GSOC Mentoree interviewed

My GSOC 2009 mentoree, Kanika Vats, shares some thoughts on her experiences, and tech careers for women.

I think her take on open source technology and its community is incredibly positive. I have no doubt at some point the bloom will come off the rose a bit, but this is certainly a good first impression for a newcomer to have, and hopefully will make it easier to put future negativity in perspective.

I was the sole non-female in the Systers development effort to customize Mailman to their community's requirements. (I was recruited by my SO, Jen, who was also a mentor as well as overall organizer for Systers' GSOC effort.) As a first-time mentor, this was an extremely rewarding experience.

First, it made clear that being a mentor/teacher/manager-type was work, even though someone else was doing the heavy lifting. It really helps to know what you're talking about, which I didn't always, such as giving advice on how to use the Storm ORM, when my experience was with SQLObject. (An ORM's an ORM, right?)

Second, working with a new contributor was a chance to give exposure to the things that school doesn't seem to teach but that are very important in the real world, and especially around open-source development: Coding standards; Understanding and enhancing other people's code, and writing code so that other people can understand it; Using source control and branches to help one's productivity; bug tracking; and online collaboration, especially across time zones.

Finally, I will have the opportunity to attend the annual Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference, where I am led to believe people of my gender will be in the extreme minority. Will it be weird? Too early to say -- although I have heard the conference schwag may include soaps and candles instead of 2XL-sized t-shirts. Should be interesting!

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