My MLH Fellowship Experience

16 Aug 2020

I wrote a blog post on Dev.to as well! So check that out too.

Why I applied + Application Process

I was super super exited about this summer. I was planning on doing flapping robotics research at my university through a summer program that would have super fun (a bunch of my friends were also doing the program so it was going to be super hype). But then everything crumbled because of corona. I was super disappointed and had no idea what I was going to be doing this summer. And when I saw the MLH fellowship, I kinda just applied on a whim. The title is a little misleading as I am a double major, studying both MechE and CS, but I have always been more of a hardware guy, so I really expected to get immediately rejected. But somehow I didn’t - I got that coveted first round interview (which out of a pool of 20,000 was insane!). After that super quick interview (I think mine was less than 3 minutes), I was asked to submit a code sample for the technical interview. I panicked. I write a lot of bad code, and I don’t really have many projects which are super refined or anything. I ended up going with some code I wrote for a robot my junior year of high school. And my technical interview went great! It was with Ian Jennings who was super cool to talk with (turns out he also went to my university and started it’s subreddit r/rutgers!). We talked about my code, I explained what quaternions were, and then we briefly talked about Rutgers and then a couple days later I got an email saying I was accepted!

The Fellowship

How the fellowship works

The way the fellowship works is you get split up into “Pods” of 10 fellows and a industry mentor. Each pod has a few projects assigned to it, and you can work on any of those projects (or any other if you really want). You have daily standups (daily updates with your pod so eveyrone knows what’s going on) as well as a weekly show and tell (anyone can teach a workshop on anything they’ve learned - can literally be anything, we had a knife throwing workshop!), and a weekly retrospective (more general standups looking at how the whole fellowship has been).

Once you pick a project, you just start working! You can talk with the maintaners or your mentor for help, or you can be more self-driven, the whole program is super flexible.

My experience

So my experience was honestly nothing but amazing. I got assigned to Pod 0.1.1 with mentor Cory who was super amazing, helpful, and just super interesting and fun guy. Our pod was probably the most different pod in the entire fellowship, since we were the hardware/ML+CV group, which meant everyone had really unique backgrounds and that our projects were a lot harder to contribute to. I don’t want to diminish the work done by the amazing other fellows, but working on embedded systems that require physical hardware is a whole beast unto itself. I got assigned to the CircuitPython which was super cool since I had used it myself, and I’m what you could call a Adafruit superfan so working with them was super exciting. The main maintaner for CircuitPython is Scott who was super amazing to work with and super approachable and helpful on our many issues. I also worked with Stella and Kaela who were super cool and fun to work with.

It took a while for us to get hardware which slowed things down, and also the main project we were going to work on, Glider, was in a non-functioning state so we had to go through and debug it. It took a while to get going with glider, but once we started making progress, things flew by, and we were each making good PRs every week or two, which doesn’t seem very fast but the learning curve and development process were both prohibitively slow (which was one of the things I spend most of my time fixing!).

And really that’s it. It seemingly has been an eternity but also just a second. I’m super grateful for this amazing experience and I highly recommend the MLH Fellowship to anyone.

Thanks to MLH, Cory, Pod 0.1.1, and all the other fellows for such a memorable, amazing experience!