Hi Hackers! My name is Rachel Sensenig, and I live near Boston, Massachusetts. I graduated from college in 2013 with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy, and have worked at environmental non-profits in Fundraising Operations for the past 8 years. My high attention to detail led to me becoming increasingly involved with maintaining data integrity in our CRM databases, and I slowly began to notice I enjoyed the technical side of things the most, which is why I decided to learn to code.
Last year, I graduated with a certificate in Full-Stack Web Development from CodeSquad and attended my first hackathon, TechTogether Boston. I had a really great experience, and my team won three of the challenges! While at this event, I learned about the Major League Hacking (MLH) Fellowship. I looked up the program as soon as I got home, and the rest is history.
A Regular Day in the MLH Fellowship
I would start a normal day in the MLH Fellowship by checking my personal kanban board, which I created to keep track of my projects using Trello. I would then prioritize what I would work on that day. Normally, that would involve continuing an open ticket for ProgramEquity or selecting a new ticket to address when I didn’t currently have a project. When I got stuck, I would do a Google Search and utilize Stack Overflow and GitHub discussion threads. And of course, ChatGPT helped with brainstorming ideas. When I truly got stuck, my mentors were always available to help via Discord or Slack.
A typical day would often include an MLH event or workshop to attend as well, which could range from resume advice to technical writing workshops and salary negotiation lessons. Three times a week, our pod would get together for stand-up meetings to discuss our projects, give demos, and talk about interesting things we had learned!
Developing Technical Skills with Real-World Experience
During the MLH Fellowship, I was matched with ProgramEquity, a non-profit dedicated to connecting climate advocacy campaigns to supporters. During my time with ProgramEquity, I worked on various issues ranging from technical documentation to implementing new features to improving the CI/CD pipeline. To familiarize myself with the project, I started by streamlining documentation of the User Stories by updating the project’s wiki.
As someone who had worked in non-profit Fundraising Operations myself, I was eager to help ProgramEquity fix critical issues that came up. For example, I helped them resolve a bug that was resulting in donations being automatically refunded. To resolve the issue and implement a solution, I learned a lot of new technologies and skills, including Vue.js, PostgreSQL, Knex.js, Objection.js, testing API endpoints using Postman, and unit testing using Jest.js.
After working on some smaller issues as well as making improvements to the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, I concluded my time with the MLH Fellowship with a couple of celebratory Hack Pods. During these events, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and GitHub staff worked with our team to deploy a containerized version of the Program Equity Amplify app to AWS and build more GitHub Action workflows to support contributors and enhance collaboration.
Expanding my Network in a Supportive Learning Environment
I would describe the MLH Fellowship culture to be very friendly and welcoming. The Discord is a great place to connect with others even when working remotely. Any questions I asked there were always answered very quickly.
During my time in the MLH Fellowship, I worked regularly with my MLH pod leader and pod mates, ProgramEquity MLH Fellows, ProgramEquity mentors, and the MLH support staff. I was also able to network with professional software engineers through events, workshops, and Hack Pods hosted by both MLH and ProgramEquity. My MLH pod leader and the ProgramEquity mentors provided great guidance and support during my MLH Fellowship.
By the end of my time with the MLH Fellowship, I felt quite close with my pod mates since we had spent so much time together. I met with all of them 1:1 to get to know them better and to learn about the projects they were working on. It was always fun to socialize with other MLH fellows through discussions on Discord and social events like trivia.
Bolstering my Career with The MLH Fellowship
The MLH Fellowship has helped a lot in my current job search. As a career changer and coding bootcamp graduate, it’s been very valuable to list the MLH Fellowship as software engineering experience on my resume. During interviews, I reference the MLH Fellowship very often since I accomplished so much during my time in the program. The MLH Fellowship is also the first time I’ve had the opportunity to work with a group of developers on a larger project, which is very valuable to mention during my job search.
One thing I have noticed is that people are impressed by the open source contributions that I made during the MLH Fellowship. For example, a software engineer cold messaged me on LinkedIn saying that they were impressed with the open source contributions I had posted about on LinkedIn and asked if I was interested in applying to a Junior Software Engineering position at their company.
The MLH Fellowship is a tremendous way to get started on a career in tech, and I would recommend anyone interested in applying for the MLH Fellowship attend an MLH hackathon first to better understand the ecosystem first.