MLH Fellowship Experience — Part 2

(From becoming an MLH fellow to graduation)

This blog is a continuation of Part 1 of MLH Fellowship Experience, where I shared my experience from applying to getting selected as an MLH Fellow for Batch 1 in the Explorer Track.

MLH Explorer Fellowship is a 12-week internship alternative for students interested in software engineering

Before we had our first-ever Weekly Standup, we had to do some of the boring (but essential) stuff, like filling up the stipend application, confirming enrollment, and signing the MLH Fellowship agreement. All this done, I was ready and waiting in anticipation for the events on the d-day.

First Weekly Standup

As a part of the Explorer Program, we had Standup Meetings (or pod meetings) twice a week, i.e, on Monday and Wednesday for me. On Monday, September 21, 2020, we had our first standup, and I met a set of really amazing people. These were the 11 other members of my pod, my pod-leader Karan Sheth, the CEO and Co-Founder of MLH Mike Swift, and the Fellowship Community Manager Will Russell.

A lot of exciting events were planned for us on day 1. First, we were split into break-out rooms on Zoom, with 2 people each, and we spent 15 mins, knowing each other. Then we returned back to the meeting and introduced the other person. Even as I got to know all my pod-mates, I quickly realized 2 things. For one, all of them were amazing programmers, each with some specific set of interests. Secondly, they were all like me, good, fun-loving, geeky people, who wanted to learn and grow. The latter realization helped me relax, instead of being anxious about whether I’d be able to cope-up with others. Funny enough as I later realized, the same happened with all of the pod-mates and even our pod-leader.

Among the other things that we did on the first day, one interesting activity was replacing the boring name of our pod, namely Pod 1.1.3, with a cooler name. The theme was birds and after a lot of discussion, the pod Sneaky Skylarks was born.

The first weekly Standup (credits: Sakshi Rambhia)

Events

MLH Explorer Fellowship is not just a series of hackathons, but it has a lot more to it. All these events ensure an ample opportunity to learn and also showcase your skills.

Hackathon Sprints

The 6 hackathon sprints form the backbone of the explorer fellowship. We participated in teams of 3 (or 4), and the teams were changed after each hackathon. Each hackathon usually went for 2 weeks and spanned 4 standups, where, we were first introduced to a theme, given time to discuss our idea and present it to the rest of the pod, showcase an almost working demo and receive feedback, and then give a final demonstration of the solution. At the end of it, we made a video demonstration and made final submissions to Devpost, which were judged by pod-leaders, mentors, and industry experts.

Here is one such submission where we bagged the second prize in the global finals.

1 on 1s

During our first few weeks, we had 1v1s with every pod member and the pod leader, so that we got to know each other better and explored common interests. Setting up Calendly was a new thing for me so I had some difficulty initially. But, it was really awesome to make new friends (during a pandemic!).

Show and Tells

Show and Tells were really exciting events. Similar to exhibitions, one could present a talk on any topic before the entire pod, and talk about its importance. The fun part was, though it was preferably related to programming, we had the freedom to choose literally any topic. This resulted in having some interesting evenings learning an array of things from basic ML to UI/UX and even Time Management.

I even gave my show and tell on astrophysics, which can be seen here.

Standups

Standups were 3 hour-long weekly meetings every Monday and Wednesday from 6–9 PM. All discussions were done here — be it regarding the hackathon sprint, the Show and Tell’s, combats between programming languages, or playing scribble and among us. We never failed to have fun!

Capture the Flag

MLH Fellowship organized a CTF event towards the end of the fellowship after all sprints were done with. Working and solving those challenges were really fun and insightful.

Miscellaneous events

Apart from all these prominent events, we had several other events like hackathon specific industrial panel discussions, mentor sessions, workshops, and many more.

Graduation

This was the final event live on twitch. It was inspirational and at the same time a little gloomy because goodbyes are never happy…

MLH Batch 1 Graduation

Learning

MLH Fellowship was an amazing learning experience in all respects. Let’s take a look at what I learned in particular.

GitHub

I have worked on several other projects before but I had never used GitHub to the extent that we did in MLH Fellowship. Several of my pod-mates were experts in GitHub documentation and usage, and that gave me a lot to learn.

UI/UX

It was as a part of the fellowship that I made designs on Figma for the first time. Thanks to Rachit Gupta (the child prodigy of our pod) for giving me the inspiration in the first sprint and Preet Shah and Shambhavi Aggarwal for helping all of us learn how an awesome UI is made.

Frameworks and miscellaneous technologies

As a part of the hackathons, I learned a good deal of Flutter and Firebase. I also worked with React, which I had not been previously exposed to so much. Since we had even other lesser explored topics like Game Development (in Godot for example), it was really enlightening to explore them!

Team spirit and working ethics

MLH has been largely successful in providing quite a decent atmosphere for learning and working as a team. From solving bugs together, to pair programming, to having random 3 AM conversations, I learned quite a lot about working as a team. Additionally, work ethics were strictly followed and we tried our best to stick to the MLH code of conduct at all times.

Pod 1.1.3 aka Sneaky Skylarks

This blog would really be incomplete without talking about my pod and my pod leader. The 12 pod-mates of mine, have been really supportive and amazing throughout the 12 weeks and each one of them has left a significant remark on my life and given me something to learn. And talking about Karan Sheth, he is a God, that’s all I’d say in just a line.

From the left-top Rachit, Sakshi, Ajitesh, Ankit, Karan (pod leader), Farhan, Rohan, AB (me), Ridham, Shambhavi, Harsh, Preet, Yash (pic credits: Sakshi Rambhia)

Final Words

The whole experience was magnificent for me. I’d like to thank and congratulate the entire team of Major League Hacking for this endeavor and for providing us with so much opportunity for learning.

I’d conclude with some pictures from the Graduation day and a few lines from the speech given by Chris Ewald, our Lead Mentor(who also happened to be my interviewer for the technical round) about the whole experience —

… And please, if you are looking at your pod mates and thinking about how much more productive they were than you during the Fellowship, please remember that not everyone is starting from the same place, and not everyone has remotely close to the same situation and burdens put on them outside of the program. So be kind to yourself, respect the effort that you put in, and understand that even the most successful people out there, all went through tough times where they fell short of their goals.

— Chris Ewald

Graduation day for Batch 1 (for fellow-map visit https://fellowmap.space/)

As always Happy Hacking !!!

Upcoming SWE Intern @Oracle'21 | MLSA | MLH Fellow | Developer | Competitive Programmer | Mathematics and Computing student at IIT Guwahati

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