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Tech For Good Spotlight: Internet Civil Engineering Institute

January 2018- By Carrie Collier, National Talent Advocate

Internet Civil Engineering Institute (ICEI), established in 2014, is a volunteer-based organization created to assure that the development of infrastructure software is financially supported and provides valuable resources for software maintainers in the form of continuous education and specialist support (information security, etc.). Most importantly, ICEI is working to bring up a new generation of infrastructure software maintainers so that a reliable, secure, and open internet can continue.

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We had a chance to speak to President and Hacker-in-Chief, Susan Sons, about this worthwhile organization.

Why was Internet Civil Engineering Institute (ICEI) launched?
If you consider your internet service provider bill - you are paying for the cables, hardware, employees, marketing, billing, and electricity. Did you know that most of the software that makes a free and open internet possible is maintained by a loose-knit community of volunteers? Because these volunteers must either earn a living in addition to their open source work or barely survive, they are generally under-trained and prone to extreme burn-out. On top of all this, the originators of much of this software are preparing for retirement, others have passed away or simply have moved on. There are too few maintainers left which is why ICEI was created to help close the skills gap in this industry.

Who should get involved in the Internet Civil Engineering Institute?
Most ICEI volunteers are programmers or information security specialists, however they also have projects underway or are coming up that need project managers, technical writers, and systems administrators. Anyone who's had a start in any of these skill sets and wants a challenge through which to develop them further are welcome to join.

How is the community structured? What type of advice and guidance is provided?
Newcomers to ICEI usually start out in their New Guard community, which is a mentoring group for infrastructure maintainers. Hanging out in New Guard's chat channel and the ICEI mailing lists are the usual first steps. The mailing list, IRC channel, and New Guard's web site all see requests from projects that need specific roles filled, with information on how to connect with those projects. Newcomers who would like a bit more guidance are encouraged to ask questions on IRC, or just talk about their interests. They have a bunch of community members who take turns giving advice with a "try this and if you like it you'll probably be good at that" mentality. They don't expect anyone to show up and commit before they've gotten to know a project or community.

Meanwhile, New Guard and the whole ICEI community are strong believers in cross-mentorship. Everyone is a teacher and a student. They bring things they are working on to the New Guard channel to share or get advice. They have twice-monthly webcasts on technical topics and professional development for hackers. They also do a lot of active sharing of resources that we come across through our own work and projects.

“It's a truly great community to be part of if you are someone who's always curious about the next thing you could be learning.”

What’s next for Internet Civil Engineering Institute?
ICEI is currently working on fundraising and planning for their annual meeting at the SouthEast Linux Festival (SELF) next summer. They have two nascent projects, Fabricode and Hathi, which are both tools for infrastructure development communities starting to get off the ground.

“These are perhaps the most exciting things to me right now, because in addition to being fantastic tools, they are becoming incubators for new developers for our so-called scarier infrastructure projects.”

If you're interested in becoming an ICIE volunteer please visit https://icei.org for more info.


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