Ascend Project

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It's Me, Virginia!

Blog posts by Virginia Thayer

    Week 6: Ending/Beginning

    17 Oct 2014 »

    The time has finally come. This is it. Last day of Ascend. It’s a somber mood here; none of us want to leave this warm cocoon of supportive code learning. But it’s time to spread our butterfly wings!

    We’ve spent most of this week working on our five-minute final presentations, or lightning talks. As a writer and performer, I was VERY surprised at how hard this task was for me! I think my ADD tendencies and perfectionism teamed up to make this as difficult as possible, and my dry run with Lukas and Kronda yesterday afternoon was so disorganized that I cried to them about it for a while. I felt so far from ready to deliver my final speech, and I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to talk about. “Telling my story” was such a big assignment, I got overwhelmed, and I was putting too much pressure on myself to tell my life story in an amazing way. So after I got the nerves out of my system in the patient, supporting company of Lukas and Kronda, I was able to calm down and step away from it for a bit. Then it was time to relax and party with my cohort at our going-away party with the Mozilla Portland office.

    I rewrote my speech for a third time, refined it down to a more specific theme, and got to practice a couple more times with Yenni this morning, and finally got to a place where I felt ready to go. Watching everyone’s speeches was so inspiring, and mine ended up going great.

    Lukas gave us all certificates of completions, and we just finished final check-outs (each morning we check in and each afternoon we check out with each other, talking about how we’re doing) in which we all expressed our deep gratitude for all the ways this program and our fellow participants have helped us grow. Tears were flowing, tissues were flying, and we were all giving each other mental hugs. Something I’ve appreciated the most about this group is the massive respect and acceptance we all displayed for each other, and the authentic spirit of contribution and collaboration that really fostered all of our learning. I’ll be forever grateful for this experience.

    Week 5: Refining Patches and Looking Forward

    10 Oct 2014 »

    Much of Monday not very productive… all hands meeting (shout out to 3 or 4 Ascenders who have already landed code!), successful coaching session with Deb regarding recognizing internal saboteurs, claiming strengths and preparing stories for how to share strengths with potential employers. By the end of the day I got feedback from my bug mentor that I’m looking forward to deciphering and implementing.

    Tuesday was amazing! Dia Bondi came in and worked with us all day on storytelling exercises and a presentation tool that we’ll be able to use to craft the 5-minute presentations we’re giving next week. Through improv games and organizing ideas, she taught us a pretty effective strategy which I’m excited to implement next week.

    Wednesday Kronda walked us through WordPress customization. I added some plugins and modified some settings; I’m very looking forward to choosing a theme and further customizing the appearance. But meanwhile, I have a bug to move forward.

    Lukas looked over my mentor’s feedback on the bug with me this morning, and I got a very clear idea of what to do with the code. I was really excited to find that there was a bit more I could do with the code because originally it was just moving one line to a different line, and now there’s a bit of rewriting to do, and I’m glad I get to do more. So I made the changes we discussed, and ran the automated update test, and it still doesn’t appear to be working. And I can’t figure out why. I tried running the test lots of different ways on different versions of Firefox (channels, as they’re called), and still not getting the desired result. Will ask for a code review tomorrow.

    At the end of the day we spent some time working on presentation skills using the framework Dia gave us yesterday. We paired up and recorded video of ourselves telling a short story about a pet we’ve had, then gave feedback to each other based on what we saw. It was pretty fun, and the receptionist Katt joined us! Katt is great and I’d been wondering if she’d ever get to participate with us on some of the stuff we’re doing, so I was glad that she did today. She and I paired up for this exercise, and she gave me great feedback: I’m expressive, but I need to replace a lot of my “ands” with periods.

    Thursday… Urban Airship’s director of engineering, Lennon Day-Reynolds, came in to talk to us. UA is creating two internships for Ascend grads! He told us all about the company and how he got into tech (he was a music major! As a theater major, I find this very encouraging). UA sounds like an amazing place to work, and Lennon seems very passionate about helping people from non-traditional backgrounds get into tech jobs. I found him very encouraging, and was relieved to hear someone with power talking about the very barriers I’ve been up against since I decided a year ago to change careers. It has been really hard to find an entry point to software/web engineering without going into tech support (I’m trying to move away from ‘support’ roles and into actually building and engineering things); all the job listings I’ve seen tend to require years of programming experience, and all the internships tend to be just for current students or new grads, which I am not. Specific details about the internships are still pending, but it sounded like it might be about 6 weeks long with option to extend, and could possibly lead to a hire. So I’m definitely going to apply for one of these spots, and I hope like hell that I’ll get it because it’s exactly the thing I’ve been looking for.

