Outreachy reports · Oct 4, 2021 · 4 minute read

Outreachy report #25: September 2021

It’s official: I’ve been working with Outreachy for three whole years! 🎈 I can’t stress enough how fun it’s been to work on the program that welcomed me as an intern (and kickstarted my career in tech) four years ago.

Final feedback submissions & internship extension post-mortem

We finished processing final feedback submissions for all interns. We had two particularly difficult cases of interns with disengaged mentors. In one case, the mentor’s expectations for a mentor-mentee relationship weren’t aligned with Outreachy’s–they were keen on helping their intern with technical matters but didn’t provide support in any other front. They would later state in their final feedback submission to organizers that our conversations with them on mentorship styles were more stressful than any other issue they had to deal with during the internship. In the other case, the mentor’s distance from the community itself (and their established means of communication) made it difficult to assign another mentor to their intern. Coupled with an intern in a stressful situation (being in a country victim to acts of war), that situation put this community’s substitute mentor on the verge of burning out.

We discussed such cases further in our internship extension post-mortem. Karen Sandler, Sage Sharp and I were present. We went through the details of all relevant internship extensions, including conversations with all involved mentors and coordinators. We got to the conclusion that the role of a community coordinator needs to be revamped–we need them to watch internships in their community more closely and to respond to any situations that may come up immediately. Escalating to Outreachy organizers shouldn’t be the first step in every single case.

We’ve been thinking about inviting more experienced community coordinators to become a mentor to new and old communities as well. We have a great community around us, we just need to encourage them to communicate with each other and share their experiences.

We’re also considering changing the format of extensions altogether. Processing them takes time, and dealing with multiple extensions with different durations is another time-intensive task. We believe that adding one more organizers to the team will help us with that.

But the most short term actionables we have at the moment are establishing expectations for a mentor/mentee relationship in intern chats and emails and changing/adapting questions in the feedback form to detect red flags earlier. We need to make sure we’re able to identify difficult situations as soon as we can–we believe that the two difficult cases we had would have benefited from an early response.

December 2021 round: Onboarding & initial application review

We’ve been welcoming more and more new communities every round. Our onboarding sessions consist of a 30 minute meeting on Big Blue Button to orient community coordinators and mentors and to let them ask any questions they have. Such face-to-face meetings are an improvement to email exchanges – it allows us to focus on their questions and the most important aspects of our program in real time instead of extending a conversation for days or even weeks. It allows them to meet the organizers and connect with us, making them more comfortable to ask any questions.

As for initial applications, our wonderful initial application reviewers were able to review them all in time! It was disheartening to see us struggle with initial applications earlier this year; having so many people working on reviewing them for a month was a very successful endeavor. It allowed us to focus our time supporting our interns and communities joining Outreachy for the December round; it gave us headspace to deal with really difficult situations. We’re extremely grateful for their time and efforts. Now it’s up to us, organizers, to process all initial applications.