What I learned as a GSoC student working with Orcasound

orca near seattle in the surface

I feel incredibly privileged to have been given an opportunity to be an Orcasound Google Summer of Code (GSoC) student. If you are considering applying for the next cohort, or simply want to contribute to this amazing open source organization, allow me to give you some tips as a former student. 

Orcasound page
on Google Summer of Code site
  1. Try to keep your proposal as detailed as possible. The less room there is for uncertainty the better.
  2. Iif you are interested in an organization, start contributing from day one. For me, that meant going to the UX meetings and creating Figma and HTML and CSS mockups. Never in a hundred years did I think at that point that my proposal would be accepted, but along the way I learned a lot about working with Product Managers and devs, and I learned a lot about how to add context to my project. 

Orcasound is a “do-ocracy” — a phrase you will hear constantly when working with the organization. It’s true — everyone is always willing to listen and to give a helping hand to make a new step forward happen. Don’t feel intimidated. Voice your idea or give an opinion, and if you don’t understand something ask for advice. There are lots of brilliant and talented people that will be more than happy to help you.

Orcasound’s contributing guidelines are also pretty straightforward, so if you have an idea about how to fix an issue or develop a new feature, no one will prevent you from doing so. And every Wednesday we all meet for a weekly stand-up where we discuss our progress, so it’s a great way to hold yourself accountable. Also, feel free to join the Orcasound Slack channel to stay in touch with the community!

Isabella Macchiavello final blog post about working in orcasound as a frontend developer
Orcasound stand-up meeting

Having been new to open source software development, I was feeling a bit intimidated to be working on an open source project. I was lucky enough to have great mentors that helped me through this process, but it was still confusing since I was learning as I went. On one occasion, by typing the wrong command, I deleted my entire code! Luckily, I was able to get it back by going through my version control. After that initial setback I started to feel more confident and I managed to create my first PR. Some of the references that I found useful for me throughout this process were:

And if you have a Mac I encourage you to get GitUp — it lets you visualize the changes you have made to your code.

And finally, whether you get accepted into the next GSoC or not, I still highly encourage you to contribute to any organization that interests you. Not only will it allow you to improve your coding skills, but also the experience will help teach you how to be part of a new community — open source one that is always willing to help.

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