latter option takes more time and is too involved. We are required to give our payment info within 10 days of the start of the internship, otherwise the payment is delayed (Don’t stress, they will send a mail and tell you what information to provide exactly). If students take the internship, most often than not you may not have a bank account. This procedure may involve some time, so you may want to set one up, especially your own account. Someone elses account is fine too but you will have to fill an extra form and stuff. If you are going to have a bank account anyways, it may as well be now.
If nothing else works, go for the last option. It will work, you have to be patient.
Another information you will be required to provide is your tax info. Look at this section only after you’ve received instructions for it through mail. There are 2 forms and you select one based on some criteria such as ‘are you a US citizen?’ etc. Those instructions will be given. I filled the W-8BEN form so I don’t know about W9.
Most of the fields as intuitive, so fill ‘em up.
Additional help to fill tax form:
If you don’t already know, you will get your payments in 3 parts. If you are new to getting wire from a foreign country like me, read on. When they send the payment, they let you know by mail and you are supposed to get it by 10 days. For me and another intern in my country, we had some issues.
The bank is supposed to call you and ask for your documents to verify and then complete the transaction. But I did not get any call from the bank and even on calling them, I could not get things going for a week. Then I finally went down to the bank in person and they made a couple of calls and said my payment has in-fact reached my country and that I should have gotten a call (which I didn’t). Then I provided by internship contract, email conversation that said money was sent (as a invoice), email conversation that said I was accepted as a intern in Outreachy (because the internship contract did not have my name explicitly). For further clarification you can send a copy of the outreachy alums page, which will have your info when you’re selected. Then things started rolling and I got my payment in 4-5 days. The delay because there are multiple banks involved and so multiple verification steps I think.
Another issue you may face, although I did not, is that the bank considers this money remittance instead of payment and so want to deduct 10% off of it. Outreachy internship is a independent contract, so it falls under freelance category, for which there is NO tax cuts (except for income tax). The confusion arises in part because outreachy internship does not specify explicitly that it is a software engineering work. So you need to convince your bank (through outreachy website front page maybe?) that this is in-fact a freelance job and is not subject to any kind of tax deductions.