When people ask me why I spend time on working on an open source project, the first thing that comes to my mind is the feeling of being accepted and doing something meaningful.
I can’t tell you that I have had the worst experience being a career-switcher woman without an engineering degree in IT, but I often feel hostility and I have an imposter syndrome. I’m not sure if this is a cultural phenomenon or such things happen everywhere but I didn’t receive much (if any) encouragement from my colleagues and managers in the IT company where I used to work. I was depressed and wanted to leave my job (which I finally did).
I understood that I lacked experience to work independently as a freelancer. I started to look for an open source project where I could improve my skills. I found Outreachy and the application period for the summer had just started. I found a project connected with healthcare, because medicine is my primary degree, and started contributing.
The first thing that I noticed when I started to contribute was that people treated me differently than at the company where I used to work. They thanked me for every effort even when it was fixing a typo in the docs and encouraged to continue.
I also got help and encouragement when I made mistakes. Once I enabled mirroring the main project repository to my forked repository, made a commit and a pull request, and got a message from the mentor a couple of hours later that my commit was empty. Now I know that enabling automatic mirroring can wipe off all your changes and I won’t use it without a reason. I switched it off and pushed my changes from a local repo to the remote again and re-submitted PR. I got positive feedback and my changes were merged. It was great that no one scolded me or told that I’m doing something stupid. Instead, I learned a new thing and made a contribution.
I think that it’s usually fine to make mistakes when you are learning (unless you are deleting a production database with your client’s financial information without making a backup) and it’s great when others understand it and help to improve.
I find work environment in the office to be more demanding and pushing you towards business goals while open-source communities are more product-and people-oriented. Most of the work is done by volunteers and everyone understands that time and skills should be recompensed so as nothing is paid, they are recompensed with gratitude and acknowledgment. This approach totally suits me.
It was a great (and deserved) chance that I was accepted to the Outreachy internship with LibreHealth. I don’t have to go to the office because there is a scholarship that is enough for living. I can increase my skills and prepare to work on my own if I won’t have much desire to go to office. I’m at the beginning of this wonderful three-months long program and I’m looking forward to new skills, networking and contributions to the great project.
My advice for anyone who is thinking whether to try contributing is:
Don’t be afraid and go on!