Inside WMDE: A young developer reports

Young software developer Ebba Aniansson spent six months as an intern at WMDE. Now she shares what she learned and experienced.

  • Ebba Aniansson
  • 13. September 2018

I spent 6 months this year as an intern at Wikimedia Deutschland.

The programming experience I had gained before was from a 3-months programming course, an internship at a start-up, and some online courses. So I was looking forward to improving my skills, by diving deeper into programming as well as learning how a software department works in bigger organizations.

Young developer and author Ebba Aniansson

Learning to programme and making sure that one develops constantly is hard already. So I can’t say that my internship at WMDE has been stable with no ups or downs. However, feeling comfortable to ask for help from my colleagues and knowing that there is always a helping hand, has made my learning much more fun and comfortable.

My prior experience with internships had only been at startups. If you have worked at a startup, you may know that no two day look the same, the work tasks may vary, and there is a tempo to make sure that everything is constantly running and flowing. So when I started my 6 months internship at WMDE, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, since I had no idea how a big NGO functions.

But I was positively surprised. The atmosphere at the office is a mixture of having fun but at the same time being professional. It feels like everybody at WMDE shares the same vision of what Wikimedia’s future can and will bring.

The software development department works on various projects and products and I got to get some work experience on all of these: Wikidata, Fundraising banners, and the Technical Wishes Project.

For the first month, Christoph Jauera also known as Fisch, introduced me to what the Technical Wishes Team was currently working on. I had the chance to work with File Importer, an extension that aims to make it easier to move files to Wikimedia Commons.

Around my second month, the software department went through a reorganisation, which meant that some of my colleagues moved to new teams, including me. I got to join the Fundraising Dev team. Its main task during that time was to update the donation page for WMDE with design and bug fixes, and new features to make the donors’ experience better. There we also worked on some projects from the Technical Wishlist, for example the Advanced Search. This is a feature that intensifies the special search that Wikipedia offers, through advanced parameters, that forms and aims to improve the way to configure namespaces.

I stayed with the team throughout the rest of my internship, with occasional pairing sessions with a colleague from the Wikidata Team. During the first sessions, I got to contribute to the Wikidata Query Service by adding a new result view. After our warm up sessions, we focused on starting an individual project, that would be my side project during my last weeks at WMDE. The project’s main goal is to teach the user what kind of nutritions the human body needs everyday in order to stay healthy.

This nutrition website has an API that calls to Wikidata’s Query service and displays it on the front-end we built. We didn’t have a chance to completely finish the website, which means that I have a fun side project to continue working on, now that my internship
has ended.

In conclusion, the 6 months I spent at WMDE gave me the possibility to not only touch one codebase or work in one team, but several. Working in different teams has taught me how important it is to communicate and cooperate well for the workflow to progress and later on turn into finished features that the user will benefit from.

During my internship, I also had the opportunity to join WMDE colleagues for a Hackathon in Barcelona. This gave me a broader perspective on how Wikimedia actually communicates and works together as one big movement, rather than every chapter for themselves, by working together on projects and sharing knowledge with each other. It was also a lot of fun to see that even volunteers strive for the same future that Wikimedia envisions.

Wikimedia Hackathon 2018 in Barcelona. Photo: Ckoerner, Wikimedia Hackathon Barcelona 2018 – group photo, CC BY-SA 4.0

What I will take with me from my time at WMDE is the experience I have gained on how a major organization – with chapters all over the world, and people working with and for Wikimedia from all over the world – still manages to fit all the bits and pieces together and builds and keeps on building amazing projects.

I would like to thank everyone at WMDE for a great time and for being so welcoming, polite and great mentors. Wikimedia Deutschland has yet been one of the best places where I have gotten the chance to do an internship.