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VMware’s shining star, Dawn Foster, Director of Open Source Community Strategy, led a panel discussion at this year’s OSPOCon talking through the evolution of Open Source Program Offices in the company of some key leaders in open source. Dawn focused the discussion around the results of the 2021 TODO Group Open Source Program Management Survey, as well as asking each of the panelists their thoughts on the ever-changing landscape of open source.

The panelists included: Duane O’Brien, who previously ran the OSPO at PayPal (and Innersource) and is currently the head of Open source at Indeed.com; Nithya Ruff, the Executive Director of the OSPO at Comcast; as well as Stormy Peters, who founded OSPO at Hewlett Packard and is currently the Director of Microsoft’s OPSO. Each of these leaders articulated their thoughts on the survey, as well as answered questions about the evolution of open source from their perspective and experience in the industry.

The panelists summarized many important learnings from the survey results. First, while several survey respondents did not classify as technology companies (e.g universities and public sector industries) their organizations have Open Source Program Offices (OSPOs), a surprising finding. Just as surprising was the prevalence of respondents from companies with fewer than 50 employees. Duane O’Brien noted these companies are so small that the odds of having a person solely dedicated to open source is very low and suggested that the panelists take a closer look to figure out how they, as a community, can help smaller companies execute open source initiatives.

The second part of the panel discussion covered various details about each industry leader’s experiences and contributing back to open source projects and communities. Nithya Ruff noted many companies carry technical debt and have an incredibly hard time contributing upstream. According to Ruff, “We need to make it as easy to contribute back as it is to consume,” as far as open source goes. The conversation continued as to the reasons why companies want to participate in open source — even if it doesn’t affect the end consumer and how specifying time for engineers to contribute upstream can positively impact the community. Stormy Peters noted how the evolution of companies has gone from users being fearful to adopt open source to the present day apprehension of contributing back to the community, comparing it to mounting unease of public speaking!

Dawn and the other amazing panelists discussed much, much more so be sure to check out the recording from OSPOCon which will be linked here once it’s released to the public!