Akanksha Agrawal recounts her experience as an intern.

Outreachy, as the name implies, is a program dedicated to getting underrepresented members of the tech community involved in open source software through paid internships with various partner organizations.

The OpenStack Foundation is one such organization which participates in this program as it believes in equalizing the ratio of men to women in the technical community. And as a past intern, I can say that the OpenStack Foundation is a great place to learn, innovate and become a better team member.

What’s a typical day for an intern at OpenStack?

Interns are considered an integral part of the OpenStack community and are treated as equals among other experienced developers of the community.

I worked daily during my internship seeking assistance from the community through IRC and reading documentation. Fortunately, I also had an extremely supportive, encouraging mentor in Michael McCune to guide me through my projects. I had frequent meetings with him and he made sure that I was on the right track. It was my pleasure to work with him and I couldn’t have gotten this far without him.

Not too long into my internship, Michael told me to start reviewing some OpenStack patches. This was a proud moment for me; for the first time in my life, I was able to call myself a reviewer and it was such an awesome feeling. Thankfully, OpenStack let me design, develop, document, review and thereby become a better software engineer each day I worked with it.

What my internship work involved?

I have blogged about my internship project here. I first had to write a specification about how to improve anti-affinity behavior in the Sahara project. I had a few approaches in mind, which I mentioned in the first draft of my specification. I thought that the first draft itself was definitely going to work. Unfortunately, when I put it for review and discussed it with the Sahara folks, I realized there was an issue and that I would have to re-think my solution.

After hitting that obstacle, I was really disappointed and could not see myself completing the project. Thankfully, my mentor rescued me and made me realize that these things happen when we are working on project that is part of a distributed community and that I should continue hunting for the solution. One thought my mentor shared with me, which motivated me and stuck with me as I continued my hunt, was: “irrespective of what gets committed and reviewed, you are still making a great contribution by discovering how this problem can or cannot be solved.”

With the newly found motivation instilled in me, I began to work again. I had only one thing in mind: if there is a solution to this problem, I would definitely figure it out. I started all over, took help from the Sahara and Heat community (as my project demanded me to know more about Heat templates), went through the documentation and then had my “eureka!” moment. I found a solution and, after discussing it with my mentor and the Sahara team, I felt confident that, yes, I finally solved it. It took time to convince the community about the change I thought needed to be made but eventually, I convinced the team.

Takeaways from my internship

I learned how to contribute collaboratively and effectively on an open source project that is used by millions across the globe. I realized that through feedback, I was able to write better software. I learned that no question is silly and that you would be silly if you did not ask. I became a confident OpenStack contributor.

Contributing to open source has always been my passion but I never really thought that I would ever be able to make it to the point where I am today. I am truly grateful to Outreachy and OpenStack for making me realize my potential. I feel very fortunate to be a past intern at an awesome, interesting and a beginner-friendly organization. Thank you OpenStack for making me feel special throughout the internship and thank you Outreachy for this wonderful initiative.

Future plans after the internship

I plan to keep contributing to OpenStack and, very soon, become a full-time OpenStack developer to realize my dream of working full time for a company which pays me for doing open source work.

Tips for future interns

Ask questions. Participate in team meetings and discussions. Put in your thoughts even if you are just a beginner; your thoughts will surely make a difference. And realize that you have a different, fresh outlook to look at a problem with.

You can find out more about the Outreachy internships here, applications for the next cycle open September 5.