Outreachy: Interview with HOT Intern Jessica Marlene Canepa

This past October, Mapzen was proud to announce our sponsorship of one internship for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) through Outreachy (previously known as the Outreach Program for Women). Outreachy provides funding for FOSS internships for women (cis and trans), trans men, genderqueer people, and all participants of the Ascend Project regardless of gender. We were delighted to learn that the GNOME Foundation had heard about our sponsorship and decided to match the funds we provided, allowing for a second intern for HOT. We wanted to give you an update on the program’s progress, so we took the opportunity to ask Jessica Marlene Canepa, one of the interns, some questions about her experiences with the program.

This is the first blog post in a series of interviews with Outreachy interns and mentors. Read our interviews with intern Nitika Agarwal and mentor Kate Chapman.

How did you learn about the Humanitarian OSM Team? What attracted you to working with them?

I learned about the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) from the Outreach Project for Women (OPW) application website. I heard about OPW, which is undergoing a name change to Outreachy, from volunteering at the Open Source Bridge conference in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I have heard of OpenStreetMap (OSM) but not the Humanitarian OSM Team (HOT) before applying for the OPW internship. I was excited by HOT’s global impact, capacity building focus, and collaborative approach in using open source tools. As an undergrad I studied International Affairs and Russian so HOT’s international mission and community is very appealing to me. I have always loved surrounding myself with maps and learning from others around the world.

Tell us about the OPW program. What kind of structure and support is provided for interns?

The OPW program offers mentorship for passionate newcomers in the form of a remote internship. OPW interns span the globe. They have a great internship coordinating team and online community that includes office hours for career related questions, an IRC (Instant Relay Chat) room, LinkedIn group and other online places for communicating with current and former interns and mentors.

To apply for the internship OPW applicants must have already reached out to the project’s mentors and have started to make a contribution. This helps applicants get to know the organization, mentor(s) and project details before officially starting.

OPW mentors and interns set up the expectations of the internship at the beginning, including the frequency of their weekly communication and check-ins. They’re expected to check-in at least once a week but often have other built-in ways they communicate throughout the week in the form of work logs, IRC, voice chat, and email for updates and troubleshooting help.

What have you been working on since the start of your internship?

I have been working on a documentation project to help others get started in participating in HOT with updated guides and with helping with GitHub issues for the learnosm website.

What has surprised you the most in the course of your internship so far?

I have been most surprised by the open source process of collaborative decision making and the need for clear communication. I didn’t expect collaboration to take so much time and didn’t realize how critical clear communication is to the process especially with an international community of contributors.

What are your plans for after the internship is over?

After the internship I plan to keep learning by finding other open source projects (preferably map or geo related) to help with in order to hone my skills. I am really interested in building the skills of a mapping web applications developer familiar with open source tools.

What advice would you give someone considering applying for the OPW internship?

My advice to someone considering an OPW internship is to find a project that really intrigues you or an organization’s mission that you feel passionate about. I originally intended to apply for multiple organizations as a part of my OPW application but quickly found HOT’s mission most motivating and settled on just applying for HOT’s projects given my limited time. As a part of my application I got stuck on installing PostgresSQL to run the HOT Tasking Manager website locally on my computer and I spent several days troubleshooting this. I realized that I wouldn’t have had the same motivation for other projects I considered and that I could probably learn the most from being invested in the organization’s mission.

Outreachy is getting ready for their summer internship and Mapzen is planning to sponsor another intern. If your company would like to sponsor an internship for an open source project, get in touch with Outreachy now. Applications for the internships will open March 3, 2015.