Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Accepted To Hacker School
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2013 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
If you've read my past posts on Geek Feminism, you've seen me thinking about how I learn. I have worked 15 years in the software industry as a tech writer/salesperson/tester/manager. And I have about 25 years of occasional BASIC/Scheme/SQL/Visual Basic/Python/CSS/bash under my belt. I've enjoyed dabbling; I love solving problems with code and the "it works!" feeling of making something that does my bidding. And, thanks especially to AdaCamp, the Boston Python Workshop, and related communities, I've now learned that I learn best when I'm around other curious, passionate, and respectful people whom I can teach and learn from and brag to, and in a physical space we dedicate to that activity for big stretches of time. Since then I haven't had the time to focus on improving those skills.
That sounds exactly like Hacker School. So I applied for the autumn batch, and I've been accepted. I will therefore be taking an unpaid personal leave of absence from the Wikimedia Foundation via our sabbatical program. My last workday before my leave will be Friday, September 27. I plan to be on leave all of October, November, and December, returning to WMF in January. During my absence, Quim Gil will be the temporary head of the Engineering Community Team. I'll spend much of September turning over responsibilities to him. Over the next month I'll be saying no to a lot of requests so I can ensure I take care of all my commitments by September 27th, when I'll be turning off my wikimedia.org email.
When I'm in the zone, growing my programming skills, time is a blur, I feel powerful, and I am in awe of what we can make. And the more I think about doing Hacker School, having that feeling for weeks at a stretch, the more excited I get. So I'm thrilled that I can take three months off my job to come to Hacker School, so I can make tools to make my life easier, and so I can be a better community manager for MediaWiki (calling out easy bugs for newbies, running stats, packaging and customizing tools, etc.). I want to nurture the programmer side of myself, because programming is heady fun, and because the skillset will supercharge everything else I do. I'll be a more effective citizen, coach, and leader if I increase my fluency in code.
After all, it's going to take a lot of energy and innovation to improve the quality of open source software. We need open source software that ordinary people can use, with documentation in the languages users speak, and whose design addresses the needs of women and men worldwide. Whatever approach I take to that problem -- mentorship, platform-building, recruiting specific demographics, media-making -- I anticipate wanting to hack a lot of dashboards, APIs, courseware, wiki templates, poorly formatted datasets, CRMs, and helpful little scripts along the way.
Thank you, WMF, for the sabbatical program, and thanks to my team (especially Engineering Community Team's Quim Gil, Andre Klapper, Guillaume Paumier, and my boss Rob Lanphier) for supporting me on this; I couldn't do this without you. And thanks to the women-in-open-source community, especially the Ada Initiative, for helping me gain the confidence to take this step. (The Ada Initiative's trying to finish its fundraiser, in case you can help.)
If there's anything else I can do to minimize inconvenience, please let me know. And wish me courage!
28 Aug 2013, 13:55 p.m.
28 Aug 2013, 15:29 p.m.
So exciting!! And so smart of Hacker School to accept your application. You will be a big asset for them!
28 Aug 2013, 16:09 p.m.
I am so looking forward to seeing you at HS in October (when my residency will be). Leaps and bounds and sprints, my friend -- it's wonderful to watch you (and my awe of and admiration for you) grow over the years.
29 Aug 2013, 15:06 p.m.
I'm slightly jealous (!!!) but mostly swelling with pride. I can't wait to hear earfuls about what you learn! Good work, my dear friend.
03 Sep 2013, 13:11 p.m.
Congratulations, Sumana! I'm excited for you for this next chapter and looking forward to hearing about how it goes.
So, so delighted for you. What a dream come true.