Everybody Struggles

What do Oprah Winfrey, Lilly Singh, Walt Disney and Charlie Chaplin have in common? Along with being amazingly successful in their respective fields, they also struggled quite a lot. No one is an overnight success. It’s important to acknowledge struggles, because it helps us and others be okay whenever they get stuck.

When you join an open source community, it’s very easy to assume that existing members of the community are “professionals” and expert at doing everything, but the reality is, even they don’t know everything, and that’s okay! The important thing is that you ask for help.

While a lot of Outreachy interns have a tech based project, I am a design intern, so the problems I experience are a little bit different. There is no right or wrong in design, as it is a very subjective field, so if I am working on a problem and I come up with a design, some people will like it and some people won’t. There’s no “bug” to solve here.

The thing I struggled (and still am struggling with) is being confident about the designs I come up with. I keep coming up with flaws that don’t really exist, questioning the quality of my designs, double and triple checking everything multiple times- to the point where it’s just unnecessary and not a good use of my time. I’m afraid of making mistakes, or letting my mentor down.

Guess what? I still make mistakes. Even after thorough checking, I still miss a typo. Or forget to align boxes properly. Or forget to include the logo.

And I’m slowly learning to be okay with these things. My mentor is amazing, and never makes me feel bad about the mistakes I make, so that’s a huge help. If I am ever doubtful of my designs, she gives me a lot of good feedback, which not only re-assures me about my concept, but also helps me make it better!

It’s easy to hold yourself to an impossibly high standard, but it doesn’t do anyone any good. Outreachy is a learning experience. You are not expected to know everything. The important thing is that you acknowledge your struggles and ask questions when stuck (no one is judging you, I can assure).

Introduction

Hi! I’m Smera. For those of you who may have skipped the About section, here’s a little recap: I got selected as an Outreachy Intern for Fedora, and here I’ll document all my experiences throughout the internship.

Since this is just the first post, I thought I’d introduce myself, so you can get to know my background and where I come from, and a little introduction about Outreachy itself (for those of you who don’t know).

I’m Smera (a fact I have mentioned too many times already), a 20-year-old student from Delhi, India. I’m currently pursuing a B.Tech in Computer Science and Design from IIIT, Delhi.

My core values are happiness and determination.

Happiness, for me, is the ultimate goal and motivator. I have spent a long time doing something I wasn’t happy about (this is my Superhero origin story, you could say). During the final years of my high school, I was studying something that did not interest me, and my grades suffered. My grades impacted my self-esteem, and that was a very difficult time for me. I had lost my identity, and didn’t have any sense of who I was.

In a sentence, it wasn’t pretty.

Enter college. I was lucky enough to get into IIIT. The course I got into was Computer Science and Design, an area that was right up my alley. Having been given a second chance, I dived into college with full determination.

Now I had developed a good work ethic in school itself (I thought, if I worked harder my grades would improve. Sadly that isn’t so straightforward, when you don’t have any interest in the area you’re studying), so in college, when I got to study subjects I actually liked, I started getting good grades, which in term fueled my determination. I started enjoying my studies, made a lot of friends, and genuinely felt happy. That’s when I realized that I had spent so much of myself in something that I didn’t enjoy, and how much I’d hate to go back there. That’s why, for me, happiness comes first now.

If I decide to do something, I give it my all. I realize the value of all the opportunities I get, and that’s why I go at them with full determination.
A lot of this played a crucial role in my Outreachy applications.

What is Outreachy, you ask.

To paraphrase Outreachy’s website, Outreachy provides remote internships to work in open source and free software. Internships are open to applicants around the world and interns are paid a stipend of $5,500 USD for the three month internship, plus a $500 USD travel stipend to attend conferences or events.

Outreachy internship projects may include programming, user experience, documentation, illustration, graphical design,  data science, project marketing, user advocacy, or community event planning. Anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry of their country is invited to apply.

My roommate was an Outreachy alum, and she was the one who told me all about Outreachy and open-source. When I got to know about the motivation behind Outreachy, to support diversity in free and open source software, I was moved. As a woman in India, I have faced a lot of discrimination in the tech world, so I was glad to see an initiative to support people like me, and that’s why I decided to apply.

My next post will have more about Outreachy, the application progress (and the struggles), tips if you’re planning to apply for the next round and lot more.

For now, I think my overshared backstory and this little introduction should suffice.