    Friday the mentor reviewed my patch, noted some syntax that needs fixing, and confirmed that there is another issue that goes along with the one I’ve been working on in this bug. I made a new patch with better syntax and posted it in Bugzilla, and asked if we can resolve this bug and open a new one for the other issue. Probably won’t hear back til next week, but fingers crossed that I have successfully squished my first bug!

    Week 4: Down to Business

    03 Oct 2014 »

    Monday: First thing this morning, we had a video conference presentation from Marina on Outreach Program for Women (OPW) and its application process. I first learned about OPW at Open Source Bridge when I met Frances Hocutt and her mentor Sumana. I thought it sounded like something I would like to do once I learned a bit more of the coding basics. Now we are all being encouraged to apply and I’m hesitant. On the one hand it would be great experience, great learning experience and resume builder, and the stipend is sufficient. But on the other hand, applications are due in just 3 short weeks and I’m not sure if I would like working remotely.

    Tuesday: presentation this morning from Lars Lohn on Firefox’s crash reporting system, which he built. lunch: food carts (Frying Scotsman!) More open time to work on our bugs. Built the patch!

    Wednesday: Presentation by Mike Hoye on getting/keeping contributors engaged and involved, building community, acknowledging and appreciating each contribution, making the contribution process as easy and inviting as possible

    lunch: 24th & Meatballs

    working on bugs: Ran multiple tests to try to prove my patch worked, but none seem to do the trick. Not sure if problem is with the patch, the automation, or the test report viewing site. Frustration!!!!


    lunch: Savor soups!

    Presentation this afternoon from Kronda: “Stop Crying in the Bathroom and Start Your Own Business.” I think I would feel more empowered by this if I felt like an expert in anything, but right now I see my best next step as finding an entry-level jr developer position or paid internship that will help me learn by doing and train me up. I’ve been having a pretty hard time finding such opportunities though, especially because it’s not summer and I’m not in college. It’s good to know that this option exists and I’ll keep it in mind as a possible career path down the line, but right now it actually makes me feel kind of discouraged because of how far I still have to go.

    work on bugs: mentor not on IRC, tried again to run many tests, looked at the patch code again to see if there’s any reason it wouldn’t work. Lukas looked at it and pointed out that the raw output of the report does seem to include the channel (i.e. the patch worked), but when I view it in the dashboard site which makes sense of the output, it doesn’t populate the channel there. So bug may actually be in the dashboard site? Mentor Henrik is not on IRC today so not quite sure how to proceed, may just post the patch to the bug and post a comment about the output problem.

    Friday: lunch: food carts (pork belly banh mi from Rua!)

    Pep talk from Lukas, reminder to keep honoring our group agreements and keep working hard and leveling up! Go team!

    Bug progress: mentor appears to be in IRC but not responding. Many of us are having problems connecting in Mozilla IRC today (Colloquy wasn’t working but Mibbit online was working a bit better) so maybe he is as well. I attached my patch in Bugzilla with a comment about the test being inconclusive and asking for review, so that’s as far as I can go with it for now. I’m glad I’m at a stopping point with the bug for now so I can catch up on blogging, Wordpress customization, and other loose ends.

    I have a coaching session with Debbie at 3:30 this afternoon. She’s going to help prep me for the imminent job hunt. So much to do, so little time!

    Week 3: Dev Environment

    26 Sep 2014 »

    Monday 9/22 Weekly Mozilla all hands meeting lunch: Pacific Pie Co Begin setting up development environment on our MacBooks per this blog post. Lots of downloading, installing, configuring. Happy to be doing this with the whole group because I’d be a lot more hesitant and grumpy about all this stuff otherwise. With the group, I just do it to keep up with everybody, and i have people to ask if I run into a snag, and then it’s done before I know it!

    Tuesday 9/23 lunch: carts

    Finished setting up dev environment with MySQL and WordPress, per yesterday’s instructions as refined in Kronda’s new blog post:

    Install a local build of Firefox This did not mean, as I first thought when I heard the term “you’re going to build Firefox,” that we were going to write code for an entire web browser from scratch. And thank goodness, because it was only allotted 45 mins in our agenda for today.

