December 5th marked one year since I became an Outreachy intern and started working with the Wikimedia community, and it’s been fantastic to see new interns start their work and share their application stories. Today we hosted two chats with our new community — one on Zulip and another via Zoom. Outreachy is introducing a lot of big changes on this round, and as most of them are pretty signficant, we were able to understand better what aspects of the internship raises more questions for both interns and mentors and engage more directly with them. And as we went through them, I couldn’t help but make comparisons with my own experience as an intern.
When I was an intern…
The system that received Outreachy applications was still on GNOME’s servers. The verification of requirements and applications was done as manually as it could be, and we didn’t interact much with outreachy.org.
Project descriptions would vary a lot within communities — and such content would be hosted on the community’s website or public version control repository. Engaging with a particular project would also vary from community to community.
Recording contributions was just a matter of adding a URL on the form we filled on the old GNOME system.
We had to send our blog URLs, social media handles and photographs via email after we were accepted as interns. The only way to contact other interns would be via their social media or other means of contact they explicitly disclose.
Mentors were asked to evaluate their interns but no feedback would be asked from us.
Overall, the experience would be very lonely unless you actively looked for other interns. Contact with organizers was also limited.
What has changed so far
Outreachy.org now plays a bigger role during the application process and the internship itself. The application process is more robust now, helping us both select applicants better and understand better who are the people interested in Outreachy internships. Forms within the new Django system reduced the amount of work regarding personal details from everyone involved with the program. Selecting projects is also done through there, along with other critical tasks such as recording contributions.
Communities now have to disclose which requirements are mandatory and optional, at which level an applicant is expected to be at, means of contact of mentors and coordinators — anything that may help with onboarding.
We are explicitly encouraging interns, mentors, coordinators and organizers to interact with each other on Zulip. We are aiming to create a community within Outreachy that may provide support, help and good connections in tech or related matters. We are scheduling chats with them to address questions and improve the program.
Both mentors and interns will register their feedback. This will allow organizers to detect issues early on.
Participants of this round have positively responded to those changes, embracing them easily though not without stumbling upon a few issues we need to address, such as technical limitations and giving them more explicit, easy to ready instructions. I have a feeling those changes will improve the internship experience greatly.
Next planned tasks
- Importing content such as the Travel Allowance and our Code of Conduct page to the new Django system
Internal and external documentation
- Writing “How does the Brazilian educational system work?”, a quick guide to understand better applications from Brazil
- Analysing Outreachy.org’s front page under the perspective of a person whose first language isn’t English; finding ways to simplify explanations and avoid as much jargons as possible