From Windows-only user to Linux kernel programmer

Until 2014, I was a Windows user who liked the idea of Linux but believed that it was too complicated for me to install and use. I didn’t consider myself a programmer or particularly tech-savvy. Today, I contributed my fourth clean-up patch to the Linux kernel. Additionally, I am less than three months away from graduating with a BS in Computer Science, and I am very confident in my technical abilities.

Finding my passion

My first degree was a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. After I graduated, I began a doctoral program in Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Davis. I dropped out after the first quarter when I realized what I had suspected during my undergraduate degree: that I was not very passionate about the subject.

I then embarked on a search for my “passion”. I tried many different things that didn’t quite work out. Then, I decided to try web development and Android app development. I took some courses on Udemy and checked out programming books from the library. When I started learning to program, it immediately clicked. Somehow I just knew that Computer Science was that long sought-after “passion”.

Embracing Linux

In 2014, I met my current partner, who convinced me that Linux was awesome and installed Ubuntu on my six-year-old Dell laptop. I eventually learned how to install Linux on my own (and bought a new computer!). Ironically, at UT, I had dated a Linux-obsessed Computer Science major, who may have offered to do this but should have been more pushy about it!

After I learned more about programming and Linux, I wanted to contribute to open source projects, but I was having trouble getting started. I would read through the documentation for open source projects but then feel too intimidated to get involved.

One day, I was looking at the New contributors task list for a Wikimedia project, and I noticed that someone had posted a comment asking if a particular task could be used for Outreachy. I hadn’t heard of that before. When I looked into it, I realized that it was the perfect opportunity for me.

Outreachy

Outreachy is an internship program in which interns work on open source and open science projects. Outreachy seeks to increase diversity in open source communities:

Outreachy provides internships to people subject to systemic bias and impacted by underrepresentation in the technical industry where they are living.

https://www.outreachy.org/

The internship is remote and lasts three months. Interns work 30 hours per week and are paid a $7,000 stipend. Interns also work with a mentor. Unlike most internships, applicants aren’t required to be enrolled in school. So, I could do it after I graduate.

Contributing

I applied, and my initial application was approved! Now I am in the contribution period, in which applicants make contributions to one or more projects. I was immediately drawn to the Linux kernel projects. The set up was a bit extensive and included building the kernel from source, but it was much more approachable than trying to do it on my own. Even if I am not selected for an internship, I will be grateful that I was able to participate in the contribution period.

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