Shining a Light on Women in Open Source

In celebration of women’s history month, we gathered together eight women within our Open Source Program Office and asked them to share their career journeys and offer advice on how they achieved success. Have a look at the valuable insights shared by our engineering manager Velichka Atanasova, and our talented engineers, Rose Judge, Diana Atanasova, and Ivana Atanasova, as well as their expert program manager colleagues Radoslava Zheleva, Masae Shida, Stefka Dimitrova, and Aida Rivas. We’re confident that the diverse experiences of these women will provide you with inspiration and guidance in pursuing your dream career path, so read on!

What motivated you to join the Open Source community?

Velichka: The open source community allows enterprises to take advantage of the collective power of individuals, partners, and global development communities. I wanted to explore the open source software development methodology, be part of that collaboration, and work with and learn from some of the smartest people in the industry.

Ivana: Open Source is usually a place where cutting-edge technologies are created and it’s a great opportunity to take part in building them. I highly appreciate that all the work happens in the public space which raises both the quality requirements and gives visibility to all of your contributions.

Radoslava: Open source found me, not the other way around. I knew nothing about open source and was applying for a completely different position, when a recruiter contacted me about a position in OSPO that would allow me to use my law degree and international business knowledge in a new and unexpected way. This was an opportunity to break out of the traditional career path for a law graduate and become part of a fascinating, challenging, and innovative field. 

Stefka: The open source values. Values are what have truly motivated me to start, stay, and sometimes leave a job. But it has not been until joining the OSPO team at VMware that I’ve fully realized how much I value trust, openness, collaboration, innovation, and freedom.

Diana: А colleague of mine, Tzvetomir Stoyanov, recommended me for an open position within VMware’s Open Source Technology Center and I applied. Initially, I was inspired by the opportunity to join the Open Source community as I had a romantic idea about it – “to contribute code to the prosperity of all.” However, I didn’t understand at the time how advantageous it could be to contribute to Open Source, not only for the collective good but for my personal growth as well.

So, many thanks to Tzvetomir!

Aida: I didn’t intentionally pursue involvement in the open source community. I was exposed to it when I was managing an engineering team, and one lead engineer proposed an open source solution to help us meet some very aggressive company objectives. During the process of creating an open source approval process for our team, I learned about the different open source communities. I was so fascinated by how the work got done! I attended my first open source conference and loved seeing how everyone collaborated on resolving business challenges. A decade later, I was assessing what to do next with my career, and reflected on the joy I experienced when I was working in the open source community and that led me to my job at VMware.

Rose: I fell into the Open Source community somewhat by accident. My first job was as a software engineer working on embedded Linux operating systems integration. A large part of this role was fixing bugs in popular Linux packages. This role is also where I really experienced the wonder of open source. I loved the group mindset when it came to problem solving (Oh, you’re seeing this issue, too? Here, try this, it worked for me!).

I also loved that once you did find a solution to a common open source problem, fixing the issue had the potential to reach beyond teams, companies, and even countries. 

Masae: I had been working in the technology sector for many years and had opportunities to work on open source – both as a developer and as a development and business manager. I wanted a new career challenge, and I learned that VMware was looking for somebody to lead open source strategic alignment with business in OSPO. This seemed like a really exciting opportunity to grow my portfolio and experience open source from a different perspective, so I took the job.

What do you like most about your job?

Stefka: I like that I am respected and valued as a person and a professional and see a high level of inclusivity for every person. It is also very important for me to have flexibility at work and opportunities to learn.

Rose: I love the team I work with. I am inspired everyday by their intelligence, curiosity, and kindness. I also love working at a company that values innovation and problem solving the way VMware does. 

Masae: I enjoy the challenge of continuous learning and leading the business to achieve best open source practices. In addition, I like the open source culture, characterized by mutual respect, transparency, and collaboration to achieve a common goal. It feels like I work for many different organizations, which gives me the opportunity to meet new people all the time! 

Radoslava: Collaborating with people with completely different perspectives is what I like most. This allows me to gain diverse perspectives that are not only applicable to my professional life but to my private one as well. 