    Lukas walked us through making small changes in the code of Firefox, to change the way tabs behave (new tabs pop up on the left side of current tab instead of the right), and change a tooltip string of our choice, using the example of the refresh button. I chose to change “Reload current page” to “EXCELSIOR!”

    We installed a ready-to-use virtual build environment per this great blog tutorial, ran a script to build firefox nightly, ran it. That was the relatively straightforward part. The lesson (the hard part) was figuring out how to install git, pull down our patch in the virtual machine, apply it and take a screenshot of the tooltip that we changed to prove the patch worked. I did everything I thought I needed to but I’m still seeing “Reload current page” when I hover over the reload button, so I’ll have to work more on this and figure out what I did wrong or didn’t do at all.

    Wednesday 9/24 Catch everyone up with wordpress and firefox build. I got a bit stuck on WP, couldn’t get the page live on Kronda’s server, but she later told me it was something she could fix on her end so I did everything right! :) begin looking into first bug. lunch: carts

    Thursday 9/25 There’s a security vulnerability in the bash code so we all downloaded the patch.

    Rest of the week: honestly I am typing this in week five because we have so many balls in the air that I didn’t finish this blog in a timely manner. So I’m sure some important stuff happened Thursday and Friday but there’s been a lot going on. I finished week 4’s blog before this one, that’s how busy and all over the place things have been for me here. Probably going to abandon this day-by-day structure for weeks 5 and 6. Also feel free to follow my twitter if you want to! I’m @thayerve.

    Buggin' Out!

    25 Sep 2014 »

    We’re about halfway through this program now (holy crap), and our goal by the end is to have committed at least one patch of code, so it’s time to find a bug to hack!

    At first I was looking into whether I might be able to fix one of the bugs that I reported last week, but two were just broken links which are still “unconfirmed,” and the other one was quickly resolved by a MozTrap developer before I could work on it, though I may not have been able to fix that one on my own anyway.

    So using a Bugzilla search for recent, unassigned, non-Firefox OS, good-first-bugs, I found: Bug 897382 - Include the update channel in the report even for failed update tests I’ve been interested in QA for some time now, and I enjoyed running a few Mozmill tests last week. So of course I already have Mozmill installed, and the bug states very clearly what code needs to be fixed, so it seems doable.

    Week 2: Gaining Momentum

    19 Sep 2014 »

    Mon 9/15 week 2 day 1

    morning: catching up with last week’s projects, polishing blogs and webmaker projects lunch: Aybla’s gyros testing Loop browser ph/vid calls with MozTrap

    Then Eva, Adam and I got pulled into a presentation/discussion with the User Advocacy group to look over user input graphs and provide feedback about the presentation of that data. SO COOL.

    Tue 9/16 week 2 day 2 Begin QA testing in MozTrap. Intro to filing a bug in Bugzilla. lunch: out to food carts (I got Indian) More MozTrap and crashmenow learned about Firefox’s about:about thing, and how to find my build ID in about:config

    Wed 9/17 week 2 day 3 guest speakers from SuMo user advocacy team (from Monday): Gregg, Ilana, Chang. Really considering this career path, as well as QA. lunch: out to food carts again (I got Indian again because it’s awesome) FILED FIRST BUG! and then two more bugs! Feeling accomplished!

    Upon reflection, have determined that my frustration with Popcorn Maker last Friday probably stems from issues/bugs with Popcorn Maker more than any shortcomings of my own. Interesting that I blamed myself first before blaming the application. I’ve tried a bit more to fix it, still not able to achieve desired results. Would like to spend some time at some point learning more about Popcorn Maker, identify and report particular bugs if I can. I may end up remaking my project altogether because I can’t seem to make it work as it is.

    Thu 9/18 week 2 day 4 Revisited agreements of how to be with each other. Catching up, checking on bugs. The first bug I reported (Persona login issue in Bugzilla) was marked a duplicate of an open bug from Apr 2012. lunch: Thai Peacock

    MozMill installation instructions were confusing, so I edited the instructions in the documentation, using clearer language.

    Running test suites in MozMill!

