Outreachy initial applications are open for May 2021-August 2021 round. I’m doing my best to answer the most frequently asked questions about initial applications in this post. I’ll do a Part 2 for questions about final applications.
For context, I was an Outreachy intern from May 2020 to August 2020 with the Apache Software Foundation.
How is Outreachy different from GSoC?
Outreachy and GSoC are both summer-of-code programs created to encourage participation in Open Source. The only difference is the eligibility. GSoC is open to college students, whereas Outreachy is open for anyone (student or not) who identifies as part of an under-respresented group in the tech industry. You could be a gender minority, religious minority, part of the LGBTQ+ community etc.
Should I apply for GSoC or Outreachy?
Depends on you. Outreachy has fewer internship spots (55-60 worldwide), fewer organisations (but mostly the big established ones), and fewer projects. GSoC has more spots, and proportionately more applicants. GSoC paid $3000 in stipend to Indian students till last year, this year onwards it’s $1500. Outreachy gave $6000 to all interns in 2020, however the general stipend is $5500 + $500 travel stipend for attending open source conferences/conventions. In terms of projects and Orgs, I feel that the exposure and quality of mentorship is similar. I can personally comment on my Outreachy experience. Outreachy had fortnightly group chats organized for all interns, and each week we were encouraged to explore a particular area + blog about it. My mentors arranged meetings with other members of Apache to help me explore career opportunities in Open Source as well. The guidance and mentorship provided in Outreachy is genuinely very helpful. I cannot comment on GSoC, but I’ve heard similar reviews.
Can I apply to both?
No one is stopping you from applying to both. GSoC and Outreachy mentors coordinate with each other while choosing interns (this is why the results are announced together), and hence you will not end up “accidentally” getting both. When you fill your Final Application, you will be asked to mention other GSoC/Outreachy projects you have applied for. In case you get selected for more than one projects, you are informed beforehand and given the option to choose one.
What should I write in Outreachy’s initial application?
Outreachy’s initial application is used to gauge eligibility. It’s to make sure that you fit the demographic that the programme is aimed towards. You should write about :
a) Your interest in open source – why you’re attracted to it and what have you done (or tried to do) so far
b) You being part of an underrepresented group in the tech industry. Use numbers and figures like the gender ratio at my workplace is x:y or only xyz% of tech jobs in India are held by your group etc. Please note that the people assessing your application are not necessarily Indian, so give them context.
c) You having faced challenges which can be attributed to being part of an underrepresented group. This does NOT have to be some form of blatant outright discrimination. You can talk about personal experiences and state anecdotes for the same. You can talk about things like lack of company/ discomfort in approaching someone etc.
d) How Outreachy can help you overcome these challenges via guidance, mentorship, exposure etc.
Do I need prior experience in open source to apply for Outreachy?
No. You do not. It’s good to have, because it will help you understand things better. In my case, I was an absolute beginner. Outreachy (and GSoC) welcome beginners. They’re not looking for seasoned developers, they are looking for enthusiastic amateurs who are genuinely interested (and make regular contributions to the code base to express their interest).
How do I choose a project?
Look through the project list. Read the descriptions. Either choose something that sounds very interesting to you, or choose something which seems a bit familiar (in terms of coding language/ framework/ org etc). Click on all the links given in the description and read ALL of them. Join the public chat, introduce yourself, and ask for resources to get started. You will most likely be redirected to the codebase or to the issue tracker. Look for “beginner-friendly” bugs or “low-hanging fruit”. Ask the mentors (on public chat or the issue tracker) to assign them to you and begin working on it.
Please choose 2 or 3 projects to begin with. Once you start exploring, you’ll find yourself getting more attracted towards 1 or 2. Keep your options open because you can fill the final application for more than one projects. Remember that you need to record at least one contribution in a project to fill the final application for it. You can easily see what contributions your competitors are making, so please contribute accordingly. For my project in 2020, at least 10-12 people were regularly contributing to the project and I ended up making more than 10 small/medium PRs during the application period. This highly varies from project to project, so look out for how your peers are making progress 🙂
How do I start contributing?
The answer is this : START. Click on all related links to the project you have chosen and ask as many questions as you want on the public chat. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a coding language or a framework or a concept, learn it on the go. But do not delay. Yes, you might feel lost. Yes, you might feel overwhelmed. But just sit through it. Read the documentation and ask questions. Begin with the easy fixes, but make regular progress. Don’t just contribute for the sake of increasing commits/PRs, make meaningful contributions.