Visiting Mozilla

It has been a few months since I completed my Outreachy internship with Mozilla last summer. I’d like to reflect on the opportunities I was given to visit the Mozilla offices in Paris and San Francisco.

One of the benefits of the Outreachy program is the opportunity to travel during the internship. At the invitation of my mentor Adrian, I was able to do some work from Mozilla’s office in Paris. The time I spent in Paris was very constructive. I met other employees at different stages of their careers, some of whom had been through the internship experience themselves. As well as being able to ask these people for advice, I was able to get a sense of the office culture and a feel for what it is like to work in a technical team.

The opportunity to ask questions and bounce ideas around in person was invaluable. I am a big believer in the value of remote working, having watched many people close to me successfully integrate a productive work life into the rest of their life that way. I do however think that being present in person every now and then is very important for building the collaborative relationships upon which remote work relies. During the trip to Paris I got a lot of work done on the Socorro webapp, allowing panels and graphs to be added more easily, a substantial task that required collaboration.

I am impressed with Mozilla’s improvements to their Outreachy programme: they have expanded the number of participants they now take, and now provide laptops (including retroactively to my cohort) and a travel budget on top of the Outreachy travel budget. I happened to be in San Francisco in Autumn last year and was invited to Mozilla’s office in the city to meet Lonnen, who has also worked on Socorro. As well as putting another face to another name, it was great to feel included and valued.

Since completing the Outreachy programme, I have been working hard on my PhD in theoretical systems biology. The Outreachy experience has helped me improve my technical skills and develop the confidence to interact with the open source community, asking questions, filing issues and submitting patches. I am still exploring different programming languages and packages for analysing data (I am mainly working with Julia at the moment), but I can see that plotting interactive graphs in JavaScript is going to be an important component of my work, and my experience working with Mozilla’s Socorro and Metrics Graphics projects is already proving useful.

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