My open source story began during my first year of college when I joined Mozilla's Firefox Student Ambassadors (FSA) program.
I was lurking in the #webmaker channel on Mozilla's IRC when I met Laura Hilliger. We discussed CodeZer0, a self-published computer security and hacking magazine I was working on, and she encouraged me to develop a cybersecurity teaching kit to contribute to Webmaker's #TeachTheWeb campaign. We collaborated on several such kits to promote web literacy and received amazing feedback.
Because of my contributions to Webmaker and FSA, I was invited to attend MozCamp Beta, Bangalore, where I met a lot of inspiring people who motivated me to contribute code to open source projects. I learned about modern web technologies like Node.js and AngularJS and started to contribute code to Webmaker.
At that time, I was invited by the FSA community manager to take on the role of regional ambassador lead to help guide and mentor the student ambassadors in the community. Helping the new contributors sparked my interest in community building, and I wanted to take on greater responsibilities as a leader. I joined the Mozilla Reps program and mentored many people from all over the world. It's a great experience to be part of a global community of people working together to keep the web open.
In 2015 I applied to join the FSA executive board, a dedicated collection of Mozillians who serve as leaders in the student ambassador program and help determine its goals, structure, and activities, as its communications lead. Because of my contributions to Mozilla's codebases, I gained a lot of the technical knowledge which led me to write a book on Learning Firefox OS application development. It was such a wonderful feeling to be contacted by developers from all around the world telling me that the book was great and they really enjoyed it and learned from it. I also got listed on the Firefox credits page.
This year I was invited to attend Mozilla's Leadership Summit in Singapore, which was a great learning opportunity. I got to meet great community mentors and people I had talked to on IRC. These days I work with the FSA executive board to help enhance the infrastructure and shape the future of this amazing program. I also built Melissa, a virtual assistant for Linux-based systems. It helps people who are learning Python build scalable virtual assistants for embedded devices like Raspberry Pi and other systems. This will help in making the Internet of Things (IoT) more interactive and smarter. I am also writing another book on this topic that should be out soon.
One thing that I have learned from working in the open source community is that you must never hesitate to ask for help. People are really very friendly, and finding the right mentor can prove to be immensely helpful in your life. Contributing to open source projects will only help you, so don't waste too much time thinking about it. Take a leap of faith and dive into the community behind your favorite open source product. If you're specifically interested in acquiring technical skills, there's nothing a commit a day can't solve! It also enhances your e-karma.
The open source community has been very welcoming, and has helped me acquire leadership skills as well as technical knowledge that I am very grateful for.