Exploring Mental Illness With Open Source

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Accepted Session
Keynote
Beginner
Scheduled: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 from 9:00 – 9:45am in Sanctuary

Excerpt

Julia Nguyen leads if me, an app to share mental health experiences with loved ones. In doing so, she has explored her insecurities with mental illness, learned how to engage diverse contributors, and developed better software practices with Ruby on Rails and JavaScript. She’ll share the lessons she has learned from transforming a passion project into an open source project.

Inclusion takes on many forms in an open source project, including supporting contributors from all types of backgrounds, being empathetic to their project goals, and trusting them to take lead. As a mental health project, if me must also accommodate its contributors who face their own mental health challenges. All open source projects should do the same. Managing people is just as important as managing technical contributions in software.

Description

If me is an app, written in Ruby on Rails and JavaScript, to share mental health experiences with loved ones. It has attracted technical and non-technical contributors from atypical backgrounds, including women, people of colour, and college/coding school students. Julia Nguyen, a recent computer science graduate from the University of Waterloo, leads the project. She has spoken and written candidly about her lifelong struggles with mental illness at school and in the workplace.

In this talk, Julia will discuss how her early encounters with the OSS community shaped her perception of what an open source contributor looks like. She will also talk about how coming out with mental illness transformed into a passion project.

These experiences have taught her the importance of building inclusive communities centered on empathy. This a core value in if me’s contributor community. Furthermore, the talk will explore the successes and challenges of retaining and engaging contributors. This includes reaching out to diversity in open source initiatives, valuing non-technical contributors, and encouraging contributors to openly share their personal mission in the project. All of the contributors face mental health issues, so working one-on-one each contributor to set project goals that are accommodating is extremely valuable.

From a technical standpoint, the contributors come from diverse skill sets. The talk will explore the challenges of writing documentation, on-boarding contributors, improving test coverage, and making uniform technical decisions. It will also explore the design and user experience challenges of empowering users to share sensitive content.

Tags

mental illness, mental health, beginner, intro to open source, community building

Speaking experience

A full list of my previous writing and speaking experience can found here: http://julianguyen.org/writing-and-speaking/

I have spoken about mental illness, computer science education, and community organizing at the follow conferences/meetups/events: DevTO International Women's Day Event, Tech Inclusion Conference, Self Conference, 360|Intersect, Women Who Code SF, and New York PHP. I am also part of Prompt, a community of speakers who talk about mental health in tech.

I have taught public speaking and writing workshops for Write/Speak/Code SF and the University of Waterloo Women in Computer Science Committee. At the previous Dreamforce conference, I taught a public speaking workshop for Write/Speak/Code.

I gave a 15 minute talk on the CFP topic at WaffleJS during Fall 2015. Slides can be found here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1hfr12OU7nd7PVdVTiMHCKgM5Xf8i5Sx3Wb4kRPDHmSA/edit?usp=sharing

*** I'm also interested in being one of the keynotes! I've never been a keynote before, but I would like to try that experience :)

Speaker

  • Largerme

    Biography

    Julia Nguyen is a web and mobile developer, writer, speaker, and computer science student. Born and raised in Toronto, she writes, speaks, and organizes communities focused on embracing empathy, diversity, inclusion, and mental health.

    Julia organizes mentorship events and workshops at the University of Waterloo Women in Computer Science Undergraduate Committee (WiCS). She also volunteers with Write/Speak/Code, an organization empowering female thought leaders in technical writing, conference speaking, and open source.

    As a co-op student, Julia has worked for companies and organizations of all sizes in consulting, open source, and e-commerce. She also leads an open source project called if me, a community for people to share their mental health experiences with loved ones and trusted peers.

    Sessions

      • Title: Exploring Mental Illness With Open Source
      • Track: Culture
      • Room: Sanctuary
      • Time: 9:009:45am
      • Excerpt:

        Julia Nguyen leads if me, an app to share mental health experiences with loved ones. In doing so, she has explored her insecurities with mental illness, learned how to engage diverse contributors, and developed better software practices with Ruby on Rails and JavaScript. She’ll share the lessons she has learned from transforming a passion project into an open source project.

        Inclusion takes on many forms in an open source project, including supporting contributors from all types of backgrounds, being empathetic to their project goals, and trusting them to take lead. As a mental health project, if me must also accommodate its contributors who face their own mental health challenges. All open source projects should do the same. Managing people is just as important as managing technical contributions in software.

      • Speakers: Julia Nguyen

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