Hi everyone! It's the final week of the internship, and that means this is also my final post on this blog! Hard to believe we're already at the end, but we know time flies faster than superman. In this post, I'll be taking a look at what I've learned, what I've accomplished, and what comes next after the internship is over.
Before we get into that, I'd like to take a look back and review the process and pathway towards being selected in the first place, and hopefully, give some encouragement to other prospective applicants who may apply in the future. I'll be using some of the questions posed by the Outreachy organizers to help keep things, well... organized.
Over everything else, my biggest fear was probably one of the most common: that I wouldn't be "good enough" to be accepted. Call it imposter syndrome, or something else, but it's one of those fears that's hard to shake no matter how skilled you are. Seeing as I'd elected to apply to a single project, and that project (Fedora Badges Design) being design related, I had fears and concerns that I wouldn't be able to "compete" during the initial phases. Granted, it really isn't primarily about skill, but largely about dedication and soft skills, and other applicants also exhibited these in good measure. What I take away from this, is that you never know what will be for you and when it will be your turn. So, I would say to anyone following this path, don't give up before you've put your foot forward. At least give it a go and see what happens. Even if you're not selected, you'll still gain important skills that will help you in life.
There are many great takeaways from my experience, but perhaps the most amazing thing for me, personally, was having other applicants reach out to me during my internship, whether for advice, or for potential mentorship in the future. I love helping others, and knowing that I can make a difference through my internship experiences and by my example of pressing past the aforementioned fear of "not being good enough" is a plus that I'll take away into the rest of my life and career.
I've been a designer for more years than I can count, but there are some areas where I've felt that I could do with some improvement and polish. It's kind of hard to place these areas in a single or a few terms, but I can say that having worked on the Fedora Badge Design project has helped tremendously in many of these areas. For instance, I've become more adept and confident in my illustration skills, especially with relation to designing more simplified characters and objects. Any experienced designer will tell you, keeping things simple isn't always easy or straightforward, certainly not as you might think. It's especially difficult, or should I say, tricky? - when you're trying to keep things within a set of guidelines and styles that are not your own. However, these skills are especially important when you're working as part of a team, which has been more of a rare opportunity for me in my design journey.
Another way in which my skills have improved is in the area of communication, which is essential to working as part of a design team. When you're more accustomed to working alone, especially in freelance, you can grow accustomed to being largely responsible for both making design decisions and solving problems on your own. Both of these things are important skills to have, but when you're working as part of a team, it pays to have a good understanding of when to approach your team for feedback, guidance, or just to check in on what direction to take. I'll also say I really learned to ask for help a lot more than I'm accustomed to - being quite the experienced perfectionist. I quite enjoyed being pushed out of my "comfort zone" in this regard, and learning to seek guidance from others, where normally I would just fight through and figure it out on my own.
Finally, I was able to improve my time management skills, gained more experience with remote work - this being my second time working with a massively international team on this level, and various additional skills, including keeping my work organized and keeping documentation of my experiences and lessons learned. If you've written documentation or done technical writing before (as I have), you know it's much easier to document the work of others than it is to document your own, which may sound counter-intuitive, but actually makes sense when you really stop and think about it. We're already well aware of what we're doing and what it requires, so we don't typically put much thought into the smaller details or lessons that may not come naturally, but could turn out to be of utmost importance to others.
I'd like to take this moment to give special mention to both my mentors, who themselves are former interns - Marie Nordin and Smera Goel, who both went out of their way to ensure that myself and my fellow intern, Chris Onoja Idoko, had a productive and meaningful experience that we can take forward into our lives and careers. Being a good mentor is about more than just teaching, offering guidance or assisting with completing goals, but about being an actual, genuine, friend to your mentee(s), and ensuring that they're in their best place(s) to accomplish whatever they've set out to do under your guidance. To this end, both our mentors kept up with weekly check-ins via video and text, and provided us daily access to assistance via a chat group where we could collaborate and ensure everything stayed on course.
We got regular positive, but also constructive and meaningful, feedback - which is something that any designer or creator will tell you is of utmost importance. It's one thing to hear "Oh that looks great!" or worse "I hate it!"*, but it's so much better when you get actual, actionable steps and pointers along the way - things you can actually work with to produce the desired result. In these ways and more, our mentors both ensured that we were empowered to improve both our designs, and our overall skills, and by the end of the internship, we were both hitting the mark on the first try at an increasing rate! Not yet perfect, but good enough for me!
* (okay, maybe sometimes "That looks great" is actually worse - but it takes being a designer to fully get this one).
Full disclosure, I've been contributing to open source projects in tiny ways for... a number of years. I've actually lost count at this point, honestly. However, I've never had the confidence to contribute on this level, so directly, and especially not to put out large amounts of work before a global audience. Some of my previous design contributions to other projects were accepted, but didn't have a long lifespan, and others were in fact rejected, leading to some discouragement along the way. Being more of an introvert socially, and having a past as a rather shy and not very outgoing child, I've not often been the one to step up and make myself visible outside of roles where my work would be more or less in the background, such as documentation and moderation. However, design has always been my passion, so naturally, I've wanted to contribute to the wider open source community in this manner on a larger scale. Having participated in the internship, and going so far as to present my work to the public on an open forum for a project as large as Fedora, has definitely given me the confidence boost to take my work further going forward in the future.
Now, small note for anyone who knows - but yes, I do produce content on YouTube and other platforms, but psychologically, it's a whole other kettle of fish when you're contributing to a project on this level and in this manner.
In brief, we've completed roughly a third of the badge designs out of just over 600 badges. Additionally, we've managed to capture a number of takeaways - best practices, lessons and pitfalls, which will be recorded and officially documented for future badge designers. Unfortunately, we weren't able to complete everything that was planned, but nevertheless, we've completed a significant undertaking.
You'll note that I've said "we" here, when the question specifically says "I" - but this is on purpose. I can't take sole credit for the work we've done, but that's all in the spirit of open source software - it's all about collaborative efforts and community development. In the future, I'll be sticking around, but without a doubt, my work will ultimately be reused, reworked, and even replaced by the work of others - and that's great! That's what open source is all about.
In brief, kind of like this GIF:
I'm proud of the work that I've done and the growth that I've undergone, but I will in some ways miss this stage of my life and my career development, even as I move on to higher heights. All in all, I'm glad to have participated, and I hope to give back to the community in the near future, even as I continue to find ways to grow personally and elevate my own career.