Kathy with a group of Uzbek women wearing traditional colourful clothing
Categories: Inclusion Open Source

Paying it Forward

Did someone invest in you when you were early in your career? Not your manager, but someone who took time with you, and modeled some good things you took with you the rest of your career?

Good news is, at Mozilla, you can pay it forward in a few ways. While we run our University recruiting program in-house, we sponsor and participate in two external programs as well: TechWomen and Outreachy.

TechWomen: Supporting Emerging STEM Leaders

TechWomen is a mentorship and exchange program from the U.S. Department of State that joins emerging women STEM leaders (Emerging Leaders, or “ELs”) from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East with professional counterparts over a four-week period.

Mozilla has typically hosted 2-5 ELs for the past six years, and the mentorships are project-based (for example, last year’s “Hack for Scraps” won a $5K grant to make “smart bins” using recyclables and Mozilla WebThings technology), and supplemented by professional development workshops and networking events, cultural activities, and travel to Washington, D.C., and internationally to Sierra Leone and Uzbekistan, to partner and collaborate with more women in those countries.

Kathy with a group of Uzbek women wearing traditional colourful clothing

Mentors and Fellows check out local apparel in Uzbekistan (March 2019)

A couple of last year’s ELs joined Mozilla’s TechSpeakers program this year, and are hosting STEM training for girls in Lebanon, based partly on Mozilla WebThings. You can read more about their experience here.

Per Kathy Giori, who was a first-time mentor last year, “ELs come to the U.S. with unique perspectives from their part of the world. They arrive thinking tech companies are all similar; but they return knowing the difference between Mozilla and ‘all the rest,’ and they pass that message on, far and wide.”

Outreachy: Increasing Participation from Under-Represented Groups

And Outreachy is a program we sponsor with the Software Freedom Conservancy twice a year that’s intended to increase participation from under-represented groups in free and open source software. The program is coordinated by Kelsey Witthauer and Dustin Mitchell. All Outreachy participants (roughly 20 per year) work remotely with their Mozilla mentors over a three-month period. Mentors are also responsible to provide a project; that’s due just a bit after the mentor application.

In 2017, Jonathan Kingston, Luke Crouch and Paul Theriault mentored Outreachy participant Bianca Danforth in a project to port Lightbeam from a legacy add-on to a web extension, so it would work with Firefox 57 and newer versions. After the project, Bianca went on to join Mozilla full-time. In her words, “My Outreachy experience was transformative in launching my professional career as a software engineer. I learned the things you don’t learn from a book, course or even an individual project, and perhaps more importantly, I began to build my professional network. Now I am in a career I love working for a company I am proud of.”