    Running automated testing with MozMill Automation. Here are the reports! Functional test of Nightly Functional test of Aurora

    Endurance test of Aurora

    Endurance test of Nightly

    I really like running automated tests! It makes your browser do a lot of stuff on its own and collects data on the functionality as it goes, so you get stuff done without really doing much. Plus, it makes your computer look haunted.

    Fri 9/19 week 2 day 5

    morning: catching up, writing blog posts including tutorial with screenshots

    Lunch: Cha Taqueria nachos

    afternoon: played with the Tilt add-on for Firefox, where you can see the layers of a webpage. Very interesting!

    Began looking at “good first bugs” in Bugzilla, walking through a particular bug together on the screen. We can fix a bug! …But not today.

    Found another broken link, filed bug.

    Wrote a tutorial blog with screenshots; could be about anything we’ve learned this week. I chose installing Mozmill because the instructions in MDN were not very clear to me when I was trying to install it yesterday.

    Closed out the day/week with a Mozilla Cantina! Invited friends to party with us in the office, played Rock Band. :) I feel so grateful to be here; every day I’m reminded of what an amazing opportunity this is, and I appreciate Lukas and Kronda and Mozilla so much! This is a pretty amazing time to be a woman transitioning into the tech industry, and even though my career future after Ascend is still unclear to me, I feel optimistic.

    Mozmill Installation Tutorial

    19 Sep 2014 »

    Tutorial: How to Install Mozmill on Mac OS X versions 10.5 and later

    Hey Mozilla contributor! Yes, you! You are helpful and awesome, and you want to help the hard-working Quality Assurance team (affectionately dubbed mozQA) maximize the functionality and awesomeness of the Firefox web browser! Mozmill is a test suite you can use to run functional tests on any version of Firefox. I’m going to walk you through how to install Mozmill. Ready?

    First, if you haven’t already, open up your Terminal application or command line shell of your choice. Navigate to your home folder (that command probably looks like this: cd ~), then run each of these commands, as follows:

    • $ curl -O

    When you run that, it will show something like this:


    • $ sudo python

    Note: this one may prompt you for your password, which you should go ahead and enter.


    This will generate many lines of code as it runs. You will know it’s finished when you see this:


    • $ sudo easy_install pip


    • $ sudo pip install mozmill Note: This will also generate many lines of code as it downloads. You’ll know it’s finished when you see this, and then a new command line prompt


    Once each of these has been run, you should now have Mozmill installed. You can check by entering this command, which should tell you what version of Mozmill you’re running:

    • $ mozmill –v


    So now you’re all set up to start running tests! You deserve a badge. Get it here!

    Then clone the mozmill-test repository as directed here, and dig in!

    Making things is hard

    12 Sep 2014 »

    I survived the first week! Everything went great until I had to make a webpage in a half hour!

    This is a link to a thing I am not proud of! It doesn’t work right and I haven’t figured out how to fix it! Ascend Lunches: Week One

    I’m going to learn more, it will be fine, sometimes learning new things is stressful.

    Ascend = Leveling Up in Life!

    08 Sep 2014 »

    Last week, I left my admin job of 3.5 years in the insurance industry. Today, I began a new chapter that I hope will turn into a long and fulfilling career in tech.

    I arrived, as I think we all did, bursting with excitement and nerves. First of all, the Mozilla office is lovely! There’s a beautiful community space and a stocked kitchen, and Ascend provides us with breakfast and lunch each day. I feel incredibly fortunate to be here.

    The first thing we did together was create agreements for how to foster a safe and welcoming work space for each other. Already I felt valued and respected. Then we unboxed our brand new MacBook Air laptops (oooh, shiny!), and took a StrengthsFinder quiz to identify the natural talents we bring to the group. My top five are Empathy, Positivity, Adaptability, Developer, and Input. We then mingled around and discussed our strengths with each other, then made little posters to put up around the room with our name and our strengths. I joked with some friends that the assessment said I’m really good at “knowing stuff” and “being happy at you” … no surprise there!

    Today we didn’t get into any coding or technical work, and even though I’m very eager to cram as many marketable skills into my brain as possible in six weeks, I’m still very glad that we spent the day creating community, focusing on strengths, and setting the stage for a positive and supportive learning environment.

    After feeling rather stagnant for quite a while, I’m now feeling very empowered, strong, optimistic, and like I am where I want to be at this point in my life.