As the COVID-19 struck and a pandemic ensued worldwide, the Tech Industry suffered the most. Many Organizations were not equipped for remote work, and the students were affected the most, especially those looking for Summer and Fall Internships. During this time of distress, Major League Hacking (MLH) came up with a Fellowship Program that gave hope to the students looking for some real-world experience in the midst of the chaos.
MLH Fellowship is a 12-Week Internship alternative, which aims to provide students some real-world experience by contributing to Open-Source Projects. During Github Universe, Mike Swift, CEO, and Co-Founder of MLH described the fellowship as, “The Future of Tech Internships.”
Compared to the Summer 2020 Batch, the Fall 2020 Batch had even more diversity! Besides the Open-Source Batch, MLH brought in Explorer and Externship Batches, where students worked on Hackathons and real-time Projects, respectively. The fellowship allowed students to work on diverse projects with greater impact during the three months of collaboration and learning.
In this blog, I will be discussing my experience during the Fellowship as an Explorer Fellow for the Fall 2020 Batch and walk you through the entire application process. I will also share my tips on what you can expect and achieve out of this amazing Fellowship Program.
Initial Application Process
I applied for the MLH Fellowship for the Summer Batch of 2020. Unfortunately, my application was rejected because the class was already full, and I was asked to re-apply for the future batch. To my surprise, MLH released applications for a new batch of Fellows for Fall 2020 soon after.
The MLH Application Process requires you to off-set nearly 30-45 minutes of your time to fill in the initial details. Let’s walk through them:
After this, you will be required to fill in your basic information. Apart from that, you will also need to share your Resume, LinkedIn Profile, Github Profile, and your Website. It is better to optimize your LinkedIn and Github Profile by having relevant experiences, projects, and contributions at specific places.
Next, you need to select the program you are applying for, along with the Batch and the preferred track (for Open-Source only). Next, you need to identify the time commitment (part-time or full-time) and the meeting times (available in a few different time zones). The meeting times will vary since this is a global program, so make sure to fill in what is comfortable for you.
After filling in other details like academic experience, you will be required to fill in your developer experience. This will include any previous internships you have worked in along with a necessary checklist that you need to fill that mentions the development experience you have. Make sure to be honest with all these details because they will be identified during your background check and interviews.
Next is the most critical part of the Fellowship application: Code Sample.
The Code Sample is something that shows your Development and Engineering experience as a whole, providing solutions to a real problem and it has substance. My code sample was my NewsFresh Project which is a traditional Django Application that detects Fake News using Natural Language Processing and Knowledge Graphs.
Some common mistakes that people can make for this step are by submitting tutorials or practice projects. The tutorial projects are a great way to learn, but they are not suited for the application as it requires some real-world problem-solving. The best way to have a project fit for the application would be by attending any of the MLH Hackathons and then iterating over the Codebase by adding more features to the same.
It would be best to ensure that the project has a Developer Focus (AI/ML, Blockchain, Full-Stack, Mobile App, etc.) and an Engineering Focus (Clean Code, Documentation, Deployment, etc.). Combine these ideologies neatly, and you will have an excellent project for your application!
This is the second most crucial part of the Fellowship application: Essay Questions.
Essay Questions are perhaps the most common way to filter out candidates, not only in MLH Fellowship but also in every other program. The Fellowship application requires you to answer three essay-based questions:
- Why do you want to become an MLH Fellow?
- What have you learned recently that you would want to teach other fellows if accepted?
- Anything else we should know about you?
You can ask yourself a few basic questions while writing your essay like:
- Where did you know about this Fellowship?
- How will it help you pursue your dream career?
- Why do you think you are the right fit for this Fellowship?
At the core of it, the “Why?” is more about your journey than anything else. Be sure to highlight this as skipping on any details would prove detrimental to your selection as the application reviewers might not be able to get a clear vision about you if you don’t.
The second question is purely personal, and this is where you can highlight your learnings and journey overall. MLH Fellowships have a concept of “Show-and-Tells” where Fellows take individual sessions to teach others about various technical and non-technical stuff. This question would help gauge the reviewers to understand the topics you can undertake and how you can impart the same knowledge to others. It is also recommended to show your passion for the subject as well as community involvement or how you would give back your experience from this fellowship.
