You know how something can just “grab you?” — a movie trailer, TV show, ad for that newest wearable gizmo? In 2000, a new job brought me face-to-face with an Apache open source, cross-platform web server and literally transformed my perception of life and work. I was thrust into an astounding community of users sharing code and innovating through challenges. Open source became a powerful motivator to pursue my work objectives in a new light.
Hired as a project manager by a tech company in the Silicon Valley—a rung up the ladder from a software engineering career based in the oil, retail and finance industries—I led an R&D team bringing an open source web server on UNIX operating environment for Itanium-based systems to market.
Leading Enterprise Open Source Projects
As I built my R&D team, we began to learn about the open source community together. I reached out to the Apache Web Services and Apache Tomcat community members and our internal Linux team to learn how the communities work, and engaged our legal and security teams to understand the processes we needed to put in place for license and security compliance. It was learning-on-the-go as we worked to create our development infrastructure, license compliance processes, code review processes and everything else to get a product out the door.
Working closely with our legal and security teams, we successfully put in place an open source review framework to reduce risk for our customers and the company and to ensure license compliance. While staying connected with as many open source communities as we could, we also implemented a strategy for evaluating those open source communities in which our team would actively engage and contribute upstream. Most importantly, we did our jobs: fixing bugs, delivering features and functional enhancements and, yes, improving documentation.
It wasn’t long before I was inspired to launch an internal HPUX Apache Web server community, inviting software engineers across the company who were working on the same open source components on the HP-UX platform. Together we identified opportunities to collaborate on feature enhancements and improved our test suite and Apache performance on HP-UX. Additionally, we improved end-to-end product quality and robustness, and we enhanced our influence in selected open source communities.
Leveraging Open Source Community Mindset to Tackle Challenges
Our Latin culture is about family and community, so I easily felt connected with the value of open source communities. However, the open source community expanded my thought of “community,” which changed my perspective on how I tackle business challenges. Community has a broader meaning to me, so this has given me a greater sense of freedom in reaching out farther to explore creative ways to partner and collaborate in addressing common challenges. For example, to continuously improve our HP-UX Apache product quality, I explored different ways to connect my team to our field support. In turn, this connected us with different customers, and these customers helped us understand their customers. These engagements helped my team see trends and identify a solution that improved the overall customer experience.
I came to VMware as a Senior Program Manager in 2017, and am thrilled to be back working in the open source space in the Open Source Program Office. Today, I help our new acquisition teams and product teams go through their open source compliance automation journey. And it’s fulfilling to be able to leverage my experience and open source community mindset to drive collaboration across organizations, across geographies to identify creative solutions to address business challenges.
But in all my years of working in open source communities, I’ve found there is one drawback: there’s a gender and diversity imbalance.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
As an advocate for DEI and a Latinx woman in tech for more than 25 years, I’d like to see open source help level the playing field by enabling women, underrepresented minorities (URM) and individuals from other professions to make a transition into tech. I leverage my position to influence change by volunteering at university career events, participating as a panelist at various external events hosted by organizations focused on reaching women and URMs, mentoring others and leading global business resource group efforts within VMware.
Even the Linux Foundation recently acknowledged the gender imbalance in open source. Clyde Seepersad, SVP & GM of Training & Certification, stated, “Open source technology is leading so much digital transformation today, from cloud computing to networking, web development, blockchain and more, yet there is a continual shortage of qualified talent generally, and fewer women pursuing these roles specifically.”
Open Source Scholarships for Women
Call it a wish come true. On August 6, 2021, the Linux Foundation formed a partnership with Women Who Code (WWCode), an international nonprofit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in tech careers, and launched the Open Source Scholarship for Women.
The association will provide 50 scholarships per quarter to deserving candidates, with Linux Foundation Training and Certification providing each of these recipients with a voucher to register for any Linux Foundation eLearning course and certification exam at no charge (normally a cost of around $599), such as the Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate, Certified Kubernetes Administrator, Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator and more.
Now, that’s some good news!
I urge women to apply for a Women Who Code/Linux Foundation scholarship.
Jump In and Get Your Feet Wet
Open source has shifted and expanded my thinking and driven me to seek collaboration beyond obvious boundaries to deliver value and solve complex challenges. But open source communities need our diverse experiences and perspectives to deliver more value and tackle today’s complex problems, so I encourage everyone to get involved!
What are your personal learnings leading enterprise open source projects?
Stay tuned for my upcoming two-part blog series on “Shifting Mindsets” in Product Teams and Compliance Automation Teams to OneVMware.