Above: A few members of the Akvo Flow development team catching up over Skype. Clockwise from top left: Charles, Stellan, Mary, Jana, Moses, Valeria and Mulo.

Fresh out of university, you’d never imagine your first work experience to be at an international non-profit organisation building open source data tools. But that was the good fortune I had. I’d just finished the final semester of my bachelor’s degree in software engineering when I was told about the internship opportunity at Akvo. Following one face to face meeting and a skype call, the offer was made and I was thrilled to join the Akvo Flow development team.

I didn’t know what to expect seeing as I had never worked remotely or been part of such a huge organisation with so many moving parts. My journey started with warm welcomes from people across the organisation, and I felt at home right from the beginning.

Having never used any of the technologies in the Akvo Flow stack, I was grateful for the time I was given to learn and explore on my own before starting actual work on Flow. My contributions to the Flow system started with working on simple issues to improve the dashboard’s front end until I was comfortable enough to tackle more complex issues.

Throughout this experience, I noticed the mutual respect everyone has for each other on the team; every member’s opinion was sought and every opinion mattered. As an intern, I didn’t think I would be involved in any sort of decision making and yet I was asked what I thought about different approaches to solving coding challenges and invited to contribute in design conversations. This gave me the confidence to share my thoughts and opinions, even in the presence of those with much more experience than me.

From working on front-end issues, I was challenged to begin working on a migration project for the Flow dashboard. This has been my biggest learning opportunity. I was given the independence to do research for the project and contributed even more to the final decisions that were taken on how to proceed at different points of implementation. I have learnt how to prioritise tasks and, through different conversations with my team lead, received great insight into what makes for good design in software development.

I have enjoyed every bit of my journey with Akvo, the lessons have been many and great. My time here has been a launch pad for even greater things and for that I will always be grateful.

Mary Musimire Magdalene worked as an intern with the Akvo Flow team for nine months from Kampala. You can follow her on Twitter @yyare22.