Aida: I value the culture and upper management commitment to DEI Belonging Accessibility. I find it very rewarding leading various PODs (Power of Difference) initiatives and Open Source efforts to help nurture an inclusive, collaborative culture across VMware. I appreciate the continuous learning opportunities, work flexibility, and the company’s wellness priorities that allow me to focus on my work and feel joy.

Ivana: I really love the company culture at VMware, the shared values, and the chance to work in Research and Innovation. I appreciate my day-to-day work and the talented team I have the pleasure to work with.

Diana: Having the chance to work and learn from numerous technology leaders/companies and top-ranking individuals is what I like most. Plus, the opportunity to attend and present at various conferences.

Velichka: I enjoy working with a vibrant and collaborative community and being part of meaningful and innovative contributions that benefit everyone. 

What have you learned and what qualities have you developed throughout your professional journey?

Radoslava: Working on different aspects of the open source compliance process requires me to collaborate with colleagues from all aspects of the software development cycle. Consequently, I’ve gained a more holistic perspective of software development, which helps me grow as a professional.

Being part of an extremely dynamic business has also allowed me to swiftly adapt to changes and continue developing professionally.

Rose: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” is a great metaphor for working in Open Source and one of my best learnings to date. I have learned so much about how to prioritize the big picture and compromise amid disagreements that stand in the way of achieving success. 

Aida: Starting as a software engineer working on various languages, platforms, industries and experiencing project cancellations and layoffs, I’ve learned job titles don’t define us. We need to show gratitude and treat everyone with respect and appreciation for we all have something wonderful to contribute. It’s important to take time to express appreciation for the contributions of others and don’t let personal differences get in the way of collaborating.

Diana: Our soft skills are as important as our technical ones. So, it’s extremely important to be polite, respectful, and patient.

Stefka: I often feel like an explorer – I start a new program or meet a new project for the first time and start learning new things, experimenting, failing at times – but mostly enjoying the process and the unknown. The field of open source is immense, so I often need to develop a new program from scratch. I embrace the feeling of being like a curious child, eager to participate and join the interesting new projects that my peers share.

What would you say to encourage women who may be hesitant to join tech and the open source community?

Masae: Just jump in! I’ve learned that the most important thing is not to overthink it but instead try it and find what you enjoy. I have observed that women who have chosen technology careers tend to be very effective, are always open to ideas, feedback, and trying new approaches. Everybody starts somewhere, so be curious, ask questions, and experience a new challenge! 

Radoslava: Don’t limit yourself to a job title or traditional career path. Tech and the open source community is full of opportunities, and you don’t need to put yourself in a box. Take me for example with my background in law and international business. I had no software engineering knowledge, but thanks to the inclusive open source culture, I’m able to use my education in a non-traditional career path. The open source community is transparent and welcoming to everyone, no matter of gender and background. I’m with Masae – be bold and adventurous and go for it!

Be inspired to pursue a profession in tech and open source

If you have the genuine desire to succeed and are willing to invest your time, effort, and heart into it, there is no technology, technical area, project, or problem that you cannot understand and handle. Don’t hesitate to pursue your passion if you believe it’s your calling. In terms of the open source community, there is a wealth of talented female contributors, and you may find that you’re a great fit! 

The best way to learn and become a part of the open source community is by daring to try, asking questions, actively listening, seeking mentorship, mentoring others, and enjoying the learning process. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that everything happens in public. Focus on challenging yourself instead of comparing yourself to others. Set a goal to improve by 1% each week and be willing to go through the sometimes-uncomfortable process of growth that follows. Keep an open mind and bear in mind that hard work pays off in the end. 

And our last bit of advice?

Every great achievement starts with small steps. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – always think of them as learning opportunities. And day by day and contribution by contribution, you will build your reputation in the community, get more comfortable, and at some point, even progress to defining a project’s future directions.

Stay tuned to the Open Source Blog and follow us on Twitter for more deep dives into the world of open source contributing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *