June 7, 2018

Interning at an Open Source Consultancy

At the start of 2018 in January, Omar Akkila joined Collabora, an open source software consultancy, as a Software Engineer Intern with the Multimedia team. The four-month internship was a highly rewarding experience, allowing him to gain valuable insight into how Linux runs “under the hood”.

By Omar Akkila, Software Engineer at Collabora.

At the start of 2018 in January, I joined Collabora, an open source software consultancy, as a Software Engineer Intern with the Multimedia team. Reaching the end of that internship, I would like to take the time to share my experience.

A big draw to selecting Collabora as my employer was the opportunity to work on open source software. I had previously spent the summer of 2017 working on my first contributions to open source projects such as Rust and Firefox. Initially, it was an excuse for me to write and learn more Rust, but with time I grew to really enjoy the process. I certainly do have to commend Mozilla for their exceptional work in introducing newcomers to their projects. As someone who did not have prior professional working experience, getting to work, contribute, and follow real-world software development processes thrilled me.

The first impressions I received from Collabora was one of a very open and transparent company dedicated to advancing FOSS. I have never learned so much about a company from a simple interview process. Given the line of work, the majority of employees work remotely. I had thought that this would take time to get used to, but I can fortunately say that this was never an issue in the slightest thanks to the great mentorship and support I was provided. There still exists two offices for the company - one in Montreal, CA and another in Cambridge, UK - and the company is more than happy to provide relocation packages. Working out of the Montreal office, I usually spend my day with 5-10 colleagues from different engineering domains and departments. Arriving onboard, I was given a work laptop and spent the first few days setting up my development environment, getting to know my colleagues, my mentor, and familiarizing myself with my assigned project.

The project for my internship was introducing a Raspberry Pi to GStreamer’s CI setup for running tests and to generalize the process for adding new embedded devices in the future. A thorough technical writeup will follow very soon. What I gained out of this project was proper experience working with tools and systems such as Docker, Jenkins, and LAVA. In addition, I attained valuable insight into how Linux runs “under the hood” and had the opportunity of building (first time!) the Linux kernel myself tuned to my requirements. My understanding of concepts related to cross-building, sysroots, the Linux filesystem, the boot process, containers, linkers, and dependency management were really strengthened as a whole.

I am happy to be able to report that I have accepted a full-time role at Collabora and I look forward to continuously expanding my skill set while progressing further into the world of FOSS!

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