What was it like being an MLH Fellow? Two Fellows share their stories.

This year, we launched the MLH Fellowship, a remote internship alternative where hackers from around the world contributed to Open Source software. As the inaugural class wrapped up their contributions, we took a retrospective look at two of our Fellows’ experiences just before graduating from the program. In an interview hosted by Will Russell (Fellowship Community Manager), MLH Fellows E-Liang and Manya explored their experiences in the inaugural MLH Fellowship.

Watch the MLH Fellowship Graduation

Becoming a Fellow

”The process of becoming a fellow was very smooth.” – E-Liang

As an ‘internship alternative’, the MLH fellowship offers a unique experience for hackers, giving them the opportunity to be in large, remote teams of people across multiple time zones and contributing to code that hackers around the world have used. 

We know that communicating through Zoom might feel strange compared to a traditional internship, so we broke the ice with an orientation hackathon. Our Fellows had to build projects that used the software they would be contributing to during the Fellowship. There was just one caveat – they didn’t know the theme until the hackathon started! This led to lots of creative solutions and the Fellows ended up developing several projects.

“Learning about projects using technologies and hackathons made onboarding fun.” – Manya

 

What are ‘Pods’?

During the Fellowship, Fellows were split into ‘Pods’; language-specific teams in which they communicated ideas and learned together to contribute to projects under the guidance of a mentor. 

To maintain a supportive environment, daily retrospectives, and weekly show and tells to help bring the Fellows together, give them the opportunity to resolve issues independently, and make sure good communication is maintained throughout their projects. 

“Delivering my first show and tell was exhilarating and gave me the opportunity to be technical with an audience for the first time.” – Manya

This also gives our fellows a good experience in collaborating across different time zones, which is often the case in the real world of work. 

“In the fellowship you are mainly working for yourself and focusing on developing your own skills, which is a subtle but major difference to a traditional internship.” – E-Liang

 

The Reality of Open Source

Contributing to Open Source projects for the first time can be a scary task for students, but our MLH Fellows quickly realized that it was less daunting than they first expected. The reality is that maintainers running Open Source projects know that every hacker has their strengths and that everybody has the potential to contribute something useful. 

Fellows have the opportunity to learn about the project as they contribute, which makes the experience less intimidating than it initially seems. 

“Brian (React Core Team) really supported me when I was building a react core profile for developers. I got a fantastic experience working on something that developers actually use.” – E-Liang

It’s also an incredibly valuable experience, and it’s much easier to take the first step into the world of Open Source projects with a supportive team around you. 

“I’m going to continue working on open source projects after the Fellowship.” – Manya

 

Mentorship

At MLH, we believe in the power of Learning, Building, and Sharing which is why mentorship is a key component to the MLH Fellowship. All mentorship is completed with each individual Fellow’s future in mind. In addition to one-on-one mentorship, MLH Fellows also have the option to participate in hour-long interactive sessions about working effectively in a team, career advice, Q&A’s, getting jobs, and talks about specific technologies.

“The educational talks gave me the knowledge I needed to start writing my own blog posts.” – Manya

Both students enjoyed the talk by John Britain about Career Paths and Writing Words About Food by Jacob Herrington. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel to get a taste of what our talks involve and check out some of the sessions given to the Fellows.

Both students learned from their mentor Jani, who focuses on not just developing technical skills, but also on providing motivation and giving students the confidence to work creatively and independently.

“Jani always finds value in everything his students say!” – E-Liang

 

Skills and Achievements

With developing the skills to contribute to real-world software as the focus of the MLH Fellowship, each MLH Fellow reported developing at a faster pace than they had ever done before. Those learnings came with serious results too with every MLH Fellow creating meaningful open source contributions. 

“Through the Fellowship, I’ve gained soft skills which I would not have gotten elsewhere” – Manya

But, it’s the additional “soft” skills that you learn which made our Fellowship stand out. Conflict mediation, decision making, and being successful on large teams are all skills that are required in the real world of work, each of which E-Liang and Manya said they got into the MLH Fellowship.

“I’ve learned how to present myself to potential employers, a skill which is hard to gain at university or via a regular internship” – E-Liang

 

The Future

MLH Fellows come from all walks of life and all parts of the world; students and recent graduates alike, with a range of skills and backgrounds. The MLH Fellowship helps hackers prepare for working in tech by advancing their technical and soft skills, broadening their network by giving them the opportunity to meet like-minded people, and contribute to large-scale heavily used Open Source projects to expand their portfolios.

“Working on our own application, [during the hackathon] Stack Attack, is really beneficial for our portfolios.” – Manya

“I previously completed an internship with Facebook, but MLH gave me the mentorship needed to make developments on a big open source project.” – E-Liang

With E-Liang and Manya’s strong expertise in git and the development of a new program in the Halfway Hackathon, Stack Attack, which will be released at the end of the Fellowship, plus the large portfolios they both now have, the future looks bright for them following graduation.

Follow #mlhgrad on dev.to to hear more stories from our graduates.

 

Fellowships for the Future

At MLH, we have expanded our Fall MLH Fellowship options to include both full and part-time opportunities with new different tracks that allow MLH Fellows to develop portfolio projects or contribute to open source. You can read about the changes we’ve made to the MLH Fellowship in our recent blog post.

All hackers are encouraged to apply! If you applied for the inaugural class but weren’t selected, give it another go!

Learn more about MLH Fellowship opportunities on the MLH Fellowship site. 

 

Fall MLH Fellowship Q&A:

Excited to join? We gathered a few common questions to help you get started.

What can one expect in the Explorer Track?

The Explorer Track is aimed for those looking to build out their portfolio of personal projects, as well as getting the opportunity to experience new technologies by collaborating in small groups on a series of short hackathon sprints. Every 2 weeks, you’ll get to add a new real-world project to your resume, with each sprint having its own unique theme! 

What is the Educational Externship?

If you are looking to learn more about the Educational Externship, please refer to our recent blog post.

If I’ve already taken part in the Fellowship, can I apply again?

Graduates are free to reapply to either track but may benefit more from the Explorer Fellowship. 

Tell me more about the part-time Fellowship

The part-time Fellowship is a flexible option for those who can’t dedicate themselves to the full-time fellowship. It involves two meetings a week, and all activities are scheduled in your own time zone.  

Have a question? Email us at [email protected]!