The last question is optional but don’t miss it! Fill in your recent Hackathon participation or Open-Source contribution. It will help the reviewers better understand your commitment to life-long learning and motivation towards this Fellowship.
The Last Part of the application requires you to identify your ethnicity and pay an optional application fee. Its purpose is to provide you some actionable feedback if your application is not considered further. However, you can skip this.
To ace the initial application, make sure to keep these things in mind:
- The Code Sample should be your best. Follow everything that you would follow in your dream project: Clean Code, Docs, Unit-Tests, Comments, and having a Deployed Link will be a cherry on the cake.
- Don’t skip the Essay Questions! They should reflect your passion and enthusiasm for the Fellowship in general and development in particular.
- Be honest in your application. You may be scrutinized during your interview with the specific details that you mentioned on the application.
- Save your application as a PDF after you complete it. It will allow you to go through your application before you get called in for an interview.
MLH Fellowship follows a standard interview process, consisting of two rounds: Initial Interview and Technical Interview. Both of the interviews will span around 10-15 minutes and will not require you to code at all.
The Initial Interview is conducted purely to test your eligibility for the MLH Fellowship. This interview will be purely non-technical, but you will be asked questions about your application, your general interest to be a Fellow, and your projects/contributions overall.
Ryan Samarakoon conducted my initial interview, and it was a pleasant experience to be interviewed by him. After the application confirmation, we talked about my projects, which were mentioned on my resume, and the ones that I was working on at the time. We also spoke about Hackathons, my experience as an MLH Local-Host Organizer, and mentoring MLH-sponsored Hackathons.
You will also be given a chance to ask your questions and clear up any doubts that you have about the Fellowship so that you don’t get confused or anxious and miss out on essential details. I had the chance to ask him about his experience as a Fellow and better understand how the Fellowship would play out.
Within 24-Hours, I got an email confirming that I had passed the Initial Interview, and I got a request to schedule the Technical Interview.
The Technical Interview will not require you to whiteboard Data Structures and Algorithms or live-code before the Interviewer. Instead, you will be required to go over the Code Sample you have submitted and show a live demonstration. You will be expected to know the tiny bits around the same. So if you have written the code yourself, you don’t have to worry at all!
My Technical Interview was conducted by Chris Ewald, a senior software engineer and developer coach at Raise.dev. He has also previously been an engineer at Github. After a standard introduction, I was asked to share my screen and present the project. It allowed me to start my elevator pitch, highlight the project’s awards and achievements, and my part of development in the same.
After this, I was asked what I would do differently in the future and the improvements that I would like to make. It allowed me to present further enhancements that I made to the project through Graph Databases and more. Finally, I asked him questions about the Fellowship Program and how the Explorer and Open-Source Batches differ.
After 36-Hours of the Technical Interview, I got an email confirming that I will be an MLH Fellow for the Fall ’20 Batch. I was so excited and piqued about this!
To ace the interviews, make sure to keep these things in mind:
- Make sure to have a consistent internet connection. Don’t let your Internet die or your communication medium fail for any reason.
- Be calm and composed. Don’t let your accent be problematic to the interviewer, and make sure to communicate well.
- Be casual and friendly in the first interview and think of it as a chit-chat down the park. Have a clear mindset about the questions that might be asked to you.
- Ask Questions once the interview is over. Don’t let your feelings overwhelm you, and make sure to be in the best state-of-mind.
In the end, Major League Hacking Fellowship Program has designed its Application and Interview Process to understand the metacognitive activity that a Developer indulges into. It is all about taking ownership of the Code and the Project that you are a part of, and how well you can communicate it with the other person.
As a Global Program, you will have a chance to interact with Developers all across the world. Understanding them and having the exact mindset of going through it should drive the passion for the Fellowship within you. Rest assured, if you are confident in your Development and Soft Skills, you would be able to ace the Initial Application and Interview Process pretty easily.
Success comes to those who persevere through adversity.