The world of tech is an ever-expanding universe, filled with opportunities for innovation and discovery. For those ready to embark on a journey of growth and learning, the Major League Hacking (MLH) Fellowship program is a remarkable pathway that connects passionate and talented students with leading tech companies to work on real-world projects.

I’m Zong Xun Lee, an MLH Fellowship alumni — in the fall of 2023, I had the opportunity to go on an incredible adventure in open-source software development as a contributor with the JupyterLab team. In this blog post, I’ll share more about this experience and how it impacted my journey.

Jumping into Open Source

One of the coolest aspects of the Fellowship program is that you become completely immersed in the world of open-source development. JupyterLab is a well-known open-source project that plays a crucial role in the data science and scientific computing communities. Through the Fellowship I had the privilege of contributing to this project, making a meaningful impact on a tool used by countless researchers, scientists, and data enthusiasts. Because I got to apply my skills to a real-world project like this, I felt much more confident and competent as a software developer coming out of the program.

Working with the JupyterLab team was also an eye-opening experience since I was contributing alongside experienced developers. I learned so much from their mentorship, and the support and encouragement from the team were instrumental in my growth as a developer.

What’s it like to be an MLH Fellow?

A highlight of being an MLH Fellow is you have an opportunity to present your contributions as part of a formal Demo Day. Not only was I learning how to write clean, efficient code, but I also learned how to talk about my code and what it does.

These aren’t the only reasons my experience as an MLH Fellow was truly exceptional, though:

  • Open and Inclusive Community – JupyterLab, like the open-source community as a whole, is welcoming and inclusive. I connected with like-minded individuals who share a passion for open-source software and learned from the diverse perspectives of the community members.
  • Impactful Work – The projects I worked on as an MLH Fellow at JupyterLab were more than just coding exercises — they had real-world implications. Knowing that my contributions would benefit organizations across the world made every line of code I wrote feel impactful and meaningful.
  • Learning and Growth – The Fellowship program encouraged continuous learning and personal growth. I had access to resources and webinars, and the challenges I faced during my projects were opportunities for skill development and problem-solving.

My experience as an MLH Fellow was nothing short of transformative. It enriched my technical skills, expanded my knowledge of open-source software development, and connected me with a community of passionate individuals who value collaboration and innovation.

What’s Next?

The journey through the MLH Fellowship as a contributor to JupyterLab was a defining period in my professional growth, laying the groundwork for my subsequent internship at TikTok. The practical experience in open-source development, enriched by the guidance of expert developers, sharpened my technical expertise and teamwork capabilities. These skills are highly valued at TikTok, a platform that thrives on the same principles of innovation and community engagement that I encountered in the Fellowship.

As part of MLH Demo Days, I learned how to articulate my contributions, a skill that translates into the fast-paced environment of TikTok where dynamic communication is a must. Furthermore, the inclusive culture and meaningful nature of my work at JupyterLab echoed TikTok’s commitment to nurturing creativity and delighting users. This blend of technical skill, community involvement, and a desire to effect positive change facilitated a smooth transition from MLH Fellow to TikTok intern, marking a successful leap in my career.

If you’re a student looking to dive into the world of open-source software development and contribute to projects with real-world impact, the MLH Fellowship is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. It’s a journey that will not only enhance your technical skills but also provide you with a sense of purpose and belonging in the ever-evolving tech universe. I am incredibly grateful for the experience and the doors it has opened in my tech journey.