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Isabel Costa
Isabel Costa

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I’ve been a contributor, mentor, and admin in Google Open Source programs

I participated three times in open source programs created by Google Open Source. I participated in two editions of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and one edition of Google Code-in (GCI). For all of these programs, I was part of Open Source (previously, Systers Open Source).

All of these programs aim to help people get introduced to open source in a structured way. GCI was aimed at pre-university students (ages 13-17). GSoC was initially aimed at university students or recent graduates, before opening up in 2022 to all newcomers of open source.

My participation in these programs was:

I went through a full program cycle :) I’ll briefly summarize my involvement in the programs.

Google Summer of Code 2018 Student

In 2018, I applied to be a GSoC student with Systers Open Source (now called Open Source). That is where I started my journey in these organization-guided programs.

In this program, I proposed a new project called Mentorship System, for women in the community to mentor each other via 1:1 relations. For this project, I developed both the backend REST API with Python - anitab-org/mentorship-backend - and Android application with Kotlin - anitab-org/mentorship-android.

The program was divided into one community bonding phase and three coding phases. During the program, I had 2 main mentors and one admin assigned to me. In the final phase, I got an additional mentor. My mentors would review my work (mostly code) and guide me on how to contribute in an open source environment and how to plan the work properly in our weekly sessions. The admin would oversee the project development and also act as a mentor. I learned most of what I know today about Open Source communities from this admin, who still mentored me beyond the program.

At that time, I did two presentations about my experience, which are available on Youtube:

After this program ended, I continued as a maintainer and contributor to the projects I created.

Google Code-in 2019 Mentor

In 2019, I wanted to participate as a mentor for GSoC, however, the community did not participate as an organization in GSoC that year. So I continued as a maintainer as usual for the Mentorship System projects. Then in December of 2019, we were accepted as an organization for GCI and I participated as a mentor.

As a mentor, I would create tasks and help participants contribute to Mentorship System, in multiple categories of contribution including Documentation, Coding, Quality Assurance, Design, and Outreach/Research. As the person that was the most knowledgeable about the project, I also helped other mentors understand what tasks could be brainstormed in different categories.

What I loved about this program was about promoting different types of contributions. The tasks were varied and we got so many good ideas to improve the project beyond code. I also really liked the fresh perspective other mentors would bring to the tasks brainstorming, as most weren’t familiar with the project, but still came up with ideas I wouldn’t come up with. I also learned from some participants who would come up with additional ideas for the project, outside of the GCI scope.

Here I also learned about the importance of being careful with working in a community with underage contributors. The community manager at the time (my GSoC admin) was very thoughtful about how to include the underaged GCI participants in our community forums. This led us to move from using Slack to start using Zulip, which allowed us to use features such as disabling private messaging and allow for people of any age to join the platform.

Unfortunately, this program ended in January 2020, after running for 10 years.

Google Summer of Code 2020 Admin

Finally, as GCI 2019 was finishing, applications to become an admin for the community opened. I applied, was interviewed, and then got accepted!

So I started as an admin at Open Source in February. We applied to Google Summer of Code again and got accepted! At that point, admins (including myself) worked on creating applications and processes for students and mentors and preparing the projects for the program.

My experience was a mix of being a mentor and an admin, however, my main priority was acting as an admin. In short, my responsibility, shared with my co-admins, was managing the student projects, the program, and our community. I learned about how much can go into participating as an Organization in GSoC. I loved my experience as a student back in 2018, and here I saw all the effort that admins had to put into it to make it run as smoothly as possible.

I managed a team of 4 members - 1 student and 3 mentors. The project was BridgeInTech. Interestingly, this was also an original project proposed by the student, I could see a lot of what I went through with this student (who was amazing to mentor). Part of managing the team meant I would meet with the student once a week (at least), with the mentors on a bi-weekly basis, and with the whole team every week (project weekly meeting). The process was the same as I got as a student.

I must say participating as an admin, was a great experience, much because of the documentation of previous GSoC participation, program materials (e.g.: onboarding slides, past applications content, …), and the great amount of experience that my past GSoC admin had with this program. To have an idea, part of the work admins did was: students and mentors applications management; interacting with aspiring participants who get involved way before the GSoC application started; managing and supporting mentors who would help review the student proposals; onboard selected students and mentors assigned (both involving async and sync communication).

I’m so grateful for getting to experience these programs and different roles! It taught me most of what I know about Open Source which helped me so much in my career and also allowed me to find a way to give back to the tech